The Pasadena (Ca.) choice for the 2020 One Book One City event is The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott. (It looks terrific!) One of the local branches of the Pasadena Public Library set up a display table with a dozen or so books that had the word “secrets” in the title. There are plenty of them, as just a simple keyword search in their book catalog (or any catalog, or Amazon, Goodreads, etc.) will show. And they didn’t even include The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty. But it reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about awhile, namely, how often titles, especially in the mystery/suspense genre seem to use similar words repeatedly. For a while, there were the “girl” titles: Gone Girl (Flynn), An Anonymous Girl (Hendricks/Pekannen), The Girl Before (Delaney). Then there are the “woman” titles: The Woman in the Window (Finn), The Woman in Cabin 10 (Ware), The Other Woman (Jones). The “wife” titles: The Silent Wife (Harrison), The Wife Between Us (Hendricks/Pekkanen–again), The Perfect Wife (Delaney–again). Right now, there are a lot “bone” or “bones” in titles. Wife, woman, girl–these are pretty common words. More interesting are the titles that include “whisper” et al: The Whisper Man (North), The Whisperer (Fossum) and The Whisper Network (Baker–not a suspense novel, but excellent all the same).
Studies have shown that the human brain is wired to find patterns, even when there are none, so likely this is just me being aware of some titles and not the myriad of other ones out there. But it gives me pause. I know titles are important for my own work, whether stories, essays, poems or books. How do you choose a title that both entices the reader, gives a feel for what’s inside, and still offers something different from the thousands of books and stories published every year? No wonder it sometimes take as much effort to nail down a good title as it does to secure the original idea for a new work.
By the way, I can say with assurance I have read every title mentioned above and recommend them all. Happy reading!