Friday, February 10, 2012

Book titles

       I judge books based on their titles. When people ask me what I’m reading (that rarely happens, but in this case I’m going to pretend I’m inquired about that daily), I want to say, “Oh, yes, I am currently reading Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri (I bought the book after lovingly memorizing the title. I couldn’t manage to finish the first chapter, but reading the title aloud still fills me with unspeakable joy. Bad books shouldn’t be allowed to tease people with good book names).” I do not want to say, “yup, girrlzz, I’m totes in the middle of The Death of Dark Blood’s Kiss by Made-up StupidName.” There isn’t a book with that exact embarrassing-to-be-seen-reading name, but after much random Google searching I have discovered a book by the name of Born of Blood and Retribution, the third book in The Dark Kiss Trilogy by Liz Strange. Born of Blood and Retribution may be a positively lovely tale of birthing, blood, and the retribution against the birthing of the blood; in fact, in Goodreads averages it four stars. Because of the name, I will never know.

        I’ve made two lists, one for my top five favorite types of book titles and top four most dreaded types of book titles. My lists are in order of the worst of the best book titles to the best of the best. I wish more list makers would do that; it adds wonderful suspense. (“Ohhh if THAT was his/her worst best favorite title then what is his/her SECOND worst best favorite title?!” Please do not tell me I am alone on loving that.)

5. Books with random words that don’t normally go together.

Examples: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma or The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The words “imaginary girls” isn’t something anyone hears or thinks too often... unless you happen to possess multiple imaginary girlfriends. Then those words may enter your consciousness quite often. If you are not a proud owner of multiple imaginary girlfriends or the happy daughter of a twin, the words are new and interesting. I think I made up and memorized a song to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” where the only lyrics were, “The imaginary girls are the twin’s daughters.”

4. The “of” books.

Examples: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

I don’t have a reason for liking “of” books except I like the fancy ring to it. “Salutations, uneducated one. You may refer to me as the Duke of Awesome”

3. Good name books

Examples: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin or The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

This can also be considered a category of “of” books, but since I am also going to have another category of bad name books later, I thought this was appropriate. Right off a character and the characters defining thing is clear. I immediately know from the start that, hey, this chick’s name is Mara Dyer and this book is about her intriguing process of unbecoming.

2. Known phrases of cool on books

Examples: Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst or She’s So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

Hmmm... Drink, Slay, Love. Wonder where I’ve heard that before... Eat, Pray, Love. OHHHH. THE CLEVER IS OVERCOMING MEE. It just feels good to see something familiar once in a while.

1. Dependant clauses or phrases as titles

Examples: If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or Between the Sea and the Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

This is where I go all ninja and use my ninth-grade grammar skills on y’all. (Side note: Isn’t it pathetic that I’ve only started learning the most basic grammatical things in 9th grade? And only the most basic skills. I’m sure my posts are still ridden with vague grammatical crimes against nature.) It’s fun to ask “what” sometimes. What does happen if she stays? Does she turn into a butterfly? Eat brown guacamole? What is between the sky and the sea? Dirt? Hand sanitizer? I may never know. Unless, of course, I read the book.

Top three of my most annoying types of book names (from least-most annoying to most-most annoying). By the way, my title-hate of the book does not mean I didn’t like the book. Some books in the title-hate list are books I dearly love.

3. Books of bloody darkness

Examples: Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen, Dark Companion by Marta Acosta, Dark Storm by Sarah Singleton, or Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

I’m okay with these kinds of names as long as they actually have meaning to them. No, a book having vampires in it is not enough reason to dub it bloody bananas. Just because a book has a depressingly dark cover featuring a forlorn, willowy model with excessive eye makeup does not merit the use of the adjective “dark” before the real title. Maybe “dark” titles wouldn’t annoy me so much if they weren’t used so much for so little reason. I was getting to be a little depressed that the fifth book in the Gone series by Michael Grant was going to be named Darkness. Thankfully it was renamed Fear, the more awesome name.

2. Yes, my name is... books. (Aka bad name books)

Examples: Willow by Julia Hoban or Flip by Martyn Bedford

It’s sort of like tattooing your own name on your forehead. If a person sticks around long enough, he or she will know your name without the help. Yes. The character’s name is Willow. Good for Willow. So... what's the book about? Even if the character's name looks good on the cover, it does not help me decide if I should buy the book.

1. Books with boys, kissing, and perfect chemistry

Examples: Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, or Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkins.

This one is kind of obvious. I hope. One of my favorite books (Anna and the French Kiss) is in this category, so I’m not just hating. The kissy, boyish book titles make me really not want to say the title in public. It’s not nice if people think I spend my time reading books with covers that have the shirtless guys and the swooning girls. Those are my grandma’s books, not mine.

P.S. Woah, that was like a super-post. Maybe because I haven't written on here for almost a month. But. I will write more. Solemn pinkie swear.


  1. Hmm I like good book names also but more so great book covers!

    lol I dont think I could ever read a book with a shirtless man on the cover in public either.

  2. I think ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is a cute title :) Love, love, love the book and I think the whimsical, breezy title fits the book.

  3. Bethany, this is hilarious -- and I'm obsessed by book titles ever since the title of my first novel got changed because my editor insisted it was "too vulgar." (It was Bite Me and I said, "Bart Simpson says it all the time, so how can it possibly be too vulgar.")

    I think The Devil Wears Prada is a genius title -- so easily remembered and amusing. Hate the title Endless Love, but love the novel. It's frustrating going to a bookstore and forgetting the title of a book I wanted. "It's set in the arctic and it's a mystery. I think there's an iceberg on the cover."

    I really like the newish trend of convoluted titles like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

    You might enjoy Lulu's title score generator -- you can enter a title and see how well it's expected to succeed with readers:

    My publisher's salespeople came up with Dark Companion and it actually does have something to do with the mystery, which one discovers at the end of the book, so I was very happy. Readers will say, "Ah!" At least I hope they will. Maybe they'll say, "Yoicks!"

    1. I should not have gone on that Lulu website! I spent almost half and hour going through all the book names in the post to see what the titlescorer would give it, and I spent another half hour coming up with a best-selling title. Apparently, "Rt6uy" has a 44.2% chance of being a bestselling title while Between the Sea and the Sky has a 10.2% chance. Sadness...

      And I also think the long title trend is fun. They always sound so sophisticated!

  4. Hey, Bethany, I have spent way too much time trying to figure out sure-fire titles at Lulu! But I also found lots of titles of bestselling books that get terrible ratings on the title scorer. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest has only a 26% chance of becoming a bestseller!

    I love the title Between the Sea and the Sky -- but I guess I'll pitch my next book as Rt6uy, and I don't even want to know how many times you submitted titles to come up with that combo.


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