A Collection of Rejected Titles for Classic Books


It’s a well-known fact that authors, for all their brilliance, can be less than visionary when it comes to coming up with titles. We understand — so much goes into the perfect title, both from an artistic and a commercial point of view, and when you’re so close to the work at hand, we can imagine how it could be a little challenging to see the issue from all angles. But even if a writer is particularly talented at title-penning, the names of books can go through as many permutations as the text itself before they see the light of day. Plus, for good or ill, writers have husbands, wives, publishers and others to weigh in, causing even more changes. Lovers of book trivia, read on: after the jump you’ll find our list of what some classic works were almost called. Check it out and let us know whether you think the changes were for the better or the worse in the comments.

When Jane Austen’s father submitted an early version of her second novel, First Impressions, to a publisher on her behalf, it was rejected. As Pride and Prejudice, it did much better. [via]

Don DeLillo wanted to name his 1985 breakout novel Panasonic, but the corporation’s lawyers protested, and he settled for White Noise. [via]

Once Max Brod got his hands on it, Kafka’s The Man Who Disappeared was retitled as Amerika. [via]

Philip Roth’s most famous novel went through incarnations as The Jewboy, Wacking Off, and A Jewish Patient Begins his Analysis before it became Portnoy’s Complaint. [via]

Bafflingly, All’s Well that Ends Well was the original title for Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace — in fact, it was first released under that title until its publishers came to their senses. [via]

Toni Morrison wanted to name her first post-Nobel prize novel War, but instead wound up calling it the wildly dissimilar Paradise. [via]

They Don’t Build Statues to Businessmen was the original title of Jaqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. [via]

Rick Moody, who has described himself as a ‘bad titler,’ eventually changed the title of his novel F.F. to The Ice Storm. Apparently, “F.F.” would have been meant as “short for ‘Fantastic Four’ or a variant of the notation for ‘fortissimo.'” [via]

Trimalchio in West Egg; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and The High-Bouncing Lover were all titles considered for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. [via]

Adolf Hitler originally wanted to title his book Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice, but ultimately changed it to the much more succinct Mein Kampf. [via]

Ford Maddox Ford wanted to call his novel The Saddest Story — he only suggested calling it The Good Soldier as a joke, but his publisher wasn’t laughing, and took him up on it. [via]

The Last Man in Europe wasn’t commercial enough for George Orwell’s publisher, who suggested they go with 1984. [via]

When William Golding’s first novel was discovered in Faber and Faber’s slush pile, it was called Strangers from Within. With a little editorial guidance, every American schoolchild now reads it as Lord of the Flies. [via]

In the end, Ayn Rand thought her first title, The Strike, gave too much plot away, and renamed her novel Atlas Shrugged, at the suggestion of her husband. [via]

Tomorrow Is Another Day was the working title of Gone With the Wind, and that’s not the only change we’re grateful for: up until the very last second, Scarlett was named ‘Pansy.’ Bullet dodged. [via]

Bram Stoker considered many titles, one of them being The Dead Un-Dead, before landing on the much less B-filmish Dracula. [via]

When Carson McCullers was twenty-one, she submitted six chapters of her first novel, The Mute, to Houghton-Mifflin. They offered her an advance, renamed the book The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, and launched her career. [via]

Fiesta, the original title of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, is still used on many foreign editions. [via]

Evelyn Waugh’s The House of the Faith was changed to the much more distinctive title Brideshead Revisited. [via]

Joseph Heller originally imagined his novel as a Catch-11, but doubled the number to Catch-22 so as not to compete with the recently released Ocean’s Eleven. [via]

Alex Haley’s influential 1976 novel was changed from Before This Anger to the much more diplomatic Roots: The Saga of an American Family. [via]

When Harper Lee decided her magnum opus was about more than one character, Atticus became To Kill a Mockingbird. [via]

Vladimir Nabokov originally planned on calling his most famous work The Kingdom by the Sea before it became the Lolita we know and love today. Waste not, want not — Nabokov used a very similar phrase (A Kingdom by the Sea) in his 1974 pseudo-autobiographical novel Look at the Harlequins! as the title of a Lolita-like book written by the narrator. [via]

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s book about the Watergate scandal was originally called At this Point in Time, before it was changed to the more dramatic All the President’s Men. [via]

Stephen Crane’s original manuscript was entitled Private Fleming, His Various Battles, but in an attempt to keep it from sounding like what he considered to be a more traditional Civil War narrative, he renamed it The Red Badge of Courage. [via]