You’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” – but equally important is the title of a book. If a book were a person, its clothing and outward appearance would be representative of the cover, and its name the title. Just like how we do actually judge books by their covers, we also judge books by their titles, although it seems to be a less-appreciated1,2 and less-discussed topic3,4. And I also don’t know if we all prefer certain titles like we prefer certain covers – an aesthetically appealing cover is likely to be aesthetically appealing to a good chunk of the book community, but is an attractive title likely to be attractive to everyone?
Looking for attractive book titles is kind of like looking for good baby names. And sometimes when I’m bored, I would go on those Popular Baby Names and Meanings sites and make lists of names that I liked. But often, I find myself analyzing book titles like I would baby names – some are too plain, some are too extravagant, some are too common, and so on and so forth. But others are just plain enough, just extravagant enough – just right. #goldilocks 🐻🐻🐻 Here are some of my own categories of book titles I like – and, in my opinion, their corresponding baby names – and how these titles are important in determining whether or not I want to read the book. As with everything book-related, this is a pretty subjective list, so I’d love to hear about whether or not you have the same preferences for book titles!
1. Long (but simple)
These are titles like The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared … something that sounds pretty straightforward and uncomplicated but captures your attention nonetheless. I’m particularly attracted to verbs and easily-visualizable everyday images, and these long (but simple) titles embody those traits well. They are the Mary Jos, Rosie Maes, and Ethan Lees of the book world – longer than usual, but still retain an effortlessness and ease of a young girl or boy walking through the prairie after a long day’s work.
2. Long and extravagant
All hail these book titles! The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making comes to mind immediately, and maybe Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. They differ from the long (but simple) titles in that there’s some part of them that’s out of the norm or doesn’t fit into our world. They seem to be pretty rare, since most titles that veer towards long and CRAZY (especially ALL THE NON-FICTION BOOKS WITH COMPOUND TITLES aka that long thing after the colon) become difficult to read and even more difficult to dissect. Long and extravagant titles still retain their elegance and sophistication, like a Maximillian or an Anastasia.
3. Short and sweet
These titles are like confetti – one- or two-word titles that just sprinkle down and make everything pretty and shiny and good in the world. Gathering Blue, Paper Towns, Stargirl, Little Bee – I can go on and on and on! The corresponding baby names are the traditional short names like Beth, Kim, Ann, Max, and Jack. (Although Stargirl kind of wishes she were a bit more modern, like Skye…)
I’m thinking of popular YA titles nowadays, and there seems to be a trend towards “A-something-of-something-and-something”-type titles, such as A Girl of Fire and Thorns, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and A Court of Thorns and Roses. The popular kids are now the Jacobs, Liams, and Isabellas (according to one of those Baby Names websites). (The other trend seems to be “Something-and-other-somethings” in analogy-style, like My Heart and Other Black Holes, Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend, and Love Fortunes and Other Disasters.)
So for me, book titles are very important because they elicit different emotional responses and imagery even without all the fancy fonts and colors. They can give us a glimpse of the plot of the book, or they can represent an obscure part that’s hidden in the book that you immediate gravitate towards, like finding hidden treasure. I draw parallels between book titles and baby names here because there are different types of names, just as there are different types of titles… and I’m sure authors choosing titles for their books gives off a baby name-choosing feeling, haha.
What are your favorite book titles?