Everyone knows that “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” etcetera, etcetera, blahblahblah. But it has been proven that a cover can in fact be a solid litmus test for a reader. Do books with intriguing titles hold their own, too? In the ebook era, when we’re increasingly looking at tiny little thumbnails of cover art instead of lovingly caressing the physical objects in the store (er, you people do that too, right?), titles are more important than ever.
Below are twelve books so well-named, they demand to be read immediately:
1. Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami
Really, I could have included any number of Murakami books on this list (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is another favorite). Say what you will about his stories rarely making any sense (seriously though, I have read them all and they never make sense), the man (or his translator) knows how to title a book.
2. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl
To be entirely honest, this title is so good it forced me to buy the book…but I haven’t actually read it yet. Don’t get me wrong, I still fully intend to get around to it, as soon as I’m in the mood for a richly detailed mind-bender packed with footnotes and literary references.
3. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves, by Karen Russell
I’m not normally a fan of short stories, but the title of Russell’s debut collection is so evocative, I had to give her a try.
4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
I think the title took this one at least partway to its eventual Pulitzer. It was definitely responsible for my buying it (in hardcover, no less!), despite the fact that I was then a poor college student. I can’t imagine a more appropriate moniker for a book about a couple of guys writing superhero comics in the 1940s.
5. The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
I didn’t really read any sci-fi before I got to high school, when one of my teachers let me choose my extra credit reading from a stack of books in her cabinet. I had no idea what this was about, but as soon as I saw the title on its spine, I was sold.
6. The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness
It’s grammatically awkward and doesn’t really make sense, but there’s no denying the title of this YA thriller has a raw, poetic allure (one that carries through the sequels: The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men).
7. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
This might be a personal thing, but if the title of your book references classic screwball comedies, David Foster Wallace, and mixtapes, I am definitely going to read it.
8. On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers
This is probably my least favorite Tim Powers’ novel, but it was the first one I read, mostly because it has an awesome title. So awesome, in fact, that they used it for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, even though the plot bears only a loose resemblance to the book.
9. Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray
You’ve got to admire a book that puts a spoiler like that right on the cover. (See also: John Dies at the End.)
10. The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall
…because who can resist a paradoxical title like that?
11. Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
Foer is mostly known for his fiction, titled with overly mannered mouthfuls (Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). This investigation into what eating meat does to our bodies and culture wins points for stark simplicity. “What’s that book about?” asked no one.
12. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
You might have to be a video game–loving child of the ’80s to appreciate this one, but I couldn’t resist it. The phrase, familiar to anyone who has ever plugged a stack of quarters into a stand-up arcade game, shot the book to the top of my reading list as soon as I heard it.
What’s your favorite book title?