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The Very Best Book Titles


Wes B
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Don't judge a book by it's cover? Roger, that. A good title's another matter, tho. Maybe if we search the universe we might find a mediocre book boosted by a smashing title, but to me they've always been the mark of an author who pays attention to every last detail. Probably my favorite titles here, and all excellent books to boot. Hope you'll add yours below...

 

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Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village

I couldn't NOT lead off with this one; it's absurdly eye-catching and thoroughly memorable. It's half a parody of all survival guides, and half a parody of British cozy mysteries, by a bestselling mystery author. It's also hilarious. What's not to like?

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the GOD i DON'T UNDERSTAND - Christopher Wright

The trick here is to look at the use of lowercase. This is a humble and thoughtful musing over parts in the Bible where God is really beyond our comprehension, but the lowercase "i" makes it clear who's the one at fault here. Highly recommended.

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Eats, Shoots & Leaves - Lynn Truss

Gotta have a book on writing technique here, and what's better than a title that completely changes its meaning, depending on whether or not we add the Oxford comma? Pleasant, clever, and a quick read.

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I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie - Roger Ebert

Normally I'd avoid any book of complaints and insults; life's just too short for the negativity. Yet the late, great Roger Ebert's job was reviewing movies, and justifying exactly why we should or shouldn't go. He showed it was still possible to write a review that's entertaining for a movie that's not. Check the cover illustration for a parody of a classic comedy movie poster that's definitely NOT among the reviews here.

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Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It: Wisdom of the Great Philosophers on How to Live - Daniel Klein

While I like to expand my horizons, some improvements may seem not worth the effort. This book crushes that myth, by giving clever-yet-informative capsule descriptions of all the major philosophers. We may not be intellectuals, but a book like this can sure help give the illusion...

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A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives by Cordelia Fine

...and while we're improving our minds, here's another clever capsulizing on an arcane subject, helping us become aware of just how easy it is to mislead ourselves, or become misled.

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Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire

Doesn't seem all that clever? Mission accomplished, then! This one's an INSIDE JOKE, intended just for its intended audience, and they'll spot it immediately. Scientists are a weird-but-whimsical lot, and in the field of quantum physics, a description where something's observed at Point A, and another at Point B are always described as viewed by Alice and Bob. Always. (We'd presume that anyone who changed the names to Albert and Bev would get stripped of their credentials...) This book of popularized, but not-quite-beginner's articles lets the right people know that this book is only for them.

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An Imaginary Tale: The Story of i - Paul Nahin

We're getting to the weirder ones, and if scientists are weird, then mathematicians kick it up exponentially. This is imaginary, yet completely true. It's an entertaining (to math types) history of the development of imaginary numbers: the ones based on the square root of minus one. If this makes no sense, it's not important enough to follow further...

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In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash - Jean Sheperd

I've limited humor stories in this list to just one volume, 'cuz if those folks cant come up with a clever title, they're in the wrong business. This one's a no-brainer, since there will be a thread here any second now, on favorite Christmas movies. This series of childhood recollections were scavenged to produce the script for the classic, A Christmas Story. Most stories in this book aren't set at Christmastime, so lots of hilarious stuff couldn't be shoehorned into the movie, but they're all worth checking out and savoring.

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On the Decay of the Art of Lying - Mark Twain

Not a book but a speech title (and not as bad as it sounds). I had to end the list with an entry from the Master Of Clever Titles, himself. Most of his best titles are from after dinner speeches, and were designed to prime a contented, slightly-sleepy audience for humor, before he'd even said a word. This one's worth locating, if you can find it.
 

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On 12/5/2021 at 11:33 AM, Wes B said:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves - Lynn Truss

Gotta have a book on writing technique here, and what's better than a title that completely changes its meaning, depending on whether or not we add the Oxford comma? Pleasant, clever, and a quick read.

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 My best friend gave me this for Christmas a few years ago. It is amazing what an omitted comma can do to the meaning of a sentence. 

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I have a funny anecdote about the title to my book series, Akiniwazisaga that just got reinforced today by something else that happened.

First off, the pronunciation is "ah-kee-nih-WAH-zee-SAH-gah". It is based on a corrupted Ojibwe phrase meaning "Land of the Seven Freshwater Seas" and of course the Icelandic tradition of slapping "saga" to the end of their... ahem... sagas.  Tada!

Anyway, I was warned this title would be problematic, and it has but it hasn't. I think it's memorable because of the traumatic attempts people have in pronouncing it. #hilarioustraumainducedmemory In fact, one podcaster that featured the review on his video confirmed that by how fast he recognized the name of the series.

Anyway, true story... I decided to keep such a dangerous name because I went on the logic that if people could figure out how to pronounce Terry Brooks' Shannara series, they'll figure mine out in time too.  Fast forward 3 years and I get to meet Terry Brooks at the 2019 Realm Makers conference and I discussed this. I told him Shannara was the inspiration (sha-NAH-rah) for me keeping the name. He then informed the whole luncheon table, it was really pronounced "SHA-neh-rah" by him (with a short 'a' sound and emPHAsis on the first syllable).

We all laughed at the table and I'll remember the incident fondly. Mr. Brooks is a gentleman.

But sorry for meandering, this seemed fun to mention here.

More to the thread point, I like a collection of Mark Twain's essays and letters called "A Pen Warmed Up In Hell" where he is at some his absolute snarkiest, including a letter to the gas company in San Francisco who nearly smothered his family and BOY was he hot about it!

And a nod to Laura VanArendonk Baugh's "Good Spell Gone Bug"

 

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Firstly, I LOVE THIS!!!  Thank you for posting this thread, @Wes B.  How did I miss it until now?

 

Secondly, 

On 12/5/2021 at 11:33 AM, Wes B said:

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village

I couldn't NOT lead off with this one; it's absurdly eye-catching and thoroughly memorable. It's half a parody of all survival guides, and half a parody of British cozy mysteries, by a bestselling mystery author. It's also hilarious. What's not to like?

I want to read this so bad! Who's the author?  I noticed you gave the author names for the others, but not this one.  This sounds like a fantastic read.

 

My favorite book titles?  Will have to come back to this after giving it some more thought.

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15 hours ago, Grey_Skies said:

Firstly, I LOVE THIS!!!  Thank you for posting this thread, @Wes B.  How did I miss it until now?

 

Secondly, 

I want to read this so bad! Who's the author?  I noticed you gave the author names for the others, but not this one.  This sounds like a fantastic read.

 

My favorite book titles?  Will have to come back to this after giving it some more thought.

 

So terribly sorry. In such a long post, I was sure I'd make an editing goof here or there. I might have known you'd have a question that would actually catch one 😀... It's by Maureen Johnson & Jay Cooper. I said it was by a mystery writer (Johnson), but the author slot is shared by the illustrator, as it's as much a book of illustrations as text. (Actually, it's a lot more illustrations, and so is a fairly quick read, but funny.)

 

Here's a page where the text almost keeps pace. Pretty sure I'm taking a short enough piece for fair use, especially since it's looking to get the author(s) an additional sale...

 

EDIT: Deleted the picture shortly after GS saw it, just in case I might be anywhere close to violating fair use. (I wanna help the authors to get another sale, I wanna share what I think is a fun book, but I also wanna try to be a Good Citizen, here...)

 

Edited by Wes B
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12 hours ago, Wes B said:

It's by Maureen Johnson & Jay Cooper. I said it was by a mystery writer (Johnson), but the author slot is shared by the illustrator, as it's as much a book of illustrations as text. (Actually, it's a lot more illustrations, and so is a fairly quick read, but funny.)

Thanks, @Wes B!  I love the page you shared; definitely looks like a hilarious book.  For sure I'm going to go find a copy of this book. 👍

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40 minutes ago, Grey_Skies said:

Thanks, @Wes B!  I love the page you shared; definitely looks like a hilarious book.  For sure I'm going to go find a copy of this book. 👍

 

I'm glad it helped. As an afterthought, I deleted the image since you already saw it (hope you got a good look...) While I'm pretty sure that sharing only a single page with fairly limited text is fair use, I wanted to be doubly cautious. (I suppose I don't need to test the bounds here on what is and is not acceptable. It was probably just fine, but I don't need to know for sure...)

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46 minutes ago, Wes B said:

 

I'm glad it helped. As an afterthought, I deleted the image since you already saw it (hope you got a good look...) While I'm pretty sure that sharing only a single page with fairly limited text is fair use, I wanted to be doubly cautious. (I suppose I don't need to test the bounds here on what is and is not acceptable. It was probably just fine, but I don't need to know for sure...)

That's just fine.  Yes, I got a good look, and the illustration was very cool.  Definitely a good idea to be cautious.  Thanks for keeping on top of things.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Surprisingly, no one has yet mentioned “The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul,” or “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” both by Douglas Adams. He had a knack for coming up with clever and intriguing titles.

 

And, while I know it didn’t mean then what it does now, how’s “The Idiot” for a title? I mean, that was a book I had to read...it’s a nice big thick one, too.

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On 1/9/2022 at 9:28 AM, Ragamuffin_John said:

Some of the most ear-catching to me have been…

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

“What Color Is Your Parachute?”

“The Late Great Planet Earth”

“Confederates In The Attic”

 

You'll have to tell us about the fourth one; I'm not sure I'm familiar with it. I'm old enough to remember the other three, and their prominent places on the bookstore shelves. (There should still be more than a few here old enough to remember bookstore shelves...)

 

 

On 1/9/2022 at 12:22 PM, Ragamuffin_John said:

Oh, and really didn’t like this one, because it was, for me, mandatory, boring reading in school:  “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”

 

Yeah. That one. IMO, it's proof that even the most spiritually disconnected need a spiritual connection sometimes, and that if you give a story enough ambiguity and apparent metaphor, people everywhere will be able to find whatever they want in it. Give it a distinctive enough title, and you get enough talking about it to sustain a huuuuuge buzz. For a while. Funny thing that no one talks about it, anymore...

 

On 1/9/2022 at 1:04 PM, Toni Star said:

One of my favorite  title, book and movie is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Love the title, book and movie; so many good points about people and life during the early 1920s.

 

This impressed me when I reread it as an adult; good choice. I was not ready for it when required to read it, in high school. (I was very much a young kid.) What impressed me then was how many chapters you had to read, before Gatsby even made his first appearance. Even then it seemed to be more about Narrator-Nick, than Gatsby. Kinda' like how The Three Musketeers wasn't really about the musketeers, but about D'Artagnan. ...and why do they call 'em musketeers, anyway? They use swords, not muskets...

 

Ermmmm... where was I? (Back to adulthood...) Oh yes... The Great Gatsby both told an excellent story, and made excellent points. Most books seem to struggle doing even one, even when they aim for both. Thanks for sharing.

 

17 hours ago, Zee said:

Surprisingly, no one has yet mentioned “The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul,” or “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” both by Douglas Adams. He had a knack for coming up with clever and intriguing titles.

 

Well, @Zee, I think we musta' saved that one just for you. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy does have to be one of the most attention grabbing titles, ever. I suspect it jolts everyone to attention, when they first hear the final word. Before it was published as a book, a shorter form was broadcast on the BBC (and was rebroadcast in America) as a radio drama. I heard only fragments on the radio, but was hooked, and bought the first few books, shortly after they came out. (Not quite as impressed when they tried to do a movie...) I suspect the clever title was especially important for getting a radio audience to tune in & check it out. The rest is history.

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