Tricky little title changes

The Guardian has recently published an article about why American publishers sometimes change the titles of books. In fact they don’t only change titles, they will also change names, places and spelling. The writer from The Guardian doesn’t really have an answer to why this happens, but happen it does and can be confusing for library users – and librarians!

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is a good example. It was originally published as Cross Stitch. Then there is The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman which became The Golden Compass, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Looking at these titles, it is hard to understand why they were changed. It is a tricky business though, as often it can look like your favourite author has published a new book only to be met with disappointment when the story starts to feel very familiar!

When a new title is given to a book, our wonderful cataloguers always add an entry to the catalogue record that lets you know that the book has two titles.

Notes: Also published as: Cross stitch. London : Rowan, 1992.
Notes: Originally published as: Northern lights. London : Scholastic, 1995.

And whatever title you type in will take you to the correct book.


New Zealand Book Week & the Rugby World Cup!

It’s New Zealand Book Week and the final of the Rugby World Cup. How will we cope? What will we read? I’ve got it covered, so just relax and enjoy the ride.

Leading up to the game.

Cover of On top of everythingCover of No second chanceCover of CollisionCover of The demolition of the century

Followed by.

Cover of Running towards dangerCover of Heart of obsidianCover of Sacrifice

Opening play.

Cover of Final retributionCover of SoonCover of TrifectaCover of Trust no one

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Cover of Cross fingersCover of FalloutCover of The PredictionsCover of The journey

Half time sustenance.

Cover of Chocolate for breakfastCover of Blood wine and chocolateCover of Recipe for lifeCover of A sandwich short of a picnic

And, of course, the back-up plan.

Cover of A jold to the heart

How will you make it through the week?

Go, the All Blacks!

Book Titles: Why Not Catch-21?

Quirky Titles Display at Bishopdale Library
“Quirky Titles” Display at Bishopdale Library

There are 211 different books in Christchurch City Libraries to help you name your future offspring, but only one to guide the choice of title for your soon-to-be-published book. And that is the cunningly titled Why Not Catch-21? The Stories Behind the Titles.

I am fascinated by book titles, especially the zany “what were they thinking” offerings. Here is a selection of some of my current favourites.

Huffington Post lists a New Zealand book as having one of their top fifteen most ridiculous titles: the wonderfully rhythmic Come Onshore and We Will Kill and Eat You All. It’s a love story caught in the middle of the cultural collision between Westerners and Maori. Having nailed a great title though, the publishers went all lily-livered and opted for a dreadfully bland blue cover which does nothing at all for the book.

Knitting with Dog Hair is an old favourite of mine – billed as Better a sweater from a dog you know and love than a sheep you’ll never meet. If you love dogs and have a vacuum cleaner, you are well ahead of the pack in this. I’ve missed years of Scottish Terrier sheddings which would, according to the author, have yielded a slightly coarse but spinnable undercoat. I think this activity would have driven me to drink. In which case I could have rejigged the title and called my book Hair of the Dog.

I still wonder at the appeal of British Mousetraps and Their Makers, but this book is regularly borrowed. The cover shows several complicated, scary, medieval looking traps. It makes me wonder if mice of other nationalities would also fall prey to these Proudly British devices.

Cover of Traditional Molvanian baby namesFinally, when you and your partner tire of the sweetness of the whole baby naming thing, have a palate cleansing look at the outrageous Traditional Molvanian Baby Names. This title sounds normal until you realise that Molvania doesn’t exist (the blurb describes it as just north of Bulgaria and downwind from Chernobyl). This book will provide you with much needed comic ammunition for when the in-laws become antsy about your name choice for their grandchild. Just shove a few of these XYZ and K mouthfuls into the mix and they are sure to get back in line.

Imagine then my delight that this interest in wacky titles is more widespread than I had thought. Bishopdale Library has a running display of some of these offerings. It is great to see rare books getting an airing – and apparently they do attract a lot of attention. At Bishopdale, team members are constantly on the look-out for weird and wacky titles to add to their display. If you’d like to help this darling little Community Library – just add your suggestions below!


My Life in Books

I was busy, as librarians often are, returning items one day and to my surprise, I noticed I had returned three DVDs, one right after the other, in the right order, which uncannily mirrored a pretty large chunk of my life so far – all in three movie titles!

We Bought a Zoo encapsulated the child raising years, where at times my kids were monkeys, other times brainless chickens, and the teenage years were more like herding rabid hyenas into a bag.

Look Back in Anger were the divorce years. Bitter and twisted times, I was a wronged woman who wasn’t always kind, nor brimming with forgiveness.

The Spectacular Now is my present life. Well, not always spectacular, but often filled with much fun, love, laughter and music and more than a little dollop of gratitude.

Book cover of the grapes of wrathIt made me think of other movies or book whose titles could encapsulate a life.

The Grapes of Wrath could document the mornings after when I should have known better, and perhaps Someday, Someday Maybe, would aptly sum up my exercise regimen. What I Know for Sure, is that I know very little, and The Hunger Games covers that time period between morning tea and lunch.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is what I will tell you over Three Cups of Tea.

So, are there books or movies that remind you of your life, or parts of it? Can you encapsulate your life so far in three titles?

Titular weirdness

Could this be the most strangely titled book published in Britain in 2008?
Could this be the most strangely titled book published in Britain in 2008?

You’ve got to give it to the British, they do excel in the area of naming oddities.  Poor folks by the name of Winterbottom, towns with names like Felldownhead and Giggleswick and the like, it’s all highly amusing.  So why should it be any different when it comes to book titles?

Bookseller magazine has just announced their shortlist for strangest book titles published in Britain in the previous year.  The six shortlisted titles are –

  • Baboon metaphysics
  • Curbside Consultation of the Colon
  • The Large Sieve and its Applications
  • Strip and Knit with Style
  • Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring
  • The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais

I have to admit that compared with some of the crazy titles picked out by Joycie and Donna (more here) in earlier posts, I don’t really find these to be standout examples (though for the life of me I’m having trouble coming to grips with that last one).  Maybe my “strangeness meter” is just set higher than most people’s, who knows?

Anyway, a winner will be announced on 27 March and will be decided by internet voting.  To vote for your favourite go to Bookseller Magazine’s website.  For more on this year’s competition read the story in The Telegraph.

Any suggestions of weird but wonderful titles that you’ve come across?

The curse of the quirky title

Judging books by their titles may be a crime as heinous as judging books by their covers but naughty old me I do it all the time. Over the last decade or so I’ve been regularly driven insane by titles such as Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world by Mark Kurlansky, Milk: the surprising story of milk throughout the ages by Anne Mendelson and, deep, deep breath The secret life of dust: from the cosmos to the kitchen counter, the big consequences of little things. Non-fiction has excelled at the snappy attention grabbing but banal single word title followed by a colon and windbag subtitle extolling the wonders of the subject. I’m sure the content of the vast majority of these titles is riveting but I’m never going to read them as the title has reduced me to a bile-spewing babbling wreck. My current “favourite” is Mauve: how one man invented a colour that changed the world by Simon Garfield, I mean really what has mauve ever done for me!

Formulaic, over-wordy and calculatingly weird, not genuinely loopy or unusual like the titles featured in the Diagram Prize, an annual prize for the year’s oddest titles, this fantastical titling ruse has been going on far too long. This lurgy has also spread into fiction as evidenced by titles such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, A Short history of tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka , Salmon fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday and An Arsonist’s guide to writers’ homes in New England: a Novel by Brock Clarke, note the “: a Novel” a red rag to many a book pedant. There is some historical pedigree to this verbal diarrhoea: Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was first released as Travels into several remote nations of the world, in four parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, first a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several ships. Published in 1726 and never out of print the title has been mercifully shortened. Sheesh!!! But at least it doesn’t have “surprising” in the title unlike The Republic of Pirates: being the true and surprising story of the Caribbean pirates and the man who brought them down by Colin Woodward, “surprising” is not enough to get me grabbing a title of the shelf especially as by saying “surprise” they’ve killed the surprise, duh!!

Still, grumbling aside, all these ridiculous titles do present an opportunity for the nerdy or bored….creating your own spoof titles! Have a try you won’t be disappointed. Can you spot the fake title between these two? A cow’s life: the surprising history of cattle and how the Black Angus came to be home on the range by M.R. Montgomery or Cardigans: From the Crimea to Croydon unravelling the fascinating history of a fashion statement by Lee Di Pietro. Tricky eh?

Oddest book title

It’s Saturday afternoon and for a bit of light relief you may like this piece of useless information from the Guardian weekly. The quest is on to find the oddest book title in the last 30 years.  Here are some of my personal favourites, but if you want to look at the article and the complete list then check this out.

  • Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice
  • The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today
  • Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality
  • How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art
  • How to Avoid Huge Ships
  • American Bottom Archaeology
  • Highlights in the History of Concrete
  • Reusing Old Graves
  • Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service
  • The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification

Titles that tickle Part 2

Ma he sold meThe pursuit of funny and titles that tickle continues …

The Guardian has just reported the shortlist has been announced for the year’s oddest book titles. Hooray for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. Candidates include the particularly charmingly titled If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs.

Others on the shortlist: Cheese Problems Solved, How to Write a How to Write Book and Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues.

New in our libraries too are some other corkers:

  • Ma, he sold me for a few cigarettes
    Perhaps not one to laugh it as it’s subtitled “a heart-rending memoir”, but the title reminds me of the Monty Python skit when four Yorkshiremen are trying to outdo each other with how bad their lives were: “House? You were lucky to have a HOUSE! We used to live in one room, all hundred and twenty-six of us, no furniture. Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of FALLING!” Continue reading

Titles that Tickle

In the last wee while I have seen some books that make me laugh – before reading a word: