Top Ten Tuesday: book titles like no other

Top Ten Tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we have fun making bookish lists. This week, I’ve been tempted to consider unique book titles.

Unique is always a big ask, but it doesn’t take much looking at a bookshelf to realise that book titles are often as off the peg as book cover art. Seriously, how many books are titled “The [noun – preferably some unusual profession]’s [female relative of some sort]” – or “The X of the Y”? Although “The X of Y” can still be pretty unusual if you choose your nouns wisely.

So sure, I’m being little unfair – a bit like my Latin teacher, who tried to sell us on the theory that there are only 3 narratives, but described the third in such vague terms that yes, absolutely, it covered practically every story ever told. Including all those covered by his other categories.

But if you’re going to do this, you have to do the best you can. So here we go.


Gnomon – Nick Harkaway

One way to stand out is to use a title so obscure it sounds like you made it up. You can be reasonably certain there’s no other book on the shelf yours can be mistaken for.

Reamde – Neal Stephenson

Alternatively, go ahead and just make it up – or play with your spelling just enough to sound familiar and suggest all sorts, whilst being smugly aware that you can stand on the shoulders of 4chan trolls and be original.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick

Another good angle is to make your title sound like it came out of a Book Title Generator that leans towards the absurd and obscure, rather than the mainstream. Add a question mark to really rub it in (bonus points if your book actually tackles the left-field question you posed. Well done Mr Dick).

Some Experiences of a New Guinea Magistrate – C A W Monckton

This is just so weirdly specific. I mean, no prizes for guessing what it’s about! I can’t imagine it had a huge audience though…

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – Alan Garner

I promised “The X of Y” could be unusual if you tried hard enough – making up your nouns guarantees you’re unique even while you use a traditional construction. Clever, eh?

Stig of the Dump – Clive King

Children’s books get quite a bit of latitude when it comes to inventive titles. I had no idea what a Stig was (…and yes, this predates Top Gear) or why anyone would live in a dump, but I knew I wanted to find out.

The Steel Remains, The Cold Commands and The Dark Defiles – Richard Morgan

These may not seem original, but I’m giving Mr Morgan points for names that are both consistent and ambiguous – are they “The [noun] [verbs]” or “The [adjective] [noun plural]”? Wonderfully, they all make sense in context, and the answer can – in every case – be either/both/who cares/wheee/arrrrgh. I like clever names.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making – Catherynne Valente

Arguably this isn’t unique, because Cat Valente went on to write several more with similar titles – but these stand out for me for their audacious length and detail. It feels like subversion on several levels, which can only be a good thing.

On a Red Station, Drifting – Aliette de Bodard

This sounds rather literary for a genre title – it has the ring of poetry rather than prose.

Consider Phlebas – Iain M Banks

It’s quite an instruction, isn’t it? For those who know their poetry, this isn’t unique at all, but I certainly didn’t know who Phlebas was when I first encountered it.


What titles stand out on your shelf?