25 Beautiful Unique Book Titles

Titles are very important to me. For poems and stories, I like it when the title adds something to the piece itself rather than labeling. Labeling is effective for essays and sometimes novels (to a lesser degree), but for short, creative pieces, I like to take advantage of that extra line to do something special to the piece. I’m fond of one-word titles that have multiple meanings (maybe as both a noun and verb, for example). I also like it when a poem is about something without ever telling you what it is, but then the title does.

Titles are fun tools, and I wish more writers used them to their full advantage. So many times it seems like a quick afterthought. If the title doesn’t seem perfect, I’m dissatisfied – including my own titles.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to use as a working title for my new horror manuscript, and I keep drawing blanks. Working titles are often changed in the end anyway, but I’d still like to have a good one. It affects the way I think of the book as I’m writing it. And if it’s really good, it might stick around all the way to the end.

In an attempt to unblock my title impasse, I decided to make a list of all of my favorite book titles. It hasn’t helped yet, but it sure was fun. =) Here they are, in no particular order, with a few notes of my own:

1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
This title is actually why I first picked up the book.

2. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
This is a phrase from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes.”

3. *Where the Sea Breaks Its Back, Corey Ford

4. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

5. ‘Salem’s Lot, Stephen King
Originally titled Second Coming, but later changed to Jerusalem’s Lot, and finally shortened to its final version to avoid sounding “too religious.”

6. *Exactly Where They’d Fall, Laura Rae Amos
This book isn’t actually out yet, but I had to include it. Even if I wasn’t online friends with the author, I would buy it for its title alone.

7. The October Country, Ray Bradbury

8. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
This is a phrase from Robert Burns’s poem “To a Mouse,” which reads: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)

9. *House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski

10. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic where several major ocean currents deposit their debris. Sargassum is a type of floating seaweed. This is a literary “prequel” to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

11. The Dead-Tossed Waves, Carrie Ryan
What can I say? She’s good at titles.

12. *No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

13. It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, Robert Fulghum
The author of the collection, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, which was also a clever title until everyone beat it to death.

14. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Lorrie Moore

15. *Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King

16. The Lives of the Heart, Jane Hirshfield

17. The Art of Drowning, Billy Collins

18. *Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, Douglas Adams

19. A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle

20. The Radiance of Pigs, Stan Rice
Random fact: Stan Rice (deceased) was Anne Rice’s husband.

21. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
This is a phrase from Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens: “The moon’s an arrant thief, / And her pale fire she snatches from the sun.”

22. *Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris

23. Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice

24. The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
Auction items are called “lots.” The auctioneer is said to “cry” a lot when he takes bids on it. This novel ends with the crying of lot number 49. But it’s not as dull as it sounds, it ties into the plot, which is not about auctions at all.

25. The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson
I must say, this book is even more beautiful than the title – a rare find.

*Denotes books I haven’t read yet.

As you can see, for novels and book-length works I tend to lean toward long, phrasal, and poetic titles. They just really grab my attention and then stick with me. Not to mention that they whisper, “The writing inside is just as good.”

I want a title like that for my new WIP (work in progress). Maybe you can help me get new ideas. What are some of your favorite book titles?

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  • I am exactly the same. My current series has been the hardest books I’ve ever had to name. Seriously, I am STILL undecided on the ultimate titles of them. But the title means half of everything about a book; there’s nothing easy about naming an entire story in just a few words or a single line.

    I like a lot of the titles on your list. I’ll add “The Gone-Away World” by Nick Harkaway. It’s so, so, so, SO perfect for the book.


    • Yeah, I’ve noticed that you use initials to talk about your books instead of names. “The Gone-Away World” is lovely, indeed. Hyphens in a title are hard to pull off. =)

  • You have no idea how glad I am to hear you like the title, because I went through about 75-million of them while I was deciding, lol! I’m so honored to have my book’s title share a list with such amazing works! 😀

    The Sky is Everywhere is beautiful too! I saw that, with the cover, and it immediately went on my to-read list before I’d even read the blurb properly, lol! You’re right though – I’m a sucker for those poetic titles too. You *can* tell a little about the writing inside.

  • Paula

    Good point about titles. I confess, I have only made them an afterthought but I think I’ll start paying more attention to the way I title my stories. After all, when I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to purchase a particular book, the title plays a major role in my decision. Thanks for this post!

    • That’s true. In fact, at least for authors, I bet the title plays a bigger part in our decision than the cover. Most writing readers know that covers are completely out of the author’s control, while titles are at least sometimes their choice. So yes, I vote for careful titling. 😉 Thanks Paula!

  • Such a great topic! A few of my favorite titles from books I’ve read are:

    The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

    This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park (it’s especially beautiful when you read the book & realize what passage the title came from)

    All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown

    The Lost & Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu

    and Little Bee by Chris Cleave

    I’m noticing that I also tend to lean towards longer, poetic titles, too. You’re right that they feel like a preview to the rest of the writing.

    • I am shocked! I have never heard of any of these, but I adore every title. Great list, Natalia! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    American Psycho
    Rules of Attraction
    Less than Zero
    Tender is the night
    Babylon Revisited
    Love of the Last Tycoon
    The beautiful and the damned
    Parrot Fever
    Hate: A romance (havent read this but loved the title)
    And the hippos were boiled in their tanks (awesome story and title. would love a title like this for something of mine. There’s something about a title with half a sentence that i love)
    Naked Lunch
    The subbteraneans
    Requiem for a dream
    Claire Dewitt and the city of the dead
    Brideshead Revisited

    Graphic Novels:
    Any of the sandman volumes. BEAUTIFUL titles. by neil gaimen
    Batman: the long halloween
    The Killing Joke
    Drinking at the movies

    An American Prayer by Jim Morrison
    (i’m sure there’s more but couldn’t think of any right now)

    I tend to get the majorty of my titles from songs. I would say anywhere to 50% to 75% of my titles are song inspired.

    My fav song title as of this week: Lucky day in Hell by the Eels.

    • Ooo, a lot of good ones here too! You seem to like the more punchy titles, which I agree have their place. On your list I especially like “Less than Zero” and “The Beautiful and the Damned.”

  • I’m completely obsessed with titles too and MUST have one before I commit to working on a short story or book. It’s funny though how titles seem to go in and out of trend. “Daughter” and “Tiger” were in so many titles the past few years!

    • That’s so true! “Daughter” especially. I can think of tons of titles with that in it already, including two of my own. I never thought of it as trendy, though. On my part, at least, I think it was less intentional and more influenced. Very interesting thought!

  • Pegab

    This is great fun! Quite a few of my favorite titles have already been listed and some new ones I love. I seem to lean toward the simple but evocative. Here are some good old ones:

    Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Garcia Marquez

    Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote

    West with the Night by Beryl Markham

    The House on Garibaldi Street by Isser Harel

    Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas

    In Chile, love moves the sun and stars by Arturo Fontaine

    Splendor In The Grass and
    I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by Wordsworth

    I’m finding it really difficult to stop…

  • Pegab

    That’s Gabriele Garcia Marquez:)

    One more:

    All Roads Lead Me Back to You by Kennedy Foster

    • I love the first three you listed! I almost included “West with the Night” in my list, but it got bumped for “Pale Fire.” =)

  • Wow, writers! A totally different reason that leaning toward the less-common (and perhaps longer) titles is a good idea: http://networkedblogs.com/sUMN5 (blog post “Picking a Good Book Title” by Jeffe Kennedy) I never would have thought of this — worth a look.

    • Jeffe Kennedy

      Live and learn! And noted for the future, for myself. I always loved the title “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” Thanks for the nod!

  • Lura Slowinski

    I am so bad at coming up with titles. Novels, chapter headings, blog posts–all of them leave me feeling anxious and dissatisfied.

    Probably part of my problem is I’m not entirely sure what I like in titles or why I like them. Some that stick out that I’ve never actually read are:

    The Sound and the Fury
    The Unbearable Lightness of Being
    The Lathe of Heaven

    Ones I have read:

    In Cold Blood (you don’t forget that one in a hurry!)
    I Am No One You Know by Joyce Carol Oates
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
    Ghostwritten by the same

    Worst title ever? “Ten Years After” by Alexandre Dumas. If you’re writing a sequel you’ve really got to try a little harder than that! (I’m not sure if that’s what it is in French, though.)

    • Haha, that does seem a little lazy. I like “The Sound and the Fury” too, and “In Cold Blood.”

      • Pegab

        I almost put those two on my list:)

  • Regina Richards

    I love a good title, but admit it’s the second thing I notice. Great cover art gets me every time.

    • I think I notice titles first, but cover art is definitely up there. Everyone totally judges books by their covers. =)

  • SierraGutiérrez

    Just keep following the heartlines
    Light up (as if you have a choice)
    The ebb and flow of us together
    Morning comes in paradise
    All the things we did and didn’t do
    Days winding like dreams
    The best luck I had was you
    I hope this song will guide you home
    Sings the revolution
    Little league in ’93 taught me how to take defeat
    See it through with newer hands
    I am you are me
    Sing until our jaws are broken
    It’s not a competition (unless I’m winning)

    I like imagery 🙂

    • Oh, great list! At first glance I thought this was a poem. =) I especially like “All the Things we Did and Didn’t Do” and “I Am You Are Me.” Thanks for sharing these!

  • shilpi

    i m planning to write a book based on emotions, love, how i found true love and a new me. but i m just juggling with titles and still have not landed any were. could you help me decide one.

    • I’m sorry, but I can’t help you choose your title. That really has to be a personal choice!

    • Fira

      I might call it The Everlasting Quest, but maybe you should wait to choose a title until you’re done with the book

  • Katy

    I personally like titles that are said in-story, such as the ‘Beautiful Creatures’ series. It’s like a little Easter egg. And I have to agree with you on Carrie Ryan’s titles – they allude to how amazing the books are.

  • varun

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn