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Books - Brilliant Titles

Writing is certainly an art, and the choice of a book title is an additional art. Here are some of my favorite titles (read or unread), books with titles that just demand you to pick up the book to at least investigate. Often funny, often enigmatic, often a one-line poem.

Usually a great title is matched with a great book, but this is not always the case. But I'm just concentrating on titles here; if the content is good, as well, that's a bonus. (Top 10 Index)
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A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
I've no idea what this book is about - but I've seen the the title bouncing around the Net and I recall it.

Because It Is Bitter, Because It Is My Heart - Joyce Carol Oates
I think Oates writes more books in a given year than I read - yes, she's that prolific. And she has great titles, from this one through the simple yet sinister "Them" to one of my all-time favorite short story titles: "How I Contemplated the World From the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again"

Concluding Unscientific Postscipt - Soren Kierkegaard
Trust me; you don't want to read this.

Trust me; a dense, impossible, dank...classic metaphysics tome.

I'm glad I read this for two reasons: 1) Damn good! 2) I don't have to read it again. It's a painful read.

Actually, this may be the anti-brilliant title: You glance at that mouthful and decide to immediately...never touch the book.

Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye - Cynthia Heimel
Clever collection of magazine essays, from publications including Playboy.

Giving Good Weight - John McPhee
Effortlessly written (and to read) book, but a clever enough title to stop you in your tracks.

McPhee does titles well - other books include "The Curve of Binding Energy," "The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed" and "Assembling California."

Intrigued, no?

How We Die - Sherwin B. Nuland
A doctor explains - in some detail - exactly what happens with our different ways of dying (heart attack, drowning and so on).

Macabe? Absolutely!

A good beach read? Absolutely!

Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel

Moments of Being - Virginia Woolf
Where Woolf invokes - indirectly - the Nietzschean Superman.

On Being Told That Her Second Husband Has Taken His First Lover - Tess Slessinger
By the author of one of my all-time favorite short stories, A Life in the Day of a Writer.

Other Voices, Other Rooms - Truman Capote
Yes, In Cold Blood is his classic, Breakfast at Tiffany's is the movie everyone knows, A Christmas Memory is his highly underrated memoir of a slice of his youth - but this is Capote's best title, and it's the book that put him on the map.

The Last Worthless Evening - Andre Dubus
I think this is where Don Henley got the title for the eponymous cut on "The End of the Innocence" CD.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks
Sacks' first bestselling book (not certain if it was his first) and probably - to me - his best. How can you not pick this up to figger out just what the title means?

The Pugilist At Rest - Thom Jones

The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Wonderful book (so-so movie), but one of those rhapsodic, enigmatic titles.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig
Along with Catcher in the Rye, a book you should read in high school or college. But what a title - ripped off, I believe, from the wonderful "Zen in the Art of Archery" (a more truly Zen book; spiritual in a very quiet way...like Zen Buddism).

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