1 April 2022 Susannah

Unusual Titles

Unusual Titles

When F. Scott Fitzgerald worked on The Great Gatsby he planned to call his book ‘Trimalchio in West Egg’. Fortunately, he was persuaded to change his mind. Titles are hugely important and can make or break sales of a book. We do judge a book by its title!

It is fun to seek out some really unusual titles for novels. I love So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (Douglas Adams), The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (Christopher Moore), The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Aimee Bender), There’s a Wocket in my Pocket (Dr Seuss), The Woman who Gave Birth to Rabbits (Emma Donoghue), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) and The Aerodynamics of Pork (Patrick Gale). I haven’t read a single one of them, but the titles are so tempting.

Some titles, however, can be off-putting. I don’t think I want to read Don’t Pee on my Leg and Tell Me it’s Raining (Judy Cheindiin and Josh Getlin), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick), God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis (Tom Hickman), Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (Nick Flynn), A Book About Absolutely Nothing (L.M. Nobody), or The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (Alisa Surkis).

If an author gets it right, a title can be so enticing and memorable – A Clockwork Orange, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Catcher in the Rye, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, The Sound and the Fury, Cold Comfort Farm, Things Fall Apart, Gone with the Wind, A Many-Splendoured Thing, A Confederacy of Dunces, Pride and Prejudice, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Grapes of Wrath, Vanity Fair and Of Human Bondage are just some examples.

Some titles are sheer fun – How to Ride a Velocipede: Straddle a Saddle, then Paddle and Skedaddle, How to Cook Husbands, Sex Pots … and Pans, Girls Who Don’t Read are Skanks, Every Woman Should Have a Blowtorch, and Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns. These are titles to get the imagination going …

And I do have to wonder about the length of some books, judging them solely by their titles – In Praise of Bald Men, Highlights in the History of Concrete, Cooking to Kill: The Poison Cookbook, How to Enjoy your Weeds, The Joy of Water Boiling and People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead. And surely death is the only prevention listed in Old Age: Its Causes and Prevention?

“What’s in a name?”, asks Juliet. Well, rather a lot when it comes to book titles. What do you think? Tell me by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- So many books, by Prettysleepy https://pixabay.com/illustrations/books-library-education-knowledge-5430104/

Comments (18)

  1. I have mentioned him before, but when Carlos Eire entitled his second memoir, Learning to Die in Miami, I was worried it was going to be too painful to read.

    When I wrote and told him that, responded that the book will be funny, too, and the dying will be very sweet. In other words – not to worry; it will be good to read.

    When I read it, I found it to be the most endearing, poetic book, with a lot of suffering, but also a lot of kindness and fun.

  2. Brian Doyle

    The latest edition of David Sedaris diaries is titled, A Carnival of Snackeries

  3. Brian Doyle

    How to Raise your IQ by eating Gifted Children is a book title that would be impossible not to pick up.

  4. Helen Gentle

    One of my kids had “Cooking with Fernet Branca” by James Hamilton-Paterson. It seemed intriguing…and it was!!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, definitely an intriguing title. You feel you have to read it just to find out what it’s about.

  5. Brian Doyle

    I also loved that book and every other book Colm Toibin has written, the Master about Henry James and the Magician about Thomas man are both superb reads

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Colm Toibin is a fabulous writer, isn’t he, and he loves Jane Austen’s novels!

  6. Margi Abraham

    A wonderful title, a great writer and a fascinating book – New Ways To Kill Your Mother (Writers and Their Families) by Colm Toibin. I hasten to add it wasn’t a Mother.s Day gift, but a good find in a Newcastle bookshop!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am relieved it was not given to you by your children Margi! It is certainly a fabulous title.

  7. Malvina Yock

    I was attracted to the book The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by the title. Author is Colleen Oakley. The book turned out to be just as curious, and rather readable.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      That is a gorgeous title! Glad you also enjoyed reading it.

  8. Ruth Wilson

    I love titles that evoke other books and their titles. But sometimes those inter textual connects can be a distraction. I am wrestling with Julian Barnes’s new book, ‘Elizabeth Finch’, and Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello keeps getting in the way!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I look forward to hearing what the new Julian Barnes is like, once you’ve finished.
      Yes, I also love titles that evoke quotes and other writers.

  9. Donna Fletcher Crow

    Off-putting book title for me: Bitch in a Bonnet about Jane Austen. Our JA Book Club read it, but I didn’t. Some things are just too embarrassing to have on your shelf.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, the title is unattractive, especially in relation to Jane Austen. However, it was a good and thought-provoking read. I do have a copy on my shelf.
      I like your titles – you have chosen some great ones.

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