March 10, 2009
The Familiar and the Unfamiliar
Do you have a favorite book title? One that is memorable and interesting, all the while telling you just what the book is about?
Here's another perspective on what makes an ideal nonfiction book title. Previously I wrote that the ideal title employed two elements: content and creativity. You can also think of them as the familiar and the unfamiliar.
You've heard this before: the best titles do both.
Here's some bestselling history samples from a recent Amazon list.
Actually, these titles aren't perfect in my mind. They tend to rely too much on the subtitle to convey the familiar, the content. But the titles are arresting. Also, two of the titles that don't clearly convey content (Team of Rivals and Collapse) are written by superstar, previously bestselling authors. As I've said before, it just doesn't matter as much what the title is when the author is already very well-known.
The two, I think, that best combine the familiar with the unfamiliar, creativity with content, are The Lost City of Z and The Day Wall Street Exploded. Both convey specific information and intrigue. The one looks to be a true-life Indiana Jones; the other says it's a dramatic slice of economics in the United States.
Who said history was boring?