the magic of the right title

Finding the right title for a book is an odd process. It can come to you in a flash, years before you write the book; it may never come to you at all. There are many fantastic novels with boring — even bad — titles.

[asa book]0763639311[/asa] Once in a while you come across a book with a title that strikes a chord. I came across one of those titles the other day — thanks to Mary Beth Conlee of the Burlington Public Library. She suggested a book that immediately had my attention, simply because of the title: The Knife of Never Letting Go.

There’s an image there of someone with a bloody clenched fist, holding onto … what? Anger, resentment, obsession? I would love to ask the author about the genesis of this title. And I’ll have to read it, of course.

A title that resonates for me doesn’t guarantee that I’ll love the book.

[asa book]015601226X[/asa] In this case, I did.

As Meat Loves Salt deserves to be more widely known. It’s a carefully researched historical set in Cromwell’s England. Jacob Cullen is the kind of unreliable narrator who almost shoves the story across the pages. He’s charismatic and well intentioned. He’s also violent, destructive, and a paragon of self-loathing. It’s not a gentle read, but I found it engrossing.

[asa book]0312961324[/asa] The Shell Seekers is a novel I remember finding very likable — but I also don’t remember a single thing about it except the title. I went to read the summary at Amazon and I thought, sounds interesting — and I still don’t have any memory of it.

This may be entirely my fault, of course. Maybe I wasn’t in a good place; maybe my memory is going.

[asa book]0802141676[/asa] This is one of those titles that seems humorous at first because it evokes an unexpected image, but after a moment’s reflection, is anything but. There’s an odd thing about this novel. Sometimes when I’m looking over my bookshelves The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven comes to my attention — and I’m irritated. Because all day long I’ll be thinking about the title and the book, almost gnawing on it. There are authors whose primary purpose to make readers uncomfortable (in a good way). Sherman Alexie is one of them.

Are there any titles that work for you in the same way these do for me?