From Avner Offer’s The Challenge of Affluence, perhaps the best first paragraph of an academic book:
Affluence breeds impatience and impatience undermines well-being. This is the core of my argument. For detail and evidence, go directly to the chapters; for implications, to the conclusion, which also has chapter summaries.
I’ve been longing to read this book since I first heard about it (several years ago) but, on reading the first paragraph, felt obliged to lend it to someone else for several weeks. I’ll tell you all about it when I’m finished with it. Be patient.
Other great academic first paragraphs?