Literary fiction: what are the best ever book titles, and why?

(63 Posts)
nighbynight Sat 31-Oct-09 13:29:46

Is this question considered on creative writing courses? (Never done one, so dont know.)
Anyway, I was trying to think of a good title, and was thinking of lots of famous books, and recent books, and why the titles are so great.

Quotes are out, I think? (dated). Like "The agony and the ecstasy" or "To Love and Be Wise"

A title like "Crime and Punishment" is too big for the book, unless you are writing, well Crime and Punishment.

I rather like wordplay like Faiza Guene's "Just like tomorrow" (kifkif demain) in which the author is describing a way of life from which it is very hard to escape.

The sorrows of an american is a great title as well, because it's so memorable.

what are your favourite book titles?

nighbynight Sat 31-Oct-09 18:52:10

any writers about?

MissGreatBritain Sun 01-Nov-09 00:07:43

A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian.

Wuthering Heights.

Anything taken from a quote from elsewhere eg

Far From the Madding Crowd

For whom the Bell Tolls

jodee Sun 01-Nov-09 00:37:50

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse.

I Capture the Castle.

PrincessFiorimonde Sun 01-Nov-09 00:37:52

I am sure there was a book called something like 'Destroyed by the Nightingale' (but even more startling) and it was published by Virago. I read it in the 1980s and for years I used to quote it as an unusual title, but now my brain has atrophied and I can't recall it... Can't find it on Virago's website tho, so maybe it was all a dream.
(Good book, tho.)

said Sun 01-Nov-09 00:44:39

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept - great when you're young in troubled love, requited or otherwise.

Bonjour Tristesse - ditto. Both also have "not UK" glamour

(Bit of a theme there)

The Catcher in the Rye

The Razor's Edge

Both enigmatic; what do the mean exactly?

PrincessFiorimonde Sun 01-Nov-09 01:11:46

Plagued by the Nightingale

PrincessFiorimonde Sun 01-Nov-09 01:21:20

Some great titles already mentioned.

How about:
Love in a Cold Climate
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

(v evocative titles)

dittany Sun 01-Nov-09 01:21:53

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

haven't read it yet though

dittany Sun 01-Nov-09 01:25:20

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

which doesn't quite live up to its splendid name

Blackduck Sun 01-Nov-09 10:08:55

Altered Carbon - Sci Fi book with clever idea about how to change identity....

troutpout Sun 01-Nov-09 10:17:24

I like..

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

not sure why really...but i do

nighbynight Sun 01-Nov-09 13:22:08

Some interesting suggestions here.

Love in a Cold Climate is pure genius - it's snappy, and neatly sums up the book.

I have never figured out what Catcher in the Rye actually means, but I probably wasn't concentrating because the book had numbed me by the time it was explained.

I was also thinking of something like "Wuthering Heights," which ties the action to a place, and evokes pictures of the moors.
This book could easily have been called something else though, like "Heathcliffe's Revenge." I wonder what other titles were considered??

I think that long titles like "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" or "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" work like advertising slogans, they whet your curiosity to pick the book up.

Oh, have just thought of another personal favourite: "My Name Is Red" by Orhan Pamuk. (translated from turkish of course)

SarahHW Mon 02-Nov-09 13:44:39

'The Secret History' It immediately intrigues you because it hints at some hidden knowledge that the book will reveal, it is also a great book which lives up to its name.

Bucharest Mon 02-Nov-09 13:48:25

Definitely By Grand Central Station...

I bought one years ago called Lilacs out of the dead land (from Browning I think?) Was a bit rubbish actually, but I liked the title.

SleepingLion Mon 02-Nov-09 13:55:16

Brave New World - because if you know the context in which the words were originally said by Miranda in The Tempest, you then see the irony of Huxley's point in his novel.

BalloonSlayer Mon 02-Nov-09 14:06:25

"One hundred years of solitude" I like.

"The secret history" sounds like the sort of thing that would be written on the cover of one of DD's many exercise books.

BalloonSlayer Mon 02-Nov-09 14:07:50

"The remains of the day," another good one IMO.

Gawd I am going to post forever on this thread. Can you have me barred?

Aniyan Mon 02-Nov-09 14:11:50

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my fave titles.

Aniyan Mon 02-Nov-09 14:13:41

And 'A prayer for Owen Meany'

Sunshinemummy Mon 02-Nov-09 14:25:12

Of Mice & Men and East of Eden are a couple of my favourites.

I also quite like Dave Eggers titles - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (something of an exaggeration) and You Shall Know our Velocity.

Rebecca is an intriguing title as the book isn't really about Rebecca at all.

nighbynight Mon 02-Nov-09 22:03:38

lol keep posting balloonslayer!
I spent part of my day at work compiling a list of titles, which I am going to analyse by type and length, to create the formula for a perfect book title. I have just added the latest suggestions. (my excuse for such time-wasting is that I am trying to think of a novel title atm).

I have got another 8-word great title: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

Cant think of any longer than that.

Wirrwarr Tue 03-Nov-09 00:01:26

'Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum' by Heinrich Böll (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum).

Also, the 'The Testament of Gideon Mack' is good; it seems to be a modern reading of Hogg's 'The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner'.

Final alcohol-fuelled thought for the evening, how about 'Enduring Love' - the play on words, i.e. the double meaning of 'enduring'? Thank you and good night.

BalloonSlayer Wed 04-Nov-09 13:39:25

Two polar opposites IMO from CS Lewis.

"Out of the Silent Planet" I still think is a spine-tingling book title. I read the whole - frankly rather tedious - trilogy because I liked that title so much.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" strikes me as deeply unimaginitive, on the other hand.

Thinking of spy novels:

How's about "The thirty nine steps"?

LadyThompson Wed 04-Nov-09 13:44:17

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.

Simple, elegant, elegaic - much like the book, really...

Can I vote for anything by Louis de Bernieres as being the reverse (off putting, naff, all front and no back)

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