"If any ambitious man have a fancy to revolutionize, at one effort, the universal world of human thought, human opinion, and human sentiment, the opportunity is his own--the road to immortal renown lies straight, open, and unencumbered before him.  All that he has to do is to write and publish a very little book.  Its title should be simple--a few plain words--'My Heart Laid Bare.'  But--this little book must be true to its title."--Edgar Allan Poe

There's some regular business in the titling of a book, some guessable things.  In a title, for example, one might say what the piece is about, take the most important idea, use the strongest line.  Business like that.  This generalized approach works all right and it's in evidence most of the time.  But this passive strategy seems not altogether full of the energy that presumably goes into the writing of the book itself, and this bears some real consideration.  A good book, after all, deserves a good title.

Does a book start with a title, or does one put the title on afterward?  Does it matter?  Isn't the matter more whether or not the title is a good title?  While there are no overriding rules concerning titles, perhaps the one rule is the slapping-on rule--how good is a slapped on title?  Maybe very good.  Are you a betting person?

  • ADVICE. If nothing else, we might consider that a title not tell us where we've been, or where we are going.  It simply might tell us where we are.  It locates.  It grounds.  That is the first work of a title.  There is other work, certainly, but locating is a first work, and perhaps the why of a title.  It is the thumb doing what it must finally do: help when it can, which is often enough.  It's not a decoration attached to the hand, no matter how attractive and manicured.  And an absent thumb: well, picking up the glass of iced tea becomes a more difficult act.