The '-Land' It's Time for Book Titles to Forget

Motherland, LowlandSisterlandJoyland, and Fairyland — yes folks, "land" is totally the hot new thing in book titles. Sorry to break the news, but it looks like it's the end of "The End of ..." which are so last season. 

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MotherlandLowlandSisterlandJoyland, and Fairyland, not to mention Netherland — yes folks, "land" is totally the hot new thing in book titles. Sorry to break the news, but it looks like it's the end of "The End of ..." which is now the Crocs™ of book titles.

In The New York Times's Style Section, there's an entertaining story today on the "fashion" of book titles, and how titles, like clothes, can be bent and throttled by taste, fads, and whims. "No one wants to be derivative in book-titling," said Amy Sohn, author of Motherland  explaining why she went went with the popular "-land" title rather than, say Mothernation. "Land is the new Nation a modifier that hints at larger zeitgeisty themes while also intriguing the reader," she explained, sounding not unlike the fashion people who are always claiming that something — like, say, orange — is the new black.

"Book publishing is a very imitative business. ... When a new kind of title or cover works, elements of them show up in connection with other books until another unusual, effective title or cover appears," John Mutter, the editor in chief of Shelf Awareness, an online newsletter for booksellers and librarians, told The Times.  We took a look at some of those title trends and here's what we found:

The End of "The End of..."

This past year, we've seemingly witnessed seen the end of everything from men, to "cheap" China, to religion, and sexCarlos Lozada highlighted and eviscerated the "end" trend for The Washington Post in April, firing a warning shot to any author wanting to end things.  So, maybe this is just the beginning of things.

The "end of" title follows an X of Y construction, which The Times points out is a bigger trend in itself:

Lorin Stein, the editor of The Paris Review, has taken note of one such trend. “A certain kind of novel used to signal its seriousness by quoting from the classics — ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ ‘Gone With the Wind’ and so on,” he said. “That’s gone out of fashion. Nowadays writers are more likely to use ‘The X of Y,’ with X and Y being heavy on the gauze — ‘The Legacy of Small Wonders,’ ‘The Wonders of Goodbye,’ ‘The History of Bright Tomorrows,’ that kind of thing.”

The Numbers Game

The 5th WaveThe Ninth Girl, 12th of NeverSecond Honeymoon — for one reason or another authors have taken a liking to ordinal numbers, the Barnes and Noble blog points out. As for why: be honest, aren't you the slightest bit curious what happened to previous eleven nevers or the other eight girls? Barnes and Noble's Paul Goat Allen says there's even a pop culture effect. Blame it on Buzzfeed. Allen writes:

We love articles and blog posts that are list-driven; they’re interesting, informative, and relatively fast reads. And they’re everywhere: Top Ten Stars on Twitter, Top 100 Hot Men, The Five Most Popular Games on Facebook, Top Ten Crazy Baby Names, 100 Worst Profile Pics Ever, etc.

Don’t even lie—you know you’ve clicked on hundreds of these articles!

Girl Problems

In the next year we will see The Summer GirlsMannequin GirlSavage GirlOleander Girl, The Girl with a Clock for a HeartThe Girl on the Ferry, and The Girl Who Went Back. This summer we were introduced to The Girl Who Loved Camellias. Who are all these girls? Are they as fun as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the one who kicked hornet's nest, and did she fare better than the one who played with fire, who isn't to be confused with Katniss Everdeen, who is routinely described as "the girl on fire," yet who definitely did not inspire Alicia Keys's song "Girl on Fire.

Wives' Tales

Girls eventually grow up. And over the past few years, we've seen an abundance of wives, a trend declared overdone by The Editorial Department blog. Case in point: The 19th Wife (a double dip because it uses ordinal numeration), The Paris Wife, American Wife, The Tiger’s Wife, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Shoemaker’s Wife.

Moody Titles for Moody Teens

The Editorial Department also points out a young adult trend spurred by the Twilight series, where authors and publishers have picked a glum time of day or a word to describe someone who is having a restless night. Some examples: Evermore, Evernight, Crescendo, Hush, Prized, Shiver, Linger, Torment, Fade, Wake, and Gone. 

What We're Not Talking About

What We Talk About When...titles are kinda fun because they make you think everyone is speaking in code. They also means we're not really talking God, love, and Anne Frank when we say we're talking about God, love, and Anne Frank. Thanks for that, Raymond Carver.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.