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Sunday, 6 August 2017


'THE' is a very short  word - one we use  a myriad times every day. So why has it  been causing excitement in the world of fiction?

Just in case you hadn't noticed, this three- letter word heads some of the most successful book titles of 2017. Of the top paperback fiction bestsellers listed in Saturday's Times newspaper six out of the ten  titles follow the trend. Just look at the list:

At number one, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is followed by Jane Harper's The Dry. At five is The Power by Naomi Alderman, at six The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena followed by John Grisham's The Whistler at number seven. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, (now a television series) is number eight and Michelle Frances' The Girlfriend comes in at number nine.

So while many experts still believe that you should choose a book by its cover, these days it seems to be the title that's pulling in the readers. And the more a new-release resembles the title of a current best seller, the more  likely it is to attract the reader's attention.

If you watched The Little House on the Prairie as a child, you won't be surprised to know that 'house' is now an in-word for book titles. One of the most popular  is The House on the Hill (I found several different novels with this same title on Amazon) along with Kate Morton's The House at Riverton. Finally, the word 'girl' is also very prevalent as in the bestsellers Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. A throwback, maybe, to Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Book titles, despite common belief, are not subject to copyright which explains why we sometimes come across two authors publishing different novels with the same title at the same time. Take, for example,Julie Cohen and Jane Green, both successful authors with recent novels entitled Falling.

But is success just about sales? It's not unknown for a Booker Prize winner to have far fewer sales than many commercial  fiction authors today, though not in the case of  prolific writer Julian Barnes whose 2011 novel The Sense of an Ending had me riveted from start to finish. Clearly he was ahead of the trend.

I wonder what the title of the next number one bestseller might be? The Daughter of The Girl in the House on the Hill above the Hidden Railway Train?

You never know. It might just catch on

The Sense of an Ending


Elaineyross said...

That certainly made me think Marilyn. I'll be looking at book titles in a different way from now on. Hopefully, the content of books I read will still delight me, whatever they happen to be called!

Guernsey Girl said...

Exactly, Elaine. I wonder how many people do choose a book by its title. Or the cover. Or perhaps by an Amazon review, or recommendation from a newspaper or magazine? Maybe they seem the film first and then read the book. Great topic for a book club!

WILLIE........! =^..^= said...

Power and the meaning of the 'THE' word.....

It's the most frequent word in the English language, accounting for around four percent of all the words we write or speak. It's everywhere, all the time, so clearly it must be doing something important. Words have meaning. That's fundamental, isn't it? So what does "the," a word that seems to be supporting a significant portion of the entire weight of our language, mean? It must mean something, right?

We can say, roughly, that "the" means the word it is attached to refers to a specific, individual object. When I say "I have the apple," I mean a certain apple, not just any old apple, or apples in general.

But, of course, it's not quite that easy. Sometimes "the" doesn't indicate a specific object, but a whole class of objects. When you say you know how to play "the piano" or that exercise is good for "the heart," there is no specific piano or heart you have in mind. "The pen is mightier than the sword" isn't about specific pens or swords — or even about specific instances of their metaphorical counterparts, acts of writing and acts of aggression.

Guernsey Girl said...

You really have made me think even more deeply about the 'the' word, Willie. It means nothing and it means everything. In a world where everything is so very complicated, it makes me feel good that it's so simple yet so significant.

Chloe said...

As my eldest daughter confirmed when she was in reception and learning to read, "you look at the blurb mummy, to see if it's worth reading or not!"

Maybe just a bestseller called "The Blurb"?!

Guernsey Girl said...

Why didn't I think of that? Maybe you have to be five-years-old to understand the logic!

Marianne said...

I wonder if publishers' marketing departments deliberately homogenise book titles to confuse us at bookshops. No doubt, the next "style" title is just around the corner and we'll all for it all over again!

Is your next book going to have a trendy word in it, Marilyn?

Guernsey Girl said...

I'm sure they do, Marianne! Can't tell you my next trendy word as it might become, well, trendy!

Barbara Fisher said...

I hadn’t noticed Marilyn but looking at one shelf in my office, I can see The miniaturist, the demented lands, The return, The time of our lives, The year I met you, The first last kiss, The far side of the sun, The winter children, The edge of the cloud, The help, The novel in the viola and The last summer.

That is amazing and it's given me an idea for a new way to arrange books on shelves!

The Blurb could be the next best seller, you should write it!

Guernsey Girl said...

Oh, do let me know when you've finished rearranging your book shelves, Barbara - I'd love to know the outcome! My next read will be The First Last Kiss and then I'd better get on with writing The Blurb! ;)

Nikki-ann said...

One thing which bothers me about book titles is when an author/publisher decides to change the title after the book has been published. You only realise you've read the book before when you're a few pages in, because the fact that it has been published under a different title previously is hidden in small text somewhere.

Anyway, rant over. I wonder what the next trend will be.

Guernsey Girl said...

I agree with you, Nikki-ann! It's the publisher's decision and should be made much clearer to the reader. Good to hear from you.

Guernsey Girl said...

I agree with you, Nikki-ann! It's the publisher's decision and should be made much clearer to the reader. Good to hear from you.