5 Books With Surprisingly Bad Original Titles

The great Sol Stein has this to say about titles in his excellent Stein on Writing:

Venture into any bookstore and look at the titles of new novels on display. Take note of your reaction to the titles of books by authors you don’t know. You’ll see how many books don’t tempt you to pick them up because of their titles, and which titles intrigue you enough to want to take them down off the shelf and read the flaps.

However, as good as some of the books are, a few of the books we now call “classics” had awful, awful titles at first, showing that even the finest of writers have problems giving names to their books.

My personal favorite titles are I am Legend, The Stars My Destination, and Dune. But let’s take a look at some great books that were almost published with different, truly bad titles.

5 Books With Awful First Titles

The Great Gatsby was originally supposed to be called… (wait for it)


Not so great.

Gone with the Wind was to be called:

Gone With The Wind

Sounds…. 50-Shades naughty.

A Moveable Feast had another, quite silly, title at the time Hemingway died. His widow fixed that right up, by using a title from another manuscript. And what was the original title?


Hemingway seems to have been bad at coming up with titles. One of his books kept changing names, and before it was ultimately published as A Farewell to Arms, the book was to be called:

FareWell to Arms

And finally, Faulkner’s great book, possibly the best-titled book of all time, The Sound and the Fury was originally supposed to be called…


This post originally appeared on Bookriot, as part of my weekly gig there.

1 thought on “5 Books With Surprisingly Bad Original Titles”

  1. I bet Mules in Horses’ Harness would have initially sold more copies than ‘Gone with the Wind’. But could such a title ever become a classic? Perhaps not.


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