We have done worst autobiography titles and obscure titles of political memoirs, and I have been meaning to get round to this one for some time, prompted by Andy Jeal and, finally, by Dan Kelly. I may have been holding back because there is such a thin line between the best and the worst.
1. Coreyography, Corey Feldman. Actor and singer: the voice, aged nine, of Young Copper in The Fox and the Hound, 1981.
2. Auto Da Fay, Fay Weldon. Born Franklin Birkinshaw, author of “Go to work on an egg” and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, 1983.
3. It’s About A Ball, Alan Ball. Youngest member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team. Wrote his memoir in 1978.
4. Fourth Among Equals. “By that bloke in the Gang Of Four who wasn’t Jenkins, Owen or Williams,” said Simon James. Bill Rodgers, co-founder of the Social Democratic Party in 1981, now Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, 89.
5. Me: Moir, Vic Reeves. Comedian whose real name is Jim Moir. Nominated by Dermot O’Sullivan and CJH.
6. Kind of Blue, Kenneth Clarke. A subtle reference to his love of classic jazz and to his (later) dislike for toeing the Conservative Party line. Suggested by Dan Kelly, Ms Information and James Undy.
7. The Third Man, Peter Mandelson. Simple and clever by the third person in the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown relationship. “Always liked it,” said Tim Sculthorpe.
8. Known and Unknown, Donald Rumsfeld. “Quite a clever title,” said Dan Kelly, referring to the US Defence Secretary’s celebrated observation: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.” Department of Defence news briefing, 12 February 2002.
9. Tim Book Two, part two of the autobiography of Tim Burgess, lead singer of The Charlatans. “Which is pretty cool,” said someone called Play For Today.
10. Nobody Knows the Truffles I’ve Seen, George Lang (above). Restaurateur, nominated by Robert Wright.
Honourable mentions for Paul T Horgan, who nominated Nerd Do Well, by Simon Pegg, actor and comedian, which is very good; Dan Kelly (again) for Coming Up Trumps, by Baroness Trumpington; and Brian Mathieson, for Granny Made Me an Anarchist, by Stuart Christie, who went off to Spain intending to blow up General Franco. Someone also nominated Tainted Life, by Marc Almond of Soft Cell.
And finally, a mention for Joshua Topp, who nominated No Turn Unstoned, not a memoir but a collection of unfavourable theatre reviews compiled by Diana Rigg, the actor.
Next week: People Whose Names Could Be Journeys, such as Derry Irvine
Coming soon: Unexpected Words in Pop Songs, starting with “encumber” (“He would not encumber me”) in “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”
Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.orgReuse content
Some of our clients come to us with a title already picked out, before they've even begun to write. Others wait for the title to be revealed to them in the writing. Which way is better? It depends.
We get asked this question a lot: how do I choose a title for my book?
Should I start with a title?
Choosing a title for your memoir, especially a thematic title, before you start your project can be a great guiding force, helping you narrow the focus of your book as you write. For instance, Arthur and Lila Mae Debenham had chosen a title for their book years before they even started the process: Tender Mercies. They knew they wanted their book to reflect the "tender mercies" that God had bestowed upon them in their course through life, and this theme guided our efforts in the writing process, helping us decide what events to include and what to leave out.
But if you don't have a title already picked out, don't panic. It's much more common for writers to choose a title after they've begun or even finished writing. Often, the writing process itself will reveal a theme, phrase, or tone that suggests a title.
Start by considering what themes run through your narrative. What are the most important ideas in your book? Love, faith, survival? Look for a title that reflects the message you want to convey. Here are some examples of thematic titles from some of our clients:
Look Beyond the Weeds by Beverley Sorenson Taylor reflects her undying optimism and positive outlook expressed in her book, despite some difficult circumstances.
Unfaltering Faith by Hank Hoole details the author's religious conversion and how his faith has shaped his life. Riches of His Grace by Fay Miles and the above-mentioned Tender Mercies also reflect this theme.
Life is What You Make It by Nif Hicken. This title was a direct quote from Dr. Hicken that summed up his philosophy. "Life is what you make it. It's up to you to make it good and happy."
Dancing My Way Through Sanpete by Lois Johnson and I Could Have Danced All Night by Barbara Christensen each incorporated their authors' love of dance.
Puns, double meanings, word play, and humorous titles
Some day I will write a memoir entitled The Road Unraveled (a play on M. Scott Peck's book titled The Road Less Traveled, which was in turn taken from a line from a Robert Frost poem.) I wrote a little book about my childhood called Alison Wonderland, which is what my grade school nemesis used to call me.