Thumbs Down: Generic Book Titles

Someone recently asked me what I was reading, and I was completely stuck for an answer. Not because I wasn’t reading anything at all, or because I wasn’t enjoying the book… I just couldn’t get the name right.

Title... title... I know I know it... argh...

Title… title… I know I know it… argh…

There seems to be a plague of generic, repetitive-sounding book titles right now. Just looking back at my own books from my Goodreads shelves, I see:

  • What You Left Behind
  • The Girl You Left Behind
  • Those Left Behind
  • The Secrets We Left Behind
  • The Secrets We Keep

Plus a bunch about meeting, leaving, separating, missing…

  • When You Were Here
  • After I’m Gone
  • Before I Met You
  • Far From You
  • Until We Meet Again
  • Since You’ve Been Gone
  • The Last Time They Met
  • The Day We Met
  • The Next Time You See Me

To tell the truth, there’s:

  • The Truth About Us
  • All the Truth That’s In Me
  • The Truth About You and Me

More repetitions, patterns, and just general general-ness:

  • The Moment of Everything
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Maybe in Another Life
  • The Opposite of Maybe
  • Then and Always
  • The Here and Now

It’s not that these aren’t good books. Most are! But so many books have these bland, could-mean-anything titles — so when I look back at a list of book that I’ve read, I have a really hard time connecting these generic titles to a particular plot. Which is a shame, because in a real-life conversation without Google or Goodreads right in front of me, I’m stuck saying things like “that book I read about the boy with the dead parent” or “the one about the twin sisters” or some other unhelpful nonsense.

Do you have any book titles that you constantly mix up? Have you come across books with switchable, forgettable titles? Please tell me I’m not the only one who gets tripped up by interchangeable titles!


So. Much. Confusion.


16 thoughts on “Thumbs Down: Generic Book Titles

  1. How strange. So how it is that when you query to agents, they expect your title to stand out, and then when the book gets published, they choose a generic title for it? 😦

    It doesn’t make any sense to me, because people will sure do what you do: insted of the title, they will say, “That book with the teen sisters.” How will they be able to recommand a book without knowing its name?

    • Interesting – I have no idea from the writer’s side. So you submit a book with a good title, and it may get completely dumbed down for publication? It makes it so hard for a book to stand out in your memory if you can’t keep the title straight!

      • Looks like. During my submitting process, it was pointed out to me twice that my title isn’t sharp enough. And I know that titles almost always get changed from the one the author used.

  2. I’ve noticed there is a formula to fantasy titles nowadays. It’s usually “blank of blank and blank”. Examples: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, A Court of Thorns and Roses, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, etc. I feel like fantasy titles especially should have original names since the stories themselves are so original. I can see how the contemporary books would be so similar too. Great post!

    • What a great point! It’s different when the intent is to create a pattern within a series (like in A Song of Ice and Fire, e.g., A Game of Thrones, A Storm of Swords, etc), but now that you mention it, it does seem like YA fantasy books especially are using the formula that you’ve pointed out. Maybe it’s a cashing in phenomenon? The title worked for one book/series, so let’s do the same thing?

  3. I’ve noticed lately that quite a few books have the same (or very similar) titles, and most of them are just so bland and well…boring, they give no clue as to what lies within the pages. I get a kick when I go to Goodreads, type in a title and only one option comes up, it’s so rare!

    • Very true, unique titles seem to be harder to find on Goodreads! I think one reason these bland titles frustrate me, besides being impossible to remember, is that sometimes they’re hiding a really good book! It seems like such a disservice to the content to stick such a no-meaning title on it.

  4. I have a question. Do you think ‘The Black Donnellys’ is a generic title? The book was first published in 1954 and is the first of a two book series. It has been reprinted more than 30 times.and is followed by ‘Vengeance of The Black Donnellys’. Apparently, a book usually becomes distinctive with the passing of time, but does the title become generic.

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