Titling a book is a tricky business. Too convoluted and you run the risk of looking precious or ridiculous (though your chances of maintaining title originality, if that’s important to you, will be good). Too simple and you all but ensure that your baby will lose its Highlander status within your lifetime (though they will also avoid at least one type of literary schoolyard—aka Book Twitter—taunting). If you do decide to go down the latter route, perhaps the best thing to do is to lean into the inevitable or, better yet, join forces with another writer to beat the bastards at their own game. Delightful case in point: the other day, while idling around the Lit Hub watercooler, we got to talking about the book Feel Free. It went a little something like this:
Have you read the new collection, the one that just came out this year? It was good, wasn’t it? Zadie Smith, you’ve done it again. Wait, what other collection? Of poetry, you say? By Nick Laird? By George, there are TWO! How could something like this have happened?
As it turns out, it happened by their own diabolical spousal design (see below). We tip our caps to the Smith-Lairds for this bold move, and for getting us thinking: what other book title doppelgangers are out there? How do their cover designs compare? What about their literary merit? Which of the pair will be remembered most fondly in the annals of history? We selected a few examples, and subjected some of them to our own divine judgement, but feel free (eh?) to add more of your own in the comments.
The Changeling by Joy Williams (Tin House, 2018)
The Changeling by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau, 2018)
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
‘Tis the season for soothing, nondescript landscape paintings.
The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callahan (Dial Press, 2004)
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Random House, 2004)
Fun Fact: These books came out within two months of each other … and everyone kind of decided who wore it better.
The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King (Abrams, 2018)
The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner (Lake Union Publishing, 2015)
Friendly neighborhood Presbyterian minister and children’s television personality or ominous wilderness? I think I would’ve chosen to live next to the former.
Feel Free by Nick Laird (Faber & Faber, 2018)
Feel Free by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, 2018)
Couples share everything! (Apparently, it was Nick Laird’s first, and when Zadie Smith asked permission to use it, he said, “Feel free.”)
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones (Minotaur Books, 2018)
The Other Woman by Daniel Silva (Harper, 2018)
Two other women? In the same year?? This industry is insatiable.
The Girl Before by Rena Olsen (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016)
The Girl Before by JP Delaney (Ballantine Books, 2018)
I think we’re going to have to give it to The Girl Before that came out before The Girl Before… the one true Girl Before.
The Double by Jose Saramago (Harcourt, 2004)
The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Fatherland Notes, 1846)
Is it just me, or are you seeing double too?
Forever by Pete Hamill (Little, Brown and Company, 2002)
Forever… by Judy Blume (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014)
The ominous ellipses say it all. One of these is definitely going to last longer than the other.
Tangerine by Christine Mangan (Ecco, 2018)
Tangerine by Edward Bloor (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007)
Because when you call your book Tangerine, you’re only allowed to show half of a person’s face on the cover.
Cherry by Mary Karr (Penguin Books, 2001)
Cherry by Nico Walker (Knopf, 2018)
One is about the trials and tribulations of the awkward teen years, the other is about the opioid epidemic. One of these writers has been described as “assembling a self from the smokiest beginnings.” One of these books has been called “bracingly funny and unexpected … straight from the dark heart of America.” Which is which?
Florida by Christine Schutt (Triquarterly, 2003)
Florida by Lauren Groff (Riverhead, 2018)
Well, when I think of Florida, I do think of giant, wild animals running amuck.
Give Me Your Hand by Paul Durcan (Macmillan, 1994)
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown and Company, 2018)
Creepy naked figures or flowers on fire? Neither of these covers make me want to give you my hand.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Chapman & Hall, 1861)
Great Expectations by Kathy Acker (Grove Press, 1982)
I have great expectations for both of these novels.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (Modern Library, 1994)
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (Pearson’s Magazine, 1897)
And yet we’ve found him twice!
Fear by L. Ron Hubbard (Bridge Publications, 1991)
Fear by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster, 2018)