Sunday, May 8, 2011

All Time Favorite Book Titles

A catchy title can make a world of difference, can't it? How many times have you skimmed the aisles at your local book store, your eyes glazing over boring, typical titles that told you nothing about the book or did nothing to intrigue you at all?

It's a shame, because sometimes really good books can hide behind mundane titles. But half the time you'd never know it, cuz you skipped right over it.

Here are some of my personal favorite book titles. By coincidence, every one of them also happens to be a kick-ass novel.

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline-- George Saunders
I keep pushing Saunders on all my friends, and they keep pushing back. I'm telling you, the guy is the best surreal satirist since Vonnegut, and this collection of stories is one of his best.

One Monday We Killed Them All-- John D. MacDonald
One of MacDonald's best thrillers. And honestly, how could anyone resist that title?

Gun, with Occasional Music-- Jonathan Lethem
A sci-fi/fantastical/noir featuring a tough P.I. and talking kangeroos. And a brilliant title.

By Bizarre Hands-- Joe R. Lansdale
My favorite collection of stories from Champion Joe, and-- again-- one of the all-time most intriguing titles.

Ministry of Fear-- Graham Greene
A solid chunk of paranoia from espionage master Greene, and a title that gives me a little shiver of dread.

Shoot the Piano Player-- David Goodis
The original title was "Down There", but since the film version this book has always been referred to by the new title. I like it better.

Here Comes a Candle-- Fredric Brown
If you know the little ditty this came from, you'll know why it's creepy and evocative... " comes a chopper to chop off your head..."

Bury Me Deep-- Megan Abbott
A title that grabs you right away, and fits the emotionally smothering feel of the novel.

Build My Gallows High-- Geoffrey Homes
The basis of a terrific film noir with Robert Mitchum, and the source of that film's most memorable line. The film was called Out of the Past, but honestly, they should have stuck with Build My Gallows High.

City of Widows-- Loren Estleman
A western by one of the all-time masters, this is the title I most wish I'd thought of. Super-evocative.

New Hope for the Dead-- Charles Willeford
Not my favorite book by Willeford, but undoubtably one of his best titles. Typical Willeford-ian smart-ass stuff.

Kiss Your Ass Goodbye-- Charles Willeford
Yeah, Willeford makes the list twice. This is the only one I haven't read, as it's sorta hard to come by, but man... the best title of all time, that one.


  1. I really like Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. I haven't read it yet, but I think I will based on the title alone.

  2. Excellent bunch, cheers, will try to track a few of them down.

  3. Bury Me Deep was also the title of the 1947 debut of lawyer/sleuth Scott Jordan penned by Harold Q. Masur.

  4. The Fools in Town are On Our Side, by Ross Thomas.

    Perfect title.