The Crazy Title Craze
Despite knowing that we should ‘never judge a book by its cover’, we’d probably be lying if we said that the title of a book doesn’t influence our decision to read it (or not). I think it’s fair to say that, if left to their own devices, some well-known authors may have struggled to get noticed, no thanks to their questionable title choices. For instance, Bram Stoker would have ended up with a work sounding more like a straight to DVD horror film than a literary classic, had he gone with The Dead Un-Dead over the sinister Dracula. I also have a feeling that had Tolstoy’s War and Peace been stuck with its original title of All’s Well that Ends Well, it may have made somewhat of a lesser impact.
Fascinating as it is to dwell on what might have been, let’s take a look at what today’s authors seem to be into at the moment; crazy book titles. Of course, you’re always going to get the odd title that’s just, well…odd, (such as Eating People is Wrong by Malcolm Bradbury), but I’m talking about the absurdly long and the mindbogglingly random. They’re both memorable and completely forgettable at the same time, with most readers only remembering a couple of words from the title, or just adding their own here and there. Now, whether they’re ingenious or disastrous, I’ll leave that up to you. I guess you have to ask yourself whether these wacky titles intrigue you or make you want to run a mile:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Is potato peel pie a thing now? To be fair, if you read this, the reasoning behind the seemingly random title does become clear. So much so, that by the end of the book, you won’t think twice about its title. In fact, you’ll probably have grown rather fond of it.
Patriotic Gore by Edmund Wilson
Apparently ‘Not really much like any other book by anyone’ (this has potential to be its very own questionable title, does it not?), this book is subtitled Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War. Perhaps not quite the horror story it seems, but you’re unlikely to forget this title in a hurry.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
Thankfully this isn’t a genuine history of tractors in Ukrainian. It’s another one of those modern (when I say ‘modern’ I mean 2005) books that hopes to stand out with a wacky title. Can’t say I’ve read it myself, but it must have succeeded to some extent as it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.
Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice by various authors
This was the first book to win the ‘Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the Year’ in 1778, which proves how long weird titles have been around. Although, it seems that this wasn’t written with the intention of being strange, as it turns out that the book is actually about medical studies done using lab mice. Whether or not they were nude is somewhat unclear…
People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It by Gary Leon Hill
The 2005 winner of the Diagram Prize. No more words are needed here.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This one’s not really that random, because that’s exactly what happens in the book, but it’s certainly a bit of a tongue-twister. For some reason, it often seems to be confused with Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
Anything by Alexander McCall Smith
That’s not the title of the book, that’s just me saying that most of his novels have pretty bizarre titles. For instance, we’ve got The Kalahari Typing School for Men, Morality for Beautiful Girls, Tears of the Giraffe, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, The Full Cupboard of Life, La’s Orchestra Saves the World and of course, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Personally, I think these are quite brilliant.
What do you think? Any book you’d like to add?