For publishers, authors, and agents, coming up with the perfect book title causes great consternation. In some cases, hundreds of titles are suggested, batted about, and batted down months before a book’s official publication date. The highly volatile selection process often results in finger-pointing, idle threats, lollygagging, and, in some rare cases, irritable bowl syndrome. Sadly, like many of my colleagues in publishing, I’ve experienced this aggravating process firsthand.

To remedy the conundrum I’ve channeled the likes of Ray Bradbury and MTV’s veejay Martha Quinn by imagining a dystopic publishing industry where the line between literature and REM’s songbook is eradicated (finally!)—a brave new world wherein all books will be titled after an REM song, even if the title doesn’t come close to reflecting the book’s subject matter. Publishers will purchase the song titles through iTunes for .99 cents, which should provide Michael Stipe with enough ancillary income to keep him from performing at state fairs or writing his own memoir now that REM has called it quits.



Forthcoming Titles for Fall 2012

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

7 Chinese Bros, by Daniel Silva
Disturbance at the Heron House, by P.D. James
Suspicion, by Michael Connelly
Strange Currencies, by James Patterson
Hollow Man, by Jo Nesbo
World Leader Pretend, by Lee Child
Stand, by Stephen King
Exhuming McCarthy, by David Baldacci
Lotus, by Dean Koontz
Radio Free Europe, by Steve Berry
Walk Unafraid, by Patricia Cornwell
Driver 8, by Clive Cussler


Science Fiction and Fantasy

Aftermath, by Neil Gaiman
Electrolite, by Neal Stephenson
Electron Blue, by Orson Scott Card
Endgame, by Suzanne Collins
Feeling Gravitys Pull, by Douglas Adams
Orange Crush, by Terry Pratchett
New Test Leper, by Stephen R. Donaldson
Discoverer, by Diana Gabaldon
Wanderlust, by Robert Jordan


Literature and Fiction

Begin the Begin, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Until the Day is Done, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Second Guessing, by Joyce Carol Oates
Ignoreland, by Gary Shteynagart
First We Take Manhattan, by Michael Chabon
The Flowers of Guatemala, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Sitting Still, by Ann Patchett
Hairshirt, by Colum McCann
Welcome to the Occupation, by Thomas Pynchon
So. Central Rain, by Roberto Bolano
Finest Worksong, by Russell Banks
Circus Envy, by John Irving
Perfect Circle, by Ian McEwan
King of Birds, by Junot Diaz
Find the River, by Jim Harrison
The Wake-Up Bomb, by Jonathan Franzen
Cuyahoga, by Sherwood Anderson
Oddfellows Local 151, by George Saunders
Pop Song 89, by Jennifer Egan
Number 9 Dream, by Haruki Murkami
So Fast, So Numb, by Jonathan Safran Foer
Harborcoat, by John Banville
Texarkana, by Cormac McCarthy
Kohoutek, by Dave Eggers
Green Grow the Rushes, by William Trevor
Little America, by Lorrie Moore
Maps and Legends, by Denis Johnson


Chick Lit

Crush with Eyeliner, by Candace Bushnell
You Are the Everything, by Emily Griffin
Letter Never Sent, by Jodi Picoult
Pretty Persuasion, by Jennifer Weiner
I Took Your Name, by Sophie Kinsella
The One I Love, by Sarah Dessen
Horse to Water, by Louisa May Alcott
What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, by Helen Fielding
Radio Song, by Nicholas Sparks
Time After Time, by Aimee Bender


Best Bets for Book Clubs

Try Not to Breathe, by Julia Glass
Nightswimming, by Jane Hamilton
Sweetness Follows, by Elizabeth Berg
Leave, by Anna Quindlen
Drive, by Emma Donahue
It Happened Today, by Anita Shreve
Bow the Letter, by Edwidge Danticat
Belong, by Wally Lamb



Tongue, by Aphrodite Hunt
Fall on Me, by Lynda Chance
Mine Smell Like Honey, by Saucy Sally
Star 69, by Minx Malone
Star Me Kitten, by Terry Towers
Get Up, by Shoshanna Evers
Just a Touch, by Lexy Harper
Me in Honey, by Jinx Jamison
Talk About the Passion, by Gia Blue
Turn You Inside-Out, by Burt Maverick
Let Me In, by Deliah Hunt
Gardening at Night, by Cherise Sinclair
Near Wild Heaven, by Rachel Boleyn


Self Help, Parenting, Relationships

Ages of You, by Suzanne Sommers
At My Most Beautiful, by Jane Fonda
The Wrong Child, by Dave J. Pelzer
Life and How to Live It, by Eckhart Tolle
Everybody Hurts, by Andrew Weil
Good Advices, by Joel Osteen
The Great Beyond, by Sylvia Browne
What If We Give It Away?, by Deepak Chopra
Imitation of Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh



All the Way to Reno, by Barry Manilow
Bittersweet Me, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Can’t Get There from Here, by Regis Philbin
Daysleeper, by Joan Didion
It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine), by Thomas L. Friedman
Leaving New York, by Michael Bloomberg
Losing My Religion, by Christopher Hitchens
I’ll Take the Rain, by Diane Keaton
I Don’t Sleep, I Dream, by Shirley MacLaine
We All Go Back to Where We Belong, by Nora Ephron
Oh My Heart, by Jane Fonda
Living Well Is the Best Revenge, by Tucker Max
Bang and Blame, by Tommy Lee
Don’t Go Back to Rockville, by Glenn Campbell
King of Comedy, by Mel Brooks
Superman, by Glenn Beck
I Remember California, by Mackenzie Phillips
Man on the Moon, by Dick Cheney


Children’s Books

All the Right Friends, by Jamie Lee Curtis
Animal, by Maurice Sendak
Bad Day, by David Shannon
Binky the Doormat, by Mo Willems
Shiny Happy People, by Todd Parr
The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, by Tomie dePaola
Monty Got a Raw Deal, by Jeff Kinney
Wendell Gee, by Ezra Jack Keats
Swan Swan Hummingbird, by Eric Carle
Sing for the Submarine, by Richard Scarry
Supernatural Superserious, by Jon Scieszka
Old Man Kensey, by Shel Silverstein

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A graduate of Appalachian State University, CRAIG POPELARS is the marketing director for Algonquin Books. He resides in Hillsborough, North Carolina with his wife and daughter. He is not on Facebook but still wants to be your friend.

45 responses to “Borrowing from REM’s Songbook When Publishers, Authors and Agents Can’t Agree on a Book Title”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    This is great. The memoirs especially. I kinda wanna read GS’s “Ignoreland”…

  2. Steve says:

    I believe you have misfiled “Try Not To Breathe” by Julia Glass. It should be in the Erotica Autoasphixiation section.

  3. Art Edwards says:

    Thanks, Craig. I’m glad someone else thinks like this.

    I’m often dismayed by the now reflexive use of song titles as book titles, and yet my novel on submission is called “Badge.”

    And if you’re aiming for the forty-something set, you can do worse than REM song titles. U2 titles just don’t have the right panache. “Sunday Bloody Sunday”?

  4. Emily Crowe says:

    And that, my friend, is why you’re one of my favorite people in publishing!

  5. pixy says:


  6. Angela says:

    How long did it take you first categorize these titles then match them so magically to their appropriate authors? Was it a late night rambling or a several-month-athon?

  7. […] finally, have you ever considered Borrowing from REM’s Songbook When Publishers, Authors and Agents Can’t Agree on a Book Title? __spr_config = { pid: '4efb86ed396cef45c8000067', title: 'BookMachine Weekly BookWrap: […]

  8. Alex Baker says:

    Brilliant, Craig. I didn’t realize that Louisa May Alcott was still writing, but I’ll surely pick up a copy of “Horse to Water.” And, it’s nice to see someone else recognizing the magic of Burt Maverick’s word stylings.

  9. This is spot on. I’ve even asked myself, trying to recall, if “Flowers of Guatemala” was a book or a song, but now it’s clear that it was meant to be a Marquez novel all along.

    Very nice work.

  10. Gloria says:

    This is so great.

    Am I the only one that eagerly sought out my favorite REM titles to see where they were categorized – as if this were really a thing?

    To reiterate Joe’s sentiment: brilliant.

  11. erin says:

    Perfect! The chick lit and literature and fiction are so dead on. I loved this!

  12. I’m not sure I can even believe how brilliantly funny this is! Now I want to read many of these books, and am mildly pissed off that I can’t . . .

  13. jonathan evison says:

    . . . okay ow, craig, be honest– how many REM titles have you filched yourself working at algonquin?

  14. MikeyD says:

    Alright, Binky The Doormat as a kids’ book is hysterical. And a little uncomfortable.

  15. Jeff Maehre says:

    Contemporary literature and R.E.M. together. Utopia!

  16. Andy Bechtel says:

    Yes, though I like “Driver 8” as a sci-fi title.

  17. Monica says:

    I love these–although I’m currently reading Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends, which I initially picked up because of the title.

  18. edna million says:

    The amazing David Mitchell already did Number9Dream — and despite being an REM fan and a David Mitchell fan, I never made the connection. This was lots of fun!

  19. Jon says:

    “New Test Leper” by Donaldson — inspired choice! The heretofore unknown sequel to the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant!

  20. Ann Marie says:

    Hope you had as much fun creating this list as I had reading it! Thanks, Craig!

  21. Etty D says:

    First We Take Manhattan is a cover, written by Leonard Cohen. No. 9 Dream is a John Lennon song. I don’t know who wrote Superman, but that’s a cover too, originally by a band called The Clique. So Stipey wouldn’t get his .99 from iTunes or anywhere else for those.
    Cute list, though.

  22. Jelle says:

    Great list. You could add ‘Every day is yours to win’ to the list of self help books.
    It has very inspiring lyrics as well:
    “It’s all there waiting for you […] Every day is new again, every day is yours to win”

  23. rome says:

    I’d buy “Texarkana” right this second. Fantastic.

  24. Brad Listi says:

    Gardening at Night might be the greatest title for a book of erotica, maybe ever.

    Then comes the question: what does that cover look like?

  25. Jim Simpson says:

    This is a truly inspired piece! You had me at “…which should provide Michael Stipe with enough ancillary income to keep him from performing at state fairs or writing his own memoir …”.

    My personal favorite: Ages of You, by Suzanne Sommers

  26. Jim says:

    Now this, sir, is pure genius!

  27. Your profession is not the only one with “naming” issues. I run into this often in the “computer” field also.

    One area is naming computers themselves. Often you will want to refer to a computer by name, and it’s nice if all the related computers have a similar “family” name. The computers in our house have been named after characters in Winnie the Pooh for over a decade. At work, we’ve used planet names, beers, and organ names (stomach, liver, etc).

    Another area is project/product naming. You gotta give your project a name so people can find it in Google. It’s tough finding something that makes sense, is short, and doesn’t have many hits in Google. One of my current projects is named “weinre”. Some people pronounce it like “winery”, others like “weiner”. A lot of people like the similarity to “weiner”, and a small majority is disgusted or something. It’s fun to see people riff on it a bit, as in this twitter message: ‘If only everyone knew what I meant when I audibly state, “I love wiener” :(‘.

  28. kangsuc says:

    this the day ‘come on !! you & me ~~~you got it!! you can it !!!!! this is the place ‘ht’e sorry 태호!! come baby!! This is the baby ~~When youn^^when u!!you come on…. i think that greates thing that is that is so and…. greating

  29. Rachel Pollon says:

    Brills! (As in “iant.”) This could be like the porn name game — what’s your book’s REM title. Anyway, fun and perf. Just a few that caused out loud giggles: Can’t Get There from Here, by Regis Philbin, and What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?, by Helen Fielding.

  30. Chris says:

    I feel compelled to mention that Number 9 Dream is already the title of a novel by David Mitchell.

  31. Jim Kukral says:

    Amazing post, and wow, it’s crazy how all those songs are perfect book titles. Stipe should start a book naming company.

  32. Dana says:


  33. SCC Overton says:

    Great list. I really want to read some of these books. I think this is testament to Michael Stipe’s extraordinary skills as a lyricist, that even the mere titles of R.E.M. songs are strangely evocative and wonderfully mysterious, just like the “photograph on the dashboard – taken years ago – turned around backwards so the windsheild shows – every streetlight reveals a picture in reverse – still it’s so much clearer…”

  34. rob says:

    I always thought “half a world away” would be a good title for a book.
    “my hands tire my heart aches- I ‘m half a world away” great lyric.

  35. AtTheRiv says:

    You matched up one of my favorite songs by my favorite band with my favorite writer. Spooky.

    Awesome list. Really wish I had thought of this first.

  36. rv branham says:

    “bow the letter” s/b “ebow the letter” — other than that, laughed my fuckin’ arse off.

  37. Ted Wright says:

    One of the best pieces I’ve read using REM material in another context. Thanks for sharing. Also a fan of Algonquin Books. I’ve been buying the Best American Short Stories series for years and years now.

  38. Jeff Crane says:

    The title of my book Finding the River: An Environmental History of the Elwha is clearly based on Find the River. My next book on Fracking will also be based on an REM song.

  39. nathanielwms says:

    Well played, sir! The self-help section alone is gold.

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