Have you ever picked up a book based on its title and after reading the synopsis or first few pages realized it wasn't about what you'd hoped for? Of course you have, because misleading book titles are a problem all book lovers will come to face in their lifetime. While there are some outrageously horrible titles out in the world, misleading titles aren't necessarily bad, they just don't convey the message of the book as clearly as one would hope. And don't get me started on misleading book covers, because that's an entirely different ball game.
I've had plenty of moments where I've picked up a book based on the title and gotten excited about it, only to realize my excitement was mislead. Sometimes this works out for the better, like in middle school when I was first handed To Kill a Mockingbird and rolled my eyes while all the boys in class cheered thinking it would be about hunting and killing. The title of a book is important, but some titles miss the mark by a long shot.
Many classics have some odd titles — as do newly published books. Misleading titles will probably never cease to exist, so it's important that you don't judge a book by its title (or cover). You never know, a crazy title might lead you to a remarkable story, and these 10 misleading titles are proof of just that:
1. The Living Is Easy by Dorthy West
What it sounds like: The living is easy. Life is easy. Everything is great.
What it's really about: The living is not easy. Life is rough. Everything is not great. The main character, Cleo, will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and she's the sort of character that will drive you insane, but you won't be able to put the book down. While it's quite simple to see the sarcasm in the title, it doesn't make it any less misleading.
2. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
What it sounds like: A story that never actually ends.
What it's really about: A story that does indeed end, and also a magical world that only a lonely human boy can help save. Also, there's a dog-dragon that can fly and a desperately tragic scene with a horse. Granted, it is a story I wished would never actually ended, and was one I could read again and again, so in that sense, the title does sort of work.
3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
What it sounds like: Two people (presumably artists) who fall in love while running in opposite directions on a busy city street in the midst of a thunderstorm.
What it's really about: A heartfelt story told through the eyes of a dog and how he understands the way humans function and live. The title does come into play as Enzo, the dog, realizes life is like racing in that it isn't just about going fast, but so much more. The reference to rain I can only assume is a symbol of the tears you will be crying after reading this book.
4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
What it sounds like: A handy manual on how-to kill that annoying Mockingbird outside your apartment, like what Zooey Deschanel's character in Failure to Launch was in search for.
What it's really about: A southern trial for an innocent black man, a determined defense lawyer, and a few kids who witness the rights and wrongs of their town and the love and hate the people around them are capable of. It's a masterpiece, and while the title is certainly a metaphor, it still just makes me think of a dead bird.
5. The Jungle by Upton Sinclaire
What it sounds like: A vibrant and exotic rainforest to explore with interesting characters and animals.
What it's really about: Chicago during the industrial revolution at the height of the unsanitary meat-packing industry. Sure, it's a concrete jungle, but nowhere in the title do I assume it'll be about families trying to find a house that won't collapse while they sleep or reveal the devastating lives of overworked men, women, and children.
6. Watership Down by Richard Adams
What it sounds like: A sinking ship full of characters you'll come to love but tragically lose, or possibly a sci-fi story about a submarine lurking in the depths of alien and dangerous territory.
What it's really about: Bunnies. Courageous bunnies who are intruded on by man and are forced to search for a new home. While the title does refer to a real place named Watership Down, I certainly didn't know that the first time I learned of the book.
7. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
What it sounds like: A bunch of people looking up at the sky in search of God.
What it's really about: A strong, independent, and mixed race woman named Janie Crawford growing up during the turn of the century. She endures two crappy marriages before finding the love of her life, Tea Cake. The title does serve a purpose, but I don't think I'm the only one who imagines a bunch of eyes looking towards the sky when they hear this title.
8. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
What it sounds like: A touching underdog story about a little league baseball team that gets a new coach or player that turns the season around for them.
What it's really about: A very whiny teenager who gets kicked out of prep school. OK, it's about a lot of other things, phonies and adolescence mostly, but when I first read it I kept wondering if the cover had been misprinted.
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What it sounds like: A prisoner writing about his or her prodigious life before being locked away in a secluded, cold, dingy jail cell for what feels like 100 years.
What it's really about: The mythical town of Macondo set in Latin America. It's about humankind up against a lot of things like war, redemption, love, loss, corruption, and more, but doesn't include that jail cell I had envisioned.
10. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
What it sounds like: The Lone Ranger and Tonto have a fistfight in heaven.
What it's really about: The brutal honesty of what life is like on an Indian reservation in the 21st century. It's a novel in stories, each story following a different character to reveal a beautiful culture lost in a hateful world. Don't get me wrong, this is one of my favorite novels of all time, but the title, along with many of the chapter titles, are big, and sometimes wild metaphors.