Judging Books by Title

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme created by Rukky @ Eternity Books and hosted by Aria @ Book Nook Bits. It’s a meme where participants discuss certain topics, share their opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts. Details on suggesting topics and downloading the official header images, as well as an updated archive with the latest topics can be found on Aria’s blog.

We’re told never to judge a book by its cover, but what about its title? That’s this week’s topic for Let’s Talk Bookish. Let’s get started.

How much do book titles matter?

A lot! A book title can be intriguing or infuriating, loud or lackluster, beguiling or banal, cryptic and curious or cliche and cautionary. It can pique our interest enough to make us pick up the book and check the blurbs or read the opening lines – or it can leave us indifferent and looking for other options. Because there are always other options. There are always more books than time, so whenever we’re reaching for our next great read, the title – much like cover art – can make the difference in whether we reach for this book or hold out for another.

Have you ever read or not read a book based on the title alone?

Absolutely to both. All the time. See above.

Do you like long or short book titles better?

I love short titles, either by themselves or with long subtitles. Sometimes ridiculously long subtitles.

Probably the longest-titled book I’ve read (and finished) was The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats, by Daniel Stone.

Honorable mention goes to David W. Brown’s The Mission: How a Disciple of Carl Sagan, an Ex-Motocross Racer, a Texas Tea Party Congressman, the World’s Worst Typewriter Saleswoman, California Mountain People, and an Anonymous NASA Functionary Went to War with Mars, Survived an Insurgency at Saturn, Traded Blows with Washington, and Stole a Ride on an Alabama Moon Rocket to Send a Space Robot to Jupiter in Search of the Second Garden of Eden at the Bottom of an Alien Ocean Inside of an Ice World Called Europa (A True Story), which sadly was not as exciting to read as its title and I DNF’d it. (Although I love the subject matter enough that I’ll probably give it another go at some point.)

Despite their lengthy subtitles, The Food Explorer and The Mission still fit neatly within the general 7-words-or-less rule (and 5-words-or-less preference) that seems to apply to most modern books. In fact, most of the books I’ve read have fit neatly within those titling constraints. I find that the long titles (or more accurately, long subtitles) tend to occur mostly in nonfiction, while novels tend to stick to the rules. But maybe that’s more a reflection of what I’ve read than an actual trend? Either way.

Do you think the title has to connect to the story in some way?

Yes. That doesn’t mean the title must be obvious. It can be metaphorical and never explicitly mentioned within the book. But it still must relate to the content in some way. Otherwise, what’s the point?

What are some of your favorite book titles?

I don’t really have favorite book titles (although I have lots of favorite books), unless you count the one that gave me my name: Heidi.

One thought on “Judging Books by Title

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