Self-help or fiction? A look at the “how-to” books on my shelves.

After posting a review earlier today, I noticed that I have quite a few books with “How To” in the title… and none of them are actually self-help books! Yes, they’re all novels… but what if they weren’t?

What if all these books were really meant to be self-help guides? Let’s see how well they live up to their titles:

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center (review)
Is it about… exercise routines involving walking? A guide to breaking up? Avoiding boring conversations?
Nope! It’s contemporary fiction about a woman who survives a plane crash, finds her life turned upside down, and ends up discovering all sorts of good things awaiting her, despite her physical and emotional injuries. And it’s just occurred to me that the title is somewhat ironic, since the main character (spoiler!) will never walk again… but she does figuratively walk away from the painful events and the unfulfilling relationship that were holding her back. So, no actual advice about walking or fitness or avoidance, but a nice, romantic read.

 

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
Is it about… improving your life by becoming a better person? Learning self-control? Overriding rude impulses?
Nope! It’s a funny look at middle-aged marriage, and what happens when one person decides to change their entire way of being, pretty much overnight. Being generous, doing good for others, moving beyond materialism — all worthwhile goals, but in this story, it also makes for a lot of craziness and marital trouble. I didn’t actually learn to be good from this book, but I did get a new viewpoint on the value of communication and consideration in marriage, and how not to screw things up!

 

 

How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (review)
Is it about… being a domestic goddess? Mastering the fine art of pleasing a man? (Bleah) Learning how to be a supportive partner in an equal and loving relationship between equals? (wouldn’t that be nice?)
Nope! It’s a tense thriller about a woman whose recovered memories bring her to conclude that her entire marriage may be built on lies and deceit. It’s creepy and scary, and quite a good read. But I can’t say I learned anything about being a devoted spouse, unless that means endlessly scrubbing the kitchen, blindly obeying my spouse, and believing it when people tell me I’m mentally ill. No thanks.

 

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (review)
Is it about… performing CPR? Learning First Aid? Getting Red Cross lifeguarding certification?
Nope! It’s a YA novel about grief and families, about a teen whose widowed mother decides to adopt a baby and the pregnant teen who enters their lives. It’s moving and beautifully written — but no actual lifesaving tips are provided!

 

 

 

 

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig (review)
Is it about… clock making? Stopping the aging process? Taking photos to create a family archive? (Okay, that last one is a stretch.)
Nope! It’s about a man who has lived centuries, aging at a fraction of the rate that normal humans do. Really an incredible story about the meaning of life, the search for love, and allowing oneself to connect when any relationship can only end in loss. A must-read. But sadly, no real advice about how to become immortal!

 

 

And my newest addition, which I haven’t read yet — but stay tuned, because I’ll definitely be reading and reviewing this novella during the coming week:

How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger
Is it about… dating advice for the supernatural set?
Sort of! It’s fiction, of course, and tells the story of a young American woman who, after figuring in a scandal, gets sent off to England to marry a very proper British werewolf. So no, it won’t actually help us find an online dating site that might match us with hairy shapeshifters… but it might offer some clues about matchmaking and dealing with scandal. Oh, who am I kidding? It’ll be fun, and it’s by Gail Carriger, so it’ll be worth reading even without providing self-help guidance.

 

 

What “How To” books are on your fiction shelves? Do they live up to the title?

Please share your thoughts!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten unique book titles, take 2!

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Somehow, I got myself all scrambled up with TTT topics, so I posted this week’s topic — Top Ten Unique Book Titles — last week instead. Rather than skip a week or repeat myself, I thought I’d do a variation on the theme.

For this week, I’m focusing on a unique kind of book title — titles that are one word only, and that one word is the name of a character in the book (or even a character mentioned but never seen, as in #9, below). And since I’m creating rules for my post, I’m only including books that I’ve actually read.

Here we go — book titles that consist only of a first name:

  1. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (review)
  2. Venetia by Georgette Heyer (review)
  3. Arabella by Georgette Heyer (review) (it would be easy to fill this list up with just Georgette Heyer books, but I’ll stop at 2)
  4. Mandy by Julie Edwards
  5. LaRose by Louise Erdrich (review)
  6. Prudence by Gail Carriger
  7. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  8. Emma by Jane Austen
  9. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  10. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (yes, I realize that Ivanhoe isn’t the character’s first name, but I’m going with it anyway…)

And in case you’re interested — here’s the link to last week’s post, and here are the book on last week’s list:

  1. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
  2. Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire
  3. Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello
  4. Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon
  5. The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Shumer
  6. The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsburg
  7. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
  8. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
  9. Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King
  10. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

What book titles made your list this week? Share your link, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

(And PS – do you have any favorite books with a one-word character name as a title? Please let me know!)

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten unique book titles (a week ahead of time!)

TTT autumn 2_bsf

***Right after posting, I realized that I’m a week ahead on TTT topics! Oh well, better early than never, right? Leaving this right here…***

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top Ten Unique Book Titles. I did a similar post back in 2013 (here), so I had to work pretty hard to come up with a new batch of awesome book titles.

Here are my top ten, in no particular order:

1) Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire: I love how the title so perfectly captures the spooky, ghoulish feel of the book.

2) Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day (review): Another by Seanan McGuire — I just really like the sound of all those “D” words in the title, and the way that the title signals that something unusual and otherworldly is about to happen.

3) Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello (review): Author Ausiello is a TV critic, and it’s just so perfect that he’s used TV jargon for the title of his very personal and sad memoir.

4) Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon: You didn’t think I’d get through a whole top 10 list without mentioning Outlander, did you? Book #9 isn’t out yet, and doesn’t even have a release date… but it does have a title, and the title is pretty cool.

5) The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Shumer: Ha, I love her spin on the title. It’s perfect, really.

6) The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsburg: The book was okay, but the title really rocks.

7) My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (review): The title says it all!

8) William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher: This book was such a delicious surprise. The re-writing of Star Wars as Shakespearean verse is a must for literary-minded fangirls and fanboys. Here’s a little sample.

9) Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King: An awesome graphic novel about an alien invasion on a college campus. I loved that the title captures the feel of a required course.

10) You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (review): Geeks, unite! If Felicia Day says we’re never weird, then it must be true.

What book titles made your list this week? Share your link, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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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!

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So. Much. Confusion.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Super Long, Super Funny, or Just Plain Super Awesome Book Titles

Public domain image from www.public-domain-image.comTop Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week.

This week’s theme is a Top Ten Freebie – no set topic, pick your own! I decided to keep it light and breezy this week. My topic: Those long, silly, fun book titles that always catch my attention.

My top 10 books with super long, super funny, or just plain super awesome titles:

1) The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams. Although I could just as easily have picked pretty much any other book by Douglas Adams for this list. Other favorites are So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Douglas Adams was a brilliant, humorous, wonderful talent, gone too soon.

2) Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore. Christopher Moore makes it onto most of my top 10 lists, one way or another, and while this may be the goofiest of his book titles, it’s actually not my favorite of his books. Still, any Christopher Moore book is a damn good book. Other terrific titles: Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings and The Stupidest Angel.

3) My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me by Kate Bernheimer (editor). This collection of 40 new fairy tales is weird, original, and a great book for when you feel like reading something in bits and pieces. And I just love the title.

4) The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks. Oliver Sacks’s non-fiction books about weird science always fascinate me, and they tend to have terrific titles as well. Other good ones: An Anthropologist on Mars and The Island of the Colorblind.

5) To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. I haven’t read this one yet, but I intend to! Part of a time travel series, this book grabbed my attention with its title, but I’m intrigued by the content as well. I have a few of the books in the series — now I just need to find time to read them.

6) Will The Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? by Allyson Beatrice. Subtitled “True Adventures in Cult Fandom”, this book is supposedly an inside look at the world of superfans. I picked it up as a used book sale and haven’t read it yet — but the title makes me giggle.

7) The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. A book for kids by Neil Gaiman! Can’t beat that.

8) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Awesome book, terrific title. Another by the same author with a great title is the short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

9) Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. All of this author’s tween-oriented books have amazing titles, including Knocked Out By My Nunga Nungas and It’s OK, I’m Wearing Really Big Knickers.

10) And for my final entry, I’ll smoosh together a couple of books I’ve heard about from various friends and book sites, but haven’t actually read myself — yet:

  • The One Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin
  • The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

plus a couple more that I’ve read and enjoyed (and didn’t think of until I’d finished this list!):

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

What did I miss? Let me know your favorite long, funny, or otherwise awesome books titles!

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