Judging a Book by its Title

Anat Tikker

“Title-mania afflicts the greatest as well as the humblest.”

How strongly does a book title impact your decision to read it?   I’d bet they’re as important as catchy wine labels – and that books and bottles are bought for those reasons alone.   In author Andy Martin’s commentary in The New York Times, Is This Title OK?, he explores the difficulties of finding the right title.  An author may agonize over a title only to have the publisher reject their favorite.   Looking at current bestselling fiction, you see titles ranging from descriptive (The Boy in the Suitcase) to obscure (Beautiful Disaster).  Some titles truly give you the flavor and subject of the story while others try too hard to be arbitrary and stylish.

I recently read Alexander Fuller’s Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and thought that was a great title (and book).   Another book I read attracted me with its funny title – I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids.  Do you have a favorite book title?


One comment

  • May 15, 2013 - 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Susan, I’ll have to be honest here, if the title of a book doesn’t catch my attention, there’s not much of a chance I’m reading it. Why? The way I look at it is this: If a writer can’t come up with a catchy title, it doesn’t show much for his or her creativity. So why should I proceed any further? When I’m in a bookstore browsing novels, I may very well pick up a book written by an unknown author, because the title caught my eye. I’m the same way with newspaper or article headlines.

    But then again, I’ve opened books with good titles then quickly closed them after reading the first few sentences. I guess you can say it’s hard to keep my attention (in certain circumstances).

    I’m the same way with movies. Titles like: “The Omen”, “Ben-Hur”, “The Exorcist” or even “Alien” were must-sees for me. I think that’s because one or two-word titles act as story compactors to stimulate my curiosity.

    Ask yourself this question: If Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind” had been titled “Carried With The Wind” do you think it would have become known as the greatest novel of all time?

    Thanks for answering my post at The Den. Would you like to be my writing buddy there? I can use all the help I can get!


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