Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Best book titles ever

Well, the best of those I see around me on the bookshelves in my study, anyway.  And by “best” I don’t mean “most profound” or “most helpful in conveying the book’s contents.”  I mean “funniest.”  But I don’t mean funniest among the titles of books that are themselves intended to be funny.  I mean funniest among the titles of “serious” books.  The list is surprisingly short.  Serious writers, it seems, just don’t give funny names to serious books.  Go figure.

The first three aren’t really all that funny, but they’re clever enough -- for philosophy books, anyway:




More amusing, in my view, are:




If sheer bizarreness counts for something (and I think it does) then we cannot overlook:


And if mild vulgarity can be excused (and I think it can be) then we mustn’t forget Harlan Ellison.  The title of his book of essays on television criticism, The Glass Teat (which I have here on the shelf) isn’t all that funny.  But the title of the follow-up volume (which, alas, I don’t have) is funny: The Other Glass Teat.  (Now you know why they call it the boob tube.)

While we’re on the subject of science-fiction, let’s not forget:


But for first place in the Best Book Title Ever competition, we’ve got a tie.  Because together they say it all:

Leszek Kolakowski, My Correct Views on Everything [Bonus comedy points for this one given that in the picture on the cover, Kolakowksi appears -- inadvertently, I assume -- to be flipping us the bird.]

19 comments:

Brian said...

Is the second error that there is no second error?

William Peaden said...

Brian not quite. There are two "the"s in the title. So the first error is the two "the" the second is that the title is untrue, but as soon as the title is untrue, there are two errors. But then the title has two errors.

Will said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philip Cartwright said...

My Personal favourite:

Sense and Sensibilia by Austin (JL)

nate said...

You gotta love Fodor's book-length response to Pinker's book 'How The Mind Works.'

Fodor titled his book, 'The Mind Doesn't Work That Way.'

Not odd or weird, but classic Fodor. Made me laugh when I saw it, anyway.

Monte said...

I like the title and front cover of Justice for Hedgehogs by Dworkin.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Justice-Hedgehogs-Ronald-Dworkin/dp/0674046714

Dad29 said...

Fr. J. Schall, SJ:

"Another Sort of Learning"

Subtitle:

"How to finally acquire an education while still in college or anywhere else: containing some belated advice about how to employ your leisure time when ultimate questions remain perplexing in spite of your highest earned academic degree, together with sundry book lists nowhere else in captivity to be found."

Tom Van Dyke said...

How about Ibn Rushd/Averro√ęs's reply to al-Ghazali's The Incoherence of the Philosophers:

The Incoherence of the Incoherence.

mpresley said...

Perhaps not so much the book's title (although maybe even that), but certainly the chapter titles, "Why I Am So Clever," "Why I Write Such Excellent Books," and "Why I am So Wise," makes one smile. The last chapter's title, "Why I am a Fatality" brings one back to senses, though.

21st Century Scholastic said...

One of the funniest i've come across is "God Is Dead, and I Don't Feel So Good Myself" by Andrew David & al.

http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Dont-Feel-Good-Myself/dp/160608531X

Maolsheachlann said...

Working in a library I come across a lot of them. There is a Harold Bloom book called How to Read and Why. There is a book about the post-Cold War international situation called The World That Came In From the Cold, which I think brilliant. nate's contribution reminds me of something I read about: Hilaire Belloc wrote a reply to Hg Wells's Outline of History, to which Wells wrote a counter-reply called Mr. Belloc Objects. Belloc wrote a further book called Mr. Belloc Still Objects. Finally, I could swear I saw a book in the philosophy section called What Is a Thing?, which seems to me to be a perfect name for a book on metaphysics. I have been unable to find it since, though...

Anonymous said...

"I could swear I saw a book in the philosophy section called What Is a Thing?"

Isn't it by Heidegger?

Matteo said...

The Only Investment Book You Will Ever Need, Revised and Updated.

Anonymous said...

Lots of bizarre book titles here:
http://www.amazon.com/Bizarre-Books-Compendium-Classic-Oddities/dp/0061346659

Anonymous said...

For the sheer number of books with either bizarre titles or obscure subjects he authored, Berthold Lauffer of Chicago (1874-1934) is hard to match:
Petroglyphs on the Amoor; The Bird Chariot; History of the Finger-Print system;The Application of the Tibetan Sexagenary Cycle; Arabic and Chinese trade in Walrus and Narwhal Ivory; The Eskimo Screw as a Culture-Historical problem; Asbestos and Salamander; Geophagy (earth eating); Insect Musicians; The Reindeer and its domestication; and many others. I was hoping to see "The role of the warhorse in the Chou dynasty of China and its effect on the psyche of the modern Mexican" but alas it was not there. Now Ed should know whom this response was posted by!!

Edward Feser said...

Ha!

Yes, that's a dead giveaway, "Anonymous." It's title alone merits publication of that "thesis" of yours. Or would do so, if only it existed.

In light of that "Chou dynasty" reference I wondered whether you'd made up Lauffer's oeuvre too, but via Google I see that it's real. I now think that The Eskimo Screw as a Culture-Historical Problem may be the best book title ever, though Matteo's example The Only Investment Book You Will Ever Need, Revised and Updated is definitely a contender.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Ed, how could you have doubted those book titles? But there are so many more: Premature Burial and How it may be Prevented by William Tebb and Edward Vollum; Sun-beams may be Extraced from Cucumbers but the Process is Tedious--An Oration Pronounced on the Fourth of July, 1799 at the Request of the Citizens of New-Haven by David Daggett; Is God Amoeboid? by John W. Doherty; Snoring as a Fine Art and Twelve other Essays by Albert Jay Nock; Romance of the Gas Industry by Oscar E. Norman; Wigan Free Public Library: Its Rise and Progress by Henry Tennyson Folkard; My Tablecloths by Ethel Brilliana Tweedie (I assume no relation to Roy Tweedie, a.k.a. Joshua Joseph-Abraham whom David Wainwright had the pleasure of baptizing about 30 years ago); and my favorite "1587. A Year of No Importance."
I could go on for hours. How? My sister, Cherie, who delights in giving useless gifts such as the Latin translation of Winnie the Pooh, bought me a book entitled "Bizarre Books" which is simply a catalogue of books with bizarre titles.

Anonymous said...

Since I know you are begging for some more: You can make a Stradivarius Violin;Wife-Battering: A Systems Theory Approach; Tooth mutilations and dentistry in pre-Columbian Mexico;My Duodenal Ulcer and I; Explosive Spiders and how to make them; Skin Diseases for beginners; Illinois Roadkill Cookbook; The Urine Dance of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico; Lappish Bear graves in Northern Sweden; The Midnight Cry Or Signs in the Church of the Bridegroom's Second Coming; Holiday with a Hegelian; Teach yourself alcoholism; The little I saw of Cuba; and The Thermodynamics of Pizza.

Anonymous said...

A colleague at a boarding school, where I taught a long time ago, sometimes ended his motley list of daily announcements to students with these words. "If you have trouble with what I just said, then send ten cents and a self-addressed envelope to me for my famous booklet, "Why this is not clear."