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Title Deeds: How 50 Books Got Their Name

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  167 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Each of the 50 chapters focuses on the origins of one of the great titles of literature, with fascinating details of the work's genesis and composition.
Paperback, 0 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Old Street Publishing (first published October 15th 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sesana
Mar 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
It seems that the essays here were originally published as installments in Dexter's column about books. It shows, mostly in just how short and to the point the essays are. This is the sort of book that can be read in tiny chunks, or read all at once, as I did. The best essays for me were, of course, the ones where I already had some interest in the work, but most of them were pretty interesting, some of them much more so than I'd expected. Granted, there's nothing in the essays that would be sur ...more
Tamara
I was mostly interested in Catch-22 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, as I have read/watched both of them and still didn't quite understand how the title was chosen. Catcher in the Rye is another one of those question marks for me, but there wasn't an essay on it in this book.

Interestingly, Catch-22 was almost named Catch-18 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf originated from some graffiti on a bar mirror.

I now understand a bit more about how the titles play into the themes of these books, bu
...more
Jukka

Why Not Catch-21? - Gary Dexter
I picked this up between books with only small interest in the essay of the title, but ended up inhaling the whole thing over the course of a day in some abstruse random order.
A collection of 50 short essays with curious details on either the origin of titles, or more often some unusual circumstance and biography behind various works of literature. A jumbled encyclopedia of historical literary oddities that will appeal to those fascinated with literary curios -- AK
...more
Fred Forbes
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to get through, mainly because I blew by the literary areas that hold little interest for me such as poetry and plays but the explanations of the titles for the books I am familiar with were fun. Semi-spoiler - the title that Heller wanted for his book was "Catch 18". Guess what novel came out at the same time that caused the publisher to want to change the name? Evidently Heller was tough to convince. A delightful literary romp.
Jill
Apr 16, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dry as sandpaper in Arizona - and I should, know, being from the old west myself. The author tries so hard to sound smart that he comes off sounding more like he enjoyes his own scholarliness, rather than delivering on what seemed to be and easily entertaining premise. By the time I got to the part about why Catch 22 was so named, I didn't even want to know anymore.
Pink
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2 stars was kind of generous, but there were a couple of interesting facts that I liked. This wasn't what it stated, but instead was a random collection of quite boring facts about mostly unheard of books. I'd still like to read the titled book.
Nick Black
largely forgettable, beyond that which you've known all your life. a decent enough gift for bookish people. i read this sometime last summer during cigarette breaks iirc, but have no real clear recollection of having done so, so keep that in mind regarding my authority here.
Samantha
Apr 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Why Not Catch-21' is absolutely charming. Gary Dexter's passion and joy for his subject is palpable, which makes for a delightful read.
Dan Smith
Oct 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't remember who recommended this book to me. It must have been the author or a friend of his, because it's a fairly shallow dive into a seemingly random array of books, many of which I've never heard of, let alone read.

And the dive isn't particularly illuminating. I don't know what I was expecting when the way in was the choice of title and alternative never-weres, but it seems like the author wasn't either, as we get occasional recitations of the plot or true history behind a work, some ru
...more
Ian Laird
Gary Dexter is a very good literary detective.

Example: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is based on a real whale called Mocha Dick, an albino sperm whale frequently sighted near the island of Mocha off the Chilean coast, a battle scarred veteran who dealt with whalers with ferocity and cunning, until eventually harpooned and killed.

TS Eliot’s The Wasteland was originally entitled He do the police in different voices, possibly not the catchiest of titles, until Ezra Pound suggested the shorter, now w
...more
Kate
Nov 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who seek the story behind the story
Recommended to Kate by: 809 D
Shelves: miscellany
"But that mimosa grove--the haze of stars, the tingle, the flame, the honeydew, and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since--until at last, twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by incarnating her in another."

"One of the many themes running through the play is the desire of two old tramps continually to relieve themselves. Such a dramatization of lavatory necessities is offensive and against all sense of British decency.
...more
Birgit
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who's never wondered about how certain books got their title? Being an avid reader myself, I certainly wonder about that every now and again. A lot of titles are pretty much self-explainatory, while others seem, well, strange and certainly ask for some further explaination.
Initially written for the "Title Deed" column of the Sunday Telegraph, Gary Dexter presents 50 books - all presented as brief and succinctly written nibbles - and how they got their titles. From "The Republic“ und "The Tragic
...more
SmarterLilac
Oct 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly absorbing. I love process stories, so it was fun to find out how the titles for these famous works were picked by their creators. Among the surprises: Catch-22 was almost named Catch-18, and at one point Joseph Heller and an editor were literally sitting around an office trying to think up numerical combinations that 'worked' better than 18; 1984 was once called 1982--also, no one actually knows why Orwell chose that title, the 'year reversal theory' (which holds that 1984 was a satir ...more
Mark
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Great to get some background on some of these titles. Some of the books mentioned I hadn't read - makes wonder what have I been reading?

Oh wait, I can just look on goodreads...

10/21/08:
[I thought] this book had some wonderful anecdotes, and although humorous, it does not always give the story of the title, but relies heavily on the story behind the work. And at times only offers a possible reason for the title, leaving the reader to decide. But that does not take
...more
Paul Westwood
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
This is a very interesting book if you're interested in knowing how writers have come up with the names of their novels and books. There were a fair few titles that I'd never heard of and they obviously held less interest for me than ones I'd read like A Clockwork Orange and Catch 22. All the same, it was very helpful to see all the different ways in which the final title was decided and noting that providence often played a part in forcing the title on or presenting the title to the author when ...more
Benedict Reid
This has been the book I read when I'm between books, or don't have time to read a whole chapter of another book. It's an interesting set of facts related to book titles, and it reads like a set of newspaper columns from the arts pages... which of course is exactly what it is. Despite the often pompous and condescending style, I did find it a fun read. The author particularly enjoys "catching out" writers for referencing their influences... given that these writers have often explicitly put thes ...more
Jillian
Oct 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, ots-challenge
Based on the title and the subtly brilliant cover, I expected all of the essays to focus on interesting title choices and changes, but many were more general creation stories with little of interest on the title itself. And interestingly the "Catch-21" of the title was never an option discussed for Catch-22, though 11 and 14 were. Those quibbles and a few bad jokes aside, many of the essays were quite intriguing and enlightening, and it's definitely a book I'll keep.
Angie Fehl
There were some interesting facts I picked up in a few of the essays, but I found most of the collection to be incredibly dry in tone. The title essay about Heller's Catch-22 was cool to learn. I think my favorite essays were the one on The Lady Of The Camellias -- the real life woman who inspired that character -- (how am I ever going to forget the significance of the crimson camellias now, LOL) and Marie Stopes' real life court case that inspired her book, Married Love.
Cheryl
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at the convention in Athens because I have always been intrigued by the title. It covered 50 different works, about 1/3 of which I was not familiar with, and provided information on the source of the title and the synopsis of the story line. It was good for a book to read in short sittings here and there and probably would have been enjoyed more if I weren't suffering from jet-lag throughout.
Mninha
Nov 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Como suele pasar con los libros que recopilan textos, aunque lleven todos la firma de un mismo autor, también éste es un tanto irregular, con artículos mucho más interesantes que otros. En cualquier caso, una lectura entretenida en la que se aprenden un par de cosas sobre obras clásicas de la literatura y sus autores.
Jon
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A short, quick, witty and intelligent read. I'd recommend this for any book lover, history buff, or trivia lover. The author occasionally takes liberties and stretches the idea of the book, but does so with style. I can imagine some might think his humor occasionally ventures into the rude or obnoxious, but I found it entertaining.
Molly
Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I quickly learned that the stories behind the titles are only interesting if you've actually read the book (or are at least familiar with the basic plot). So, I did not read this book in its entirety. The works which I did read about were only mildly interesting and some where just plain intuitive. Overall, this would make a great bathroom book for a lover of literature.
David Macpherson
Pretty decent collection of essays. My quibbleis that some of the essays were truly about how the book was titled what it was and some where just brief biographies of the author and the work. It is a silly complaint, but I picked it up to read it about how things were titled and the ones that didn't address that felt out of place
Emilie
Jan 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could. I liked that each chapter was short, so you could sit down and read just one or several at a time. While I think the author did a pretty good job of choosing titles with some interesting backgrounds, some of the chapters were a bit of a stretch as far as finding anything relevant to say.
Overall, pretty interesting, and a good one for any book lover.
Marjo
I really liked the essays, but I wished that the works were not arranged chronologically, or that some more modern works had been included. The last entry of the book is Oleanna, a play by Mamet with which I am unfamiliar, to be honest, but it sounds really disturbing. It ended the book on a sour note, in my opinion.
Jen
Jun 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was inconsistent to me. Some essays were fascinating, others incredibly dull. Many of the stories behind the titles were things I already knew because I'm a huge nerd who researches obscure literary things just for kicks. So, overall it was okayish -- kinda good.
Bernadette Brady
Extremely well written. I think the author assumed readers had indepth knowledge of all the books discussed though. An author listing for each title would have been nice. Interesting background to many works though, and a lovely book to dip into occasionally.
Danna
Oct 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the mark of a hopeless (hopeful?) bibliophile is one who enjoys books about books. I picked this up on impulse from a Half-Price store when I noticed it included "The Postman Always Rings Twice". Yet another book that lists a bunch of other books I want to add to my "To Read" list.
Barbara Myers
If I were only a reader, I likely would have found the history behind these story titles more engaging; as a writer, my overall reaction was, "Yep, sometimes our ideas come from strange places, and that's that."
Sunil
Oct 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decently written informative book for trivia hunters. Is about the stories that led on to many a writers choosing their titles; like The postman always rings twice, Ulysses, etc. Makes a perfect transit read.
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