6 types of book titles that get noticed – and picked up

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The "A" in AIDA

While a cover has to grab your eye, it’s the title that has to make you pick up the book. So what makes a book title grab your attention?

On Goodreads, the social media site for readers, 1,052 people voted on the book titles they thought were the most eye-catching or unique. I’ve taken the top 100 titles and organized them by what makes them unique (many would fit in multiple categories, and some of the categories are just a shade different from one another, but I’ve arranged them in the interest of clarity and space).

If you can write a title that fits into two or more of these categories and is readable at a glance – you probably have a winner.

Surprising

These you pick up either to see what the heck they’re talking about, or to find out what crazy thing they’ll say next. This category is so popular, I broke it into subcategories!

– Words you’re surprised to see together

  • The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse
  • The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul
  • Still Life with Psychotic Squirrel
  • TheGuernseyLiterary and Potato Peel Society
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
  • When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • The Baby Jesus Butt Plug
  • So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
  • Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Hitler the Cat Goes West
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
  • Nostradamus Ate My Hamster
  • Go-Go Girls of the Apocolypse
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
  • Practical Demonkeeping
  • A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
  • You Suck (A Love Story)

– A surprising play on a common saying/well-known title

  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Women are from Venus, Men Are From Hell
  • How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
  • English as a Second F***ing Language: How to Swear Effectively… (place)

 – Breaks rules…surprisingly

Some are unapologetically direct, some grammatically incorrect, some give away the ending, and some are just crass (a cheap trick I wouldn’t recommend).

  • Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank: A Slightly-Tarnished Southern Belle’s Words of Wisdom
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • I AmAmerica(And So Can You!)
  • Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off
  • Another Bull**** Night inSuckCity
  • How To S*** In the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art
  • John Dies at the End
  • This is Not a Novel
  • F*** This Book
  • On Bull****
  • The Haunted Vagina
  • Dude, You’re a F**: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School
  • Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining:America’s Toughest Family Court Judge Speaks Out

Funny/Clever

If the title alone makes you chuckle, you’re likely to pick up the book.

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
  • I Was Told There’d Be Cake
  • The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
  • If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?
  • I Still Miss My Man but My Aim is Getting Better
  • I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
  • In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash
  • Don’t Bend Over in the Garden, Granny, You Know Them Taters got Eyes
  • Since You’re Leaving Anyway, Take out the Trash
  • Even God is Single (So Stop Giving Me a Hard Time)
  • I Gave You My Heart, but You Sold It Online

 

Poetic

Just plain beautiful, but with a deeper meaning.

  • Something Wicked this Way Comes
  • Midnightin theGardenofGoodand Evil
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • Neverwhere
  • A ClockworkOrange
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • The Man Who Was Thursday
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  • The Sound and the Fury
  • For Whom theBellTolls
  • I Capture the Castle
  • All Quiet on the Western Front

 

Makes You Think

A unique way to look at things. Atlas Shrugged is a prime example – Atlas being the Greek god who holds up the world heavens (or holds the heavens and the earth apart, depending on which tradition you follow).

  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History
  • She Got up off the Couch; and Other Heroic acts fromMooreland,Indiana
  • A Wrinkle in Time

Intriguing

Specifies or implies something irresistibly interesting or thought-provoking. You have to know more.

  • The Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes inNew England: A Novel
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • What to Say When You Talk to Yourself
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

 

Whimsical

It simply sounds fun.

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat & Other Clinical Tales
  • Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed
  • The Lust Lizard ofMelancholyCave
  • There’s a Wocket in My Pocket
  • Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
  • Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants

 

I can’t figure out why these are interesting (if you can, tell us in the comments)

  • Brave New World
  • Table 21
  • Reading Lolita inTehran
  • To Live and Drink inL.A.
  • Fear and Loathing inLas Vegas: a Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

What are your favorite titles? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. My calendar next week looks like it got sneezed on by the Deadline Monster, so I can tell you right now I won’t be able to write about the D in AIDA until the week after. But stay tuned! We may do a little review of the I in AIDA.


About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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14 Comments

  1. Awesome post. And so true. It’s easy to be drawn to a book based on its title.

    (And…Atlas holds up the sky, not the earth.)

  2. Conversely, some of the ‘quirky’ titles have put me off. However, I did pick up The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud because the title intrigued me.

    • Yeah, I get put off by the crass ones. Seems like a cheap trick to me. It takes real skill to come up with something interesting without being vulgar. I think the “Intriguing” category is the most impressive.

  3. One of my favorite titles is “Watership Down.” Maybe because I am American, I didn’t grow up knowing what a “down” is, and so I was left wondering what this thing could possibly be about. The Lemony Snicket series also sports a bunch of great titles.
    Personally, I have a horrible time coming up with titles. Right now, though, I am dealing with the “how much needs to be cut off of the front of my novel” problem. Oh the headaches!

    • Ah! I still need to read Watership Down. But there’s such a long list of “I’ve been meaning to read”s. Working on Don Quixote now!

      I love Lemony Snicket! Definitely some great titles in there, particularly the series title. I’m still mad I don’t know what’s in the sugar bowl, though.

      Good luck with your cutting! I always save any big chunks I cut out in a file called “Deleted Scenes.” It makes it easier to let go, for some reason.

      • Don’t mention that title! I might have to burst into song!

        I’ve yet to read them all, but I like them so far. Don’t worry, you didn’t spoil anything for me. 😉 Another title that I love is “Till We Have Faces” simply because of the moment one realizes the significance of those words. Wow.

        I do that too. Poor scenes… at least they live in an archive, and perhaps parts of them may yet be salvaged. It’s so hard to decide where a story should begin, though. Too early and it drags, too late and there is so much “filling in” to be done that it drags. Where is that darned sweet-spot where it can pace along merrily without tripping over its own feet? Naargh.

        Good luck with whatever is making you busy!

        • To dreeeeeam the impossible dreeeeam!!!

          ‘Til We Have Faces is one of my favorite titles too!

          Good luck with your book beginning. my busy-ness is going well. Not completely worn out yet. : P

  4. I’m all for clever, but I’m not into the quirky ones. I find them distracting, like they’re trying too hard. 🙂

  5. NOOOOOOOOO! the last think I need right now is another brain worm!

    …sometimes my characters frustrate me so much! Aigh!

  6. Fun titles! And I’m glad to see I recognize or have read many of these.

    I also like the titles Cowboys Are My Weakess, The Lovely Bones and The God of Small Things.

    • All good titles as well! I’ve been curious for the longest time why “The Lovely Bones” is called that. I haven’t seen the movie or read the book. Would you mind spilling the beans? Are the girl’s bones the ones in question, and what makes them lovely?

  7. Pingback: 4 steps to convince people they NEED to read your novel | bekindrewrite

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