Better Book Titles

by Kieran Healy on January 24, 2011

Erik over at The Monkey Cage points me towards the excellent Better Book Titles, where you can find numerous contemporary and classic works slightly altered in a way that the title is more informative about their actual content. In closing he says,

If you can do anything like this with a political science book, I’d consider putting it on the Cage.

So what he’s looking for are titles that better convey the core of the argument of academic monographs. Like this.

Couch Potatoes

Of course, we shouldn’t just pick on the famous. So, below the fold, one a bit closer to home.

Contributions welcomed.

{ 51 comments }

1

tomslee 01.24.11 at 9:47 pm

Robert Axelrod’s “Don’t Be a Jerk Out of the Gate” – that kind of thing?

2

Phil 01.24.11 at 9:50 pm

I haven’t got the graphical skillz, but a more informative title for my book might have been Don’t Get Fooled Again, or possibly Never Trust a Communist. The actual title is grabby but really not very informative – and if I believed in sympathetic magic it would be dreadful.

3

Phil 01.24.11 at 9:52 pm

Tom Slee, Game Theory For People Who Hate The Whole Idea.

4

spyder 01.24.11 at 10:23 pm

This: The Complete Idiot’s Guide To American Government; becomes this: A Guide to American Government for Almost Everyone.

5

Chris Bertram 01.24.11 at 11:07 pm

Leo Tolstoy, _Adultery and Agriculture_.

6

Jacob T. Levy 01.24.11 at 11:32 pm

I’m not sure it’s possible to top Annie Proulx, _The Hills Have Guys_, from the original site.

7

Substance McGravitas 01.24.11 at 11:44 pm

Italo Calvino, You Like Books, This Is a Book.

8

lt 01.25.11 at 12:01 am

The Proulx is good, but my money is with Doestevsky’s The Rent Was Too Damn High.

9

Red 01.25.11 at 12:22 am

Some titles cannot be improved: Robert Robinson, Landscape with Dead Dons.

10

andrew 01.25.11 at 1:02 am

Umberto Eco, This monastery has a great library

11

Aulus Gellius 01.25.11 at 1:03 am

Chris Bertram: Years ago, I remember using an extremely bad Albanian textbook which had some bits of famous Albanian literature, including Naim Frasheri’s most famous poem, whose title was translated, “Cattle and Agriculture.” Inspiring!

12

andrew 01.25.11 at 1:13 am

Charles Dickens, Orphan Works
Robert Musil, I was going to finish this, honest

Gordon Wood, Some revolutions are too hot, some revolutions are too cold, but this revolution was just right

13

Davis X. Machina 01.25.11 at 1:42 am

They seem to have been Crooked-Timbered.

Well, if this site did it. They could also conceivably been Slashdotted.

14

TheSophist 01.25.11 at 1:45 am

David Foster Wallace “Infinite Text”

15

Fr. 01.25.11 at 2:19 am

Alexandre Dumas, Unfinished Business .

16

Doctor Slack 01.25.11 at 2:47 am

There are some pretty priceless ones at the original sites. Call Your Mom, Drugs Make You Smarter, Sadder Jerry Maguire and One of My Best Friends is Black are all awesome.

17

vivian 01.25.11 at 2:54 am

Brilliant and Lucky: It’s good being me – pretty much anything by Winston Churchill

18

rea 01.25.11 at 3:12 am

“Conservative Projection: the Secret History of the Amercian Left,” by Jonah Goldberg

19

Spaghetti Lee 01.25.11 at 3:42 am

A Random Interpetration of Various Working-Class Aphorisms, by Tom Freidman.

20

TheSophist 01.25.11 at 3:45 am

C.S. Lewis “The Lion, the Witch, and the Heavy-handed Christian Metaphor”

Martin Heidegger “Being and (very little about) Time”

Sartre “No. Exit”

Steig Larsen “Damn, Sweden’s an effed up country beneath its air of Nordic normalcy”

Henning Mankell “I’ve been saying that for years”

Jo Nesbo “Norway’s worse”

and, for Prof. Holbo: Slavoj Zizek “Random shit that seems profound until you think about it a little bit, when it just seems not quite right” (any of SZ’s books, especially the earlier, more Lacanian ones)

21

novakant 01.25.11 at 4:27 am

Kojeve “Introduction à la lecture de Hegel for those who can’t bothered to read Hegel”

22

Salient 01.25.11 at 4:29 am

My favorites were book titles that intentionally sounded like other book titles, so I nominate Thomas Pynchon, I Know Where The Next Bomb Sings. And for a title switch that’s not so much funny as just oddly apropos, Maya Angelou, Gravitas Rainbow.

23

LFC 01.25.11 at 5:15 am

Dworkin, Judges Tell Stories [Law's Empire]
Berger and Luckmann, It’s All in Our Heads [The Social Construction of Reality]
Golding, People Are Bad [Lord of the Flies]
E.O. Wilson, I Have a Dream, plus I Know a Lot About Ants, Science, History, Literature, Painting, Philosophy, and a Lot of Other S**t [Consilience]

24

Bruce Baugh 01.25.11 at 6:03 am

LFC: I suggest William Golding, Kids These Days instead.

Robert Nozick: Untestable Speculations and How They Make Rent Control Totally Cool When I Benefit

J.R.R. Tolkien, My Edda Fanfic Folder

Jonah Goldberg, Everything About Myself I Prefer to Ascribe to Others

25

cjs 01.25.11 at 9:41 am

Max Weber: Defining and Digressing

26

Richard J 01.25.11 at 9:50 am

Quiet, Paupers, Grown Ups Are Talking: Why being rich makes me practically perfect in every way by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

27

Chris Bertram 01.25.11 at 10:11 am

Rene Descartes. _The Demon that Messed with my Head_.

28

Chris Bertram 01.25.11 at 10:15 am

God, _How building a world made me free and put me back in touch with myself_. (as told to G.W. Hegel).

29

Richard J 01.25.11 at 10:17 am

There’s a really filthy joke about seven hundred pages in, I swear by Edward Gibbon.

30

engels -. 01.25.11 at 10:35 am

Neither are original, but I always liked Daniel Dennett – Consciousness Ignored and Jon Elster – Making Nonsense of Marx.

31

Walt 01.25.11 at 11:28 am

Virginia Woolf, You Owe Me 500 £/yr for This Essay

32

Richard J 01.25.11 at 11:29 am

Subtitle: Inflation means that future generations won’t be able to tell how large a sum this actually is.

33

tomslee 01.25.11 at 12:25 pm

@LFC: I’m sure there could be a whole series of books along the lines of EO Wilson’s.
Douglas Hofstadter: I Know a Lot About Music, Art, Mathematics, and a Lot of Other S**t [Godel, Escher, Back]
Nassim Taleb: I Know a Lot About Greeks and Art.

Then there’s related series
Malcolm Gladwell: I Talked To Some Guys Who Know a Lot About Sociology, Psychology, and Economics.
Thomas Friedman: I Met Some Guy In A Taxi Who Knows a Lot About Homely Things But I See What It Tells Us About The Modern World.

34

tomslee 01.25.11 at 12:26 pm

“Godel, Escher, Back”??? Godel, Escher, Bach of course. Obviously I know nothing.

35

Martin Wisse 01.25.11 at 1:06 pm

Tomslee, I found it a nicely recursive pun until you spoiled it…

36

LFC 01.25.11 at 1:56 pm

@Bruce Baugh: Either of our versions of ‘Lord of the Flies’ is better than what the original site has (‘Britain’s Battle Royale’ or something like that).

@tomslee: yes

37

BenSix 01.25.11 at 2:18 pm

James Joyce – Lol!

38

BenSix 01.25.11 at 3:59 pm

Jesus: The Authorized Biography

Adolf Hitler – My Small Penis

39

matsig 01.25.11 at 4:03 pm

Ronald Inglehart: Modernization and the stuff I used to call postmodernization until I realized people confused me with that Foucault-guy

40

matsig 01.25.11 at 4:05 pm

Thomas Hobbes: Scary shit – On the benefits of obedience.

41

Henry 01.25.11 at 4:18 pm

Tomslee – like Martin, I thought this was a particularly funny joke.

42

roac 01.25.11 at 4:28 pm

Second alternative title for the Hofstader: Not Only Am I Way Smarter Than You, I Have a Lot of Friends Who, Besides Being Totally Cool, Are ALSO Way Smarter Than You.

43

The Modesto Kid 01.25.11 at 4:36 pm

Italo Calvino, You Like Books, This Is a Book.

Dr. McGravitas wins.

44

Jeff R. 01.25.11 at 5:53 pm

Inspired by Bruce’s version:

Jonah Goldberg: I Know You Are, But What Am I?

45

BenSix 01.25.11 at 6:05 pm

Martin Amis – How To Undermine Yourself

46

Bruce Baugh 01.25.11 at 8:15 pm

Jeff R, that’s definitely better than mine. Happy to have been fodder. :)

47

Miracle Max 01.25.11 at 9:00 pm

Shouldn’t all this be on Twitter?

48

Tim Silverman 01.25.11 at 10:17 pm

The Iliad: Sulking Kills

49

AntiAlias 01.25.11 at 10:21 pm

Hooray, a post not on Germany!

Mensch, was ich missing das…

50

Daragh McDowell 01.26.11 at 3:13 pm

Niccolo Machiavelli – This is a satire, please don’t take it seriously.

51

AlanDownunder 01.31.11 at 1:54 am

Barack Obama: The Cowardice of Resignation

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