The first thing that makes a literary novel “literary” is that it has a lot of words. Having a title that says I’m based on a well-known piece of literature, of course. Shakespeare and the Bible are, of course, the best sources for title ideas. Here are 50 other well-known book titles whose authors drew on a wide range of sources to name them.
There are sections for titles from the Bible, Shakespeare, poetry, and other novels. I’ve broken the books down into these groups: If there aren’t enough women or authors of color to include in this article because of its size, I’ve tried to include them wherever I can.
Famous Book Titles Taken from The Bible
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Books of Samuel: 19:4 in 2 Samuel. This quote comes from the Old Testament and tells some of the history of Israel. It comes from Faulkner’s 1936 novel. In battle, Absalom, the third son of David, killed his father. O my son Absalom! O my son Absalom, O my son, O my son! A lot of his book titles were taken from the Bible, like Psalms 137:5. Faulkner was a big fan of this, too. If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to do things.
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
This one comes from 3:3 in the book of Ecclesiastes, which is in the Bible’s old text. He is a King of Jerusalem who talks about and thinks about things that have happened in his life. This has been a big hit with a lot of people. Abraham Lincoln used it when he spoke to Congress in 1862, and the novelist Thomas Wolfe called it “the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known.” When Grisham wrote his 1989 book, he said that there is a time and a place for everything. a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, then build up again…
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Another quote from Ecclesiastes, this time from line 7:4. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of the fools is in the house of joy. Some people think this is one of Wharton’s best-known books. It came out in 1905, though.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck may have thought this 1952 book was his best work, the one that all of his other novels were just practice for. The title is right for the movie. If you look at the Bible’s book of Genesis, it says that this is from line 4:16, after Cain killed his brother Abel. On the other side of Eden, on the land of Nod, Cain lived.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
The more Ecclesiastes there are, the better! The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and the sun goes back to where he came from. It was published in 1926.
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
To get the title for his 1930 book, Waugh took the name of the New Testament book Philippians, which is called Epistle to the Philippians. This book is usually thought to have been written by Paul, the Apostle. There are a lot of letters that were sent from Paul to the church in Philippi, which is on the Greek island of Thasos. Most people think it is a collection of these letters. Line 3:21 says that Jesus Christ will change our vile bodies so that they look like his glorious bodies, just like how he can even subdue all things to himself.
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
“The First Epistle to the Corinthians” is one of Dick’s best-known novels. Its title comes from the First Epistle to the Corinthians. He wrote this to a church in Corinth just like he did above. The line, 13:12, says ” In the beginning, we can only see through a glass, but then we will be able to see right in front of us. Now, we only know a little, but then we will be able to know everything. One of the best-known is “In a Glass Darkly,” which is the title of Sheridan Le Fanu’s short story collection from 1872. Karleen Koen’s 1986 historical fiction novel, “Through a Glass Darkly,” has the same opening words (its sequel continues the quotation, being calledNow Face to Face).
Moab is my Washpot by Stephen Fry
Line 60:8 of the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, which reads in full:
Moab is where I wash my clothes; over Edom, I’ll throw out my shoe. Philistia, rejoice because I’m yours.
In the context, people would often use washpots to clean their feet of sand after walking through the desert. The people of Moab, a kingdom in Jordan, had to be defeated, so they built a wall. The Israelites, on the other hand, saw these containers as like the kingdom. A few years after he wrote his 1997 autobiography, Fry came up with this title. He thought the book was about “scrubbing at the grime of years.”
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
A dystopian novel called The Giver is what Lowry is best known for. In Number the Stars, she wrote about a Jewish family living in Copenhagen during World War II. In line 147:4, the Psalms say that God tells the number of the stars, and he calls them all by their names. Quote: It is also used because of its association with the Star of David, which is used in Judaism.
Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal
He wrote this book in 1887 while the Philippines was still under Spanish rule. He wanted to draw attention to the social problems the country was facing at the time. If you’re in high school in the Philippines, you now have to read this book. It’s also called the country’s national epic.
The quote in the title comes from 20:17 of the Gospel of John, which is part of the New Testament. It is Jesus’s response to Mary Magdalene when she meets him outside his tomb after his resurrection. The Latin word for “don’t touch me” is “no.” Whoso list to hunt, a famous Tudor-era poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt, is also based on Petrarch. A painting by Titian also shows it. A medical student named Rizal used it because it was a symbol of the people’s blindness to the bad things that the Spanish government did.
Famous Book Titles Taken From William Shakespeare
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
One of the most well-known books to have its title come from a Shakespeare play is called The Tempest. In Act V, Scene I, Miranda says:
How beautiful people are! O brave new world! It has people like that!
She says this when she meets new people for the first time in her life, and the “savage” John says it when he looks at the corrupt, hedonistic society depicted in Huxley’s 1932 novel. The book titles “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” (1956) and “Mortal Coils” (1921), which were both based on Macbeth and Hamlet, were both written by Huxley. Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech is one of them.
All of our yesterdays have led us to death. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps along at this small pace from day to day, until we reach the last syllable of time. The text of Macbeth’s Act V, Scene V:
We should think about what dreams we might have when we die. It’s from Hamlet, Act III, Scene I.
Rosemary and Rue (October Daye #1) by Seanan McGuire
October Daye: The Winter’s Tale is the name of the first book in the October Daye series by best-selling author Suzanne McGuire. Rosemary means remembering (which is very important to Toby’s character), and rue means to change your ways. This is what Perdita says to Camillo and Polixenes when she gives them the flowers in question in Act IV Scene 4.
In the name of the lord, sirs, I’d like to ask you For you, there are rosemary and rue, which keep Seeming and savouring all winter long: God bless and remember you both.
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
The play Timon of Athens is one of Shakespeare’s less well-known and less-read works, so it isn’t often used in quotes. There are some good things about Timon’s speech here in Act IV Scene III: If you’re reading a 1962 postmodernist novel that has a lot of cross-quotes and complicated footnotes, there might be a secondary Shakespeare reference here. the glow-fire worm’s starts to fade, the Ghost says in Hamlet. It’s no surprise that Lolita (1955) is Vladimir Nabokov’s best work and one of history’s most famous book titles, butPale Fire also received praise.
A thief: The sun steals from the sea because he is so beautiful. The moon is a greedy thief. She takes her pale fire from the sun. The sea is a thief, and its waves make the moon cry salty tears.