10 Book Titles Based on Lines of Poetry

Posted by Hayley on April 23, 2015
April is National Poetry Month. The couplets fly, the rhymes collide, and the air is thick with refrains and stanzas, iambic pentameters and hexameters.

Even if you're not a poet, you can find inspiration in verse. Novelists do it all the time. Poems are ripe hunting grounds for writers—and readers!— looking for big ideas and evocative turns of phrase.

To celebrate poems the bookish way, we’ve collected some of the most famous novels with titles taken from lines of poetry. Dig in and get inspired!

Gone with the Wind
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by Margaret Mitchell
"I have forgot much, Cynara! Gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind"
From Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae
by Ernest Dowson

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Her Fearful Symmetry
by Audrey Niffenegger

"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
From The Tyger
by William Blake

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Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold"
From The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats

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The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold

"I knew a woman, lovely in her bones
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them"
From I Knew a Woman
by Theodore Roethke

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou

"I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core"
From Sympathy
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

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A Handful of Dust
by Evelyn Waugh

"And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust."
From The Waste Land
by T.S. Elliot

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Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck

"But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley"
From To a Mouse
by Robert Burns

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The Dark Tower Series
by Stephen King

"Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew. "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came."
From Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came
by Robert Browning

(Which Browning took from Shakespeare's King Lear)

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Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann

"Not in vain the distance beacons.
Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down
The ringing grooves of change."
From Locksley Hall
by Alfred Tennyson

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Far From the Madding Crowd
by Thomas Hardy

"Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."
From Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
by Thomas Gray

There are many more books titles inspired by lines from poetry—and even more from plays. Check them all out here! Which one is your favorite?

Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)

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message 1: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda Ruff all time fav Gone with the wind

Raymond W Crowley Gone With the Wind is at the top of my all time favorites list.

message 3: by Ruby (new)

Ruby Loving this new "blog" feature on my main page. Great content and awesome list!

message 4: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Deming Cool List! Was just reading The Kilkenny Cats which was also based on an old poem.

message 5: by Vonze (new)

Vonze Wow! Never knew that about those titles...keep the interesting facts coming!

message 6: by Mikayla (new)

Mikayla Read Of Mice And Men at school, great book. Didn't realise it was based off an old poem though.

message 7: by Marilyn (new)

Marilyn Norman MclLean's A River Runs Through It is a book filled with poetry loved the flow of the words on the page

message 8: by alex (new)

alex all we need of hell by harry crews. from an emily dickinson poem.

message 9: by Luke (new)

Luke Marsden The title of Wondering, the Way is Made was inspired by the poem Caminante by Antonio Machado.

message 10: by Kent (new)

Kent One can't forget Slouching Towards Bethlehem, from the same poem as Things Fall Apart

message 11: by Lia (new)

Lia What about "A Thousand Splendid Suns"?

"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her wall" from the poem Kabul by Saib-e-Tabrizi. I think it's quite a beautiful title.

Mac Dubista Keso The Bibliobibuli v(=∩_∩=) gone with the wind and lovely bones!



message 13: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth You left out so many....
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (taken from Macbeth)
As I Lay Dying, Faulkner (taken from Homer, The Odyssey)
Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward (taken from Shelley)
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway (taken from John Donne)
Oh Pioneers, Willa Cather (taken from Whitman)
A Passage to India, EM Forester (taken from Whitman)
The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck (taken from Battle Hymn of the Republic, Julia Ward Howe)

message 14: by Nick (new)

Nick Iuppa Elizabeth wrote: "You left out so many....
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (taken from Macbeth)
As I Lay Dying, Faulkner (taken from Homer, The Odyssey)
Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward (taken from Shelley)

Much better list Elizabeth. Guess the bible doesn't count, huh? East of Eden, etc.

message 15: by Troy (last edited Apr 24, 2015 03:13AM) (new)

Troy The Narrow Road to the Deep North, borrows its title from a Japanese haibun (a prose poem), Oku no Hosomichi, apparently a major text of classic Japanese literature. Although its a title, not a 'line' from a poem, I thought this was a fascinating reference given the subject matter of the book.

That said, I still can't think about For Whom the Bell Tolls without thinking, 'Ask not ..... the bell tolls for thee'.

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

lOVE Gone with the wind!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

message 17: by Aneela (new)

Aneela Not a coincidence that these are beautiful and eloquent titles! Great list.

message 18: by Christina Belton (new)

Christina Belton Fascinating. I only knew about McCann and Angelou. And Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite books! I also appreciate the additions in the comments!

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Mikayla wrote: "Read Of Mice And Men at school, great book. Didn't realise it was based off an old poem though."

It may not be - I'm not sure on Of Mice and Men, but I think some of these sharing lines with poems is coincidental.
The Lovely Bones, for example, is kind of a stretch. It isn't the same as lovely IN the bones, and I can see how the title could have been imagined without the poem.

message 20: by Terry (new)

Terry Pearce It's not really a stretch -- Just not a direct quote.

Of Mice and Men isn't really debatable. No author could choose that title coincidentally. Especially given what the book is about.

message 22: by Nilutpal (new)

Nilutpal Neog READ BOOKS OF NILUTPAL NEOG online @mybookall.com.
-Fragrance of Faded Flower
-The Death hole.etc

message 23: by Christina Maria (new)

Christina Maria I only knew about Things Fall Apart, Her Fearful Symmetry, and Of Mice and Men. Interesting list!

message 24: by Trisa (last edited Apr 25, 2015 03:17AM) (new)

Trisa Here's another...
A Raisin in the Sun
by Lorraine Hansberry

"What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?"
From Harlem by Langston Hughes

message 25: by Dijana (new)

Dijana Selvijovska What about And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie ?

message 26: by Allen (new)

Allen Murphey (By the pricking of my thumbs) Something Wicked This Way Comes Shame on you for leaving this one off the list.

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