This week’s topic is: Extraordinary Book Titles
So, these books have long titles. Some have subtitles. That’s it.
1. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
Both the book and the title are too long. Thankfully, the title of this book is usually just shortened to Tristram Shandy but Laurence Sterne wanted you to know that this wasn’t just about Shandy’s life. Oh no, it contained his opinions too. Unfortunately, the book itself cannot be shortened for easier reading.
2. The Spectres, Or, Lord Oswald And Lady Rosa, Including An Account Of The Marchioness Of Cevetti Who Was Basely Consigned To A Dungeon Beneath Her Castle By Her Eldest Son, Whose Cruel Avarice Plunged Him Into The Commission Of The Worst Of Crimes, That Stains The Annals Of The Human Race by Sarah Wilkinson
Wasn’t the eighteenth century a wonderful period for book titles? Look at this monster. I love it. Thank you, Sarah Wilkinson, for this wonderful title. I’ve never read this story, I’m not even sure it’s available, but I found it via a footnote in a journal article I was reading so it exists.
3. The Life and Death of King Richard the Second by William Shakespeare
Known simply as Richard II, Shakespeare’s play has had a few different title variations. The quarto editions named it The Tragedie of King Richard the Second whereas the first folio drops the word ‘tragedy’ but inserts ‘life and death’. Many of Shakespeare’s titles are rather long but they’re usually shortened to make things easier for everyone. Another example of this is Hamlet where the full title is actually The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark but no one uses that title.
4. Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister attributed to Aphra Behn
This novel is not as incestuous as the title implies but I guess it sort of was for the time. It’s based on the affair between Ford, Lord Grey of Werke and his wife’s sister, not his own sister, and it’s probably by Aphra Behn. Maybe. Who knows. It was published in three volumes and the second volume has the longest title of all: Love-Letters from a Noble Man to his Sister: Mixt with the History of Their Adventures. The Second Part by the Same Hand.
5. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner: Written by Himself: With a detail of curious traditionary facts and other evidence by the editor by James Hogg
Without the subtitle(s), this book’s title is long. With the subtitle(s), it’s ridiculous. I haven’t actually read this book yet but it’s on my TBR. I don’t even know what to expect from a title like this but I do know that novel itself is surprisingly short with some editions coming in at less than 200 pages. I’m glad the title length doesn’t reflect the length of the book.
6. The Anti-Pamela; or Feign’d Innocence Detected by Eliza Haywood
I love Eliza Haywood. I really, really do. There’s nothing that makes me happier than when her name pops up in my research. This book is literally what the title says it is, the anti-Pamela. It’s a satirical response to Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and it mocks the entire premise of the novel. I really need to reread this because the last time I read it was about five years ago.
7. Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome
I love that this title draws attention to the dog. All book titles should draw attention to the animal companions featured within them. If the subtitle wasn’t there, Three Men in a Boat would be a reasonable title but the addition of the subtitle does tip it over the edge into the ever-so-slightly ridiculous category.
8. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie
I’ve always thought that this was an odd title. Christie usually kept her fairly short and to the point, although there were some outliers, but The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side is her longest novel title by far. It was published under the shorter title of The Mirror Crack’d in the US but the UK edition thankfully retained the full title.
9. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Another title that we constantly shorten. I actually prefer the full title of this novel, I’m not sure why, but Stevenson wrote this while on six-day cocaine binge (probably prescribed for tuberculosis) so I’m not sure that he’d even care what the novel was known as now.
10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
Could I finish this list without including a Harry Potter book? Apparently not. Harry Potter titles are made longer through the inclusion of Harry Potter’s name in every single title. It’s a thing. I’m not sure why. Rick Riordan did it too with the Percy Jackson books. Order of the Phoenix is Rowling’s longest title and it’s the longest book in the series so at least they match.