Monday, October 21, 2019

Top Ten Books I'd Retitle

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is books that we would give different titles to. I did a search through my Goodreads reviews and found ten books for which I'd mentioned wanting to change the title or subtitle. Here they are!

1. Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein
Why change it? The majority of this book is about probability and forecasting, which are not actually the same thing as risk management, as becomes quite clear from reading the book itself.

2. America's Public Schools: From the Common School to "No Child Left Behind" by William J. Reese
Why change it? The book was published in 2005, and if the author had waited just five more years then this history of public schools spanning four centuries could have been subtitled "From the Common School to the Common Core"! So much more satisfying.

3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Why change it? It's a spoiler. The book opens with a section labeled "Verity" and if it weren't for the title of the book, I would not have guessed that that might refer to the person narrating that section, which is an important plot point.

4. How She Does It: An Everywoman's Guide to Breaking Old Rules, Getting Creative, and Making Time for Work in Your Actual, Everyday Life by Anne Bogel
Why change it? The subtitle is disingenuous. The book is not actually for "every woman." It's written for women in male/female marriages who have or plan to have children and want to do at least some work for pay. It's fine to write for a limited audience if you don't pretend that it's applicable to everyone.

5. Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff
Why change it? Many of the things Goff "does" are not so much evidence of his love as evidence of his lawyerly wealth, like flying his kids to 30 different countries on a moment's notice, and he seems oblivious to how much of what he "gets away with" is evidence of his privilege, not just a cute metaphor for being a Jesus freak. The book would be more honestly subtitled A Story of Wealth and White Male Privilege.

6. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Why change it? This isn't really about love so much as it is about a guy who can't get over being rejected and continues to pursue the woman he wants for the next 50 years (while also sleeping with literally hundreds of other women). A more accurate title would be Sex and Obsession in the Time of Cholera.

7. An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina
Why change it? This book is not just a memoir but also an important overview of the Rwandan genocide, and the title doesn't capture the gravity of the story within. You have to read far enough down on the cover to see that it's the book that the movie Hotel Rwanda was based on.

8. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
Why change it? The subtitle makes it seems as if politics and religion are given equal treatment within this book. While Haidt is able, over time, to see the perspectives of both liberals and conservatives, he does not seem equally able to see the perspectives of the religious and non-religious, but instead sees religion only as a potentially beneficial delusion. He cannot seem to conceive of a person who is politically liberal and also religious.

9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Why change it? Between the title and the cover design I had the impression that this was a whimsical read in the vein of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, but instead it turned out to be a heavy read about a sad, lonely man taking a painful cross-country walk while thinking about all of his regrets in life. I would have appreciated a title that more accurately captured the mood of the book — you know, something like The Long, Difficult, Depressing, Painful Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

10. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Why change it? I really disliked the plot twist in this book, and people's reactions to that seem to be, "You shouldn't be surprised; the title is We Were Liars!" OK, but it wasn't the protagonist lying to us — she has amnesia, but she's honestly reporting what she's experiencing and what she remembers as she remembers it. It has nothing to do with why the friend group called themselves Liars.

Which book titles would you change?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: It's OK Not to Share and Unsheltered
Five years ago I was reading: Bad Feminist, High Fidelity, and Frankenstein
Ten years ago I was reading: A Day No Pigs Would Die

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