In my travels (between the shelves in the library I mean. Let’s be realistic), I have seen many things. And, aside from the occasional human who rounds the corner and gives me a heart-attack, most of the things I have seen have been books. I’ve seen books of all shapes and sizes (metaphorically at least. In a literal sense most books are generally the same shape). I’ve seen books on subjects ranging from rabbits and country summers to the Apocalypse and painful death.
But of all the books I have seen, there is something they all have in common:
Every book has a title.
Over the vast years of my life I have noticed some categories which book titles often fall into. Thus, I have taken it upon myself to inform you.
Here are 10 Types of Book Titles which I have found living on the spines of books everywhere.
1. The Name
This book’s title is the name of a character (usually the main character) or, in some cases, two names. There is no puzzling over the meaning of the title as its intentions are perfectly clear.
These sorts of titles are helpful in first person narratives in case you forget the narrator’s name. A quick glance at the cover will remind you.
Also useful for discussing two years later when you can’t remember anything about the book except the title. At least you remember the main character’s name as well.
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Basil Billyong by Asha Lizzy Rose
Momo by Michael Ende
2. The Title
‘What?’ you say. ‘Aren’t these ALL titles?’ Indeed they are. But in this instance by ‘Title’ I do not mean the title of the book, but the title of the character. This book title is similar to the sort mentioned above, except in this instance it isn’t precisely the person’s name.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
The Giver by Lois Lowry
3. The Journey, the Life, the Story, etc. of Someone
This is a story about Someone. Therefore, the natural conclusion would be to call it “Someone’s Story” or “The Adventures of Someone”.
Pretty straight forward.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
4. The Person and the Thing that Happened
This title manages to tell us who the main character is AND who or what they will encounter that will be important.
Also useful for remembering the vague idea of the plot 59 years later.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
Harry Potter and the Important Thing at Hogwarts that Year by J.K. Rowling
5. The Central Object, Event, or Location
This title is similar to the one mentioned above except for one thing: we don’t get the main character’s name in big bold letters on the cover to help us remember.
Why is the main character’s name omitted from the title? Perhaps because authors think we will be able to remember. Or perhaps because they know we won’t and they like to make us suffer.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
6. This and That
And then authors, having come to the conclusion that readers don’t need the main character’s name in the title, began to question things further. “Do readers really need the title to remind them of key elements of the plot?” they asked themselves. “No indeed!”
And thus they decided to name their books with random pairings of words that vaguely encompass the theme of the story.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
7. The Once Uttered Phrase
If you have ever read such a book as this, you have undoubtedly experienced the following phenomena: You are sitting quietly, reading an enigmatically titled book, when you come across a phrase which you instantly recognize. Why do you recognize it? Because it’s the TITLE, by Jove! And you leap to your feet with a triumphant shout because now you know why the book bears the title that it does! This knowledge is most satisfying and should be rewarded with a snack immediately.
City of Orphans by Avi
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
What Hearts by Bruce Brooks
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
8. The Oft Repeated Phrase
This title is quite similar to the one mentioned above and causes the same phenomena of triumphant shouting and snacks. But with THIS sort of book the phrase is a recurring theme throughout the story.
Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverley Cleary
9. The Title That Makes Sense Now
When reading this sort of book, you may spend the majority of it wondering what the meaning of the title is. Or perhaps you only partially understand.
But once you’ve finished the book, you close it and look at the cover and your eyes bulge as you read the title again because it MEANS so much more now.
I love this sort of title. Unfortunately, I can only think of a few.
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
10. The Title that Still Doesn’t Make Sense
When reading this sort of book, you may spend the majority of it wondering what the meaning of the title is.
Upon finishing the book, you close it and look at the cover and as you read the title….
You still don’t understand why it’s the title.
Does it sound cool? Sure. Do you know what it’s meaning is? Nope.
Something Invisible, by Siobhán Parkinson
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
And there you have it. You may all consider yourselves enlightened on the subject of book categorization.
By the way, if you are ever endeavoring to title a book you have written (a torturous task which I have not yet succeeded in), you may find this list helpful. Just pick a title type and insert specifics from your story!
For example, I could title my book using type four and call it The Unnamed Kid and the Emotional Confusion, or I could use title type seven and call it The Water is Blue.
See how well it works?
Have you encountered all these types of titles? Is there a type I’ve missed? Do you have a favorite book title? What would you call your book if you titled it according to one of these types? Do we deserve to get snacks when we figure out why a book has the title that it does? Please share your thoughts!