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Nonfiction Book Title Rules

Nonfiction is one of the most popular genres of books sold today. It's also the genre with the absolute least amount of imagination when it comes to book titles. In fact, all nonfiction titles follow five basic rules.


Rule 1: All nonfiction books must have both a title and subtitle.

There are no exceptions to this rule. All nonfiction, every single book ever published, adheres to this rule.

Rule 2: The title will be in one of these three forms:

  1. <single_proper_noun_or_name>

  2. <optional_definite_article> <option_proper_noun> <noun> <preposition> the <noun_phrase>

  3. <adjective> <plural_or_collective_noun>


Rule 3: The subtitle will be in one of these five forms:

  1. A <adjective> Look at the World of <noun> in <optional location>

  2. The Story/Untold Story/Tragedy/Triumph/Defeat/Victory/Lessons of the <optional_proper_noun> <noun> in <optional_location>

  3. How the <proper_noun> Expedition/Voyage/Incident/Experiment/War <optional_prepositional_phrase> Changed the World/Ended Slavery/Is Destroying America

  4. A Journey into <abstract_place>

  5. The Day/Night/Hour <something_bad_happened>


Rule 4: Only the subtitle is allowed to identify the book's contents.

The title alone should never, ever be sufficient to allow someone to guess what the book is about. Preferrably, the title shouldn't have anything to do with the contents except in the most abstract, metaphorical sense.

Rule 5: The word "secret" may appear anywhere in the title or subtitle even if it violates Rules 2 and 3.


That's it: these five rules are sufficient to cover the title of all nonfiction books ever published. Let's take a look at some examples of valid titles.

  • Great Bass: A Comprehensive Look at the World of Fly-Fishing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  • Dark Valleys: The Untold Story of the Fall of the Amazon Hunter
  • Men of the Tundra: How the Chadwick Expedition Changed the World
  • The Pendregoth Scandal: A Journey into the Secret Dark Mind of Barry Goodfellow
  • Frozen Blankets: The Night the Cold Came to Okruk
  • Bronze Rain: Lessons of the Ambush in Chicketaw Valley
  • Broken Eggshells: How the War of America's Youth on our Police Force is Destroying America
  • Thomas Jefferson: A Journey into the Secret Life of the Slaves at Monticello
  • Secret Sailors of the Silent Service: How the Bluefin Voyage Changed the World
Tags: lack_of_imagination, nonfiction_titles
Permalink: http://blog.aerojockey.com/post/nonfiction
Last Edited: 15 July 2010, 2:35 AM
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