5 Best Books is a weekly meme hosted by Cassandra at her blog, INDIE READER HOUSTON. Each week we're given a new subject for which we must come up with 5 Best Book choices. This week the subject is Horrible Titles. So it's 5 Best Horrible Titles. Wait, that doesn't sound right. Oh, you know what I mean. Okay, how about 5 Best Books with Horrible Titles. That changes it a bit.
How about a combo?
Here's my list although I'm sure I'll think of many more horrid titles once I publish these. I guarantee there are hundreds, probably thousands. Ha!
1) HAVE HIS CARCASE by Dorothy L. Sayers.
I've never liked this title. I don't care what poetry it's based on. When you look at it, you always want to say: Car Case. I know it is meant for carcass, but I still get disconcerted whenever I see it. I also never liked Harriet Vane much, so the book has a double whammy going for it. Still a good mystery, though and any Peter Wimsey is better than none.
2) THE DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey
A title that works against a memorable novel - a mystery classic. I'm forever having to explain it when I recommend the book. "Truth is the daughter of time." Get it? (Not that it makes much sense either/or. Then what is the son of time? A bunch of lies?) The title makes the book sound too much like some feminine romance sort of tale and that's really not the case at all.
Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is in hospital with a broken leg and bored out of his skull. A friend brings him some books and Grant gets caught up in the story of Henry III, the usurper King and supposed murderer of the famous two young princes in the tower. Through reasoning and excellent detective work - all from the hospital bed - Grant proves that the truth was just the opposite. Richard III was the victim of his many enemies. A brilliant book.
3) THE HIGH WINDOW by Raymond Chandler
A good Phillip Marlowe book practically ruined by a boring title. From what I understand, Chandler wanted to call the book, THE BRASHER DOUBLOON (the story is about a stolen rare coin and murder) but the publisher thought 'brasher' sounded too much like 'brassiere' - yeah, I know. Sometimes you just have to shake your head. So, THE HIGH WINDOW it became. Funny - when the film was made, they went back to the original title. Go figure.
4) OF TIME AND THE RIVER by Thomas Wolfe
I've always thought this title too impossibly highfaluting, grandiose and just a little bit silly. But Wolfe was a grandiose writer to begin with so I can't really blame him much. LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL - the Wolfe novel I love and remember best - well, vaguely - is one of the books that influenced me most when I was in high school, but even that title wasn't so great. OF TIME AND THE RIVER just never called out to me.
5) CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? by Anthony Trollope
I've never read this Victorian classic though I've been meaning to for ages. A friend gave me a nice hardcover Everyman's Library copy and I love holding it. I do plan on reading it this year. But that title, that title! When I first saw it I though it was a joke. I still do.
I'll tell you what other titles annoy me: One word titles. Unless the word is somehow interesting all by itself. One I do like: PERSUADER by Lee Child. Why? Cause the word is interesting and calls to mind several possibilities. I also like PERSUASION by Jane Austen. So maybe it's the similar meaning I like. But I think it's actually the 'look' of the word that pleases me. One of many I don't like: ACTOR by Parnell Hall. I mean, huh? (Though I loved the book itself - it's a Stanley Hastings mystery.)
I'm also not overly fond of two word titles unless it's the name of a character or setting and the name is interesting in and of itself. Like, for instance, JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte or ODD THOMAS by Dean Koontz or BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh. Another two word title I love: MILDRED PIERCED by Stuart Kaminsky. (Yes Joan Crawford is in this one - it's a Toby Peters mystery.)
I also don't like two word titles in which the first word ends in 'ing'. It's an unreasonable quirk of mine. For instance as in, EDUCATING RITA, or FORCING AMARYLLIS or LOVING so and so, or KILLING so and so, or CHASING so and so and so on and so on. That sort of thing usually means the book may not be read by yours truly.
The worst title ever? Off the top of my head I'd pick: A BOOK by Desi Arnaz. Talk about hubris.
My favorite titles are usually multi-word ones like: RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE by Zane Grey. THE WOODEN LEG OF INSPECTOR ANDERS by Marshall Browne. WHO IN HELL IS WANDA FUCA? by G.M. Ford. MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA by Agatha Christie. THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS by Jasper Fforde. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Arthur Conan Doyle. That sort of thing.
What about you? Do you have any title don'ts? What are your five 'worsts'?