Should a Book’s Title Match Its Content? + 3 Books I Recommend – February 2020

Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.
– Plato

Should the Title Match the Content?

Please, yes.

For me, I want to know what a book is about when I look at the title and/or subtitle. AND I want it to remain true to its premise throughout the whole book, not just a few chapters here and there.

Granted, I appreciate a coy title or one that’s witty. (And fiction books don’t apply to this conversation at all; I love when novels surprise us with off-the-wall twists).

But for nonfiction books, I appreciate authors who stay focused on their intended goal from beginning to end. I’m sure it’s difficult. But if they need to write about unrelated topics, put those in a separate book.

When a book meanders within its pages, even if it returns to touch base now and again to its stated purpose, I feel disappointed and eye the author (and its editor) suspiciously.

I recently read How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, expecting it to be about pulling ourselves away from our Western idolatry of efficiency and productivity. Instead the author meandered on a wide variety of topics that, to me, had little connection to the title. I felt I was wasting time reading it when, instead, I could have actually been doing nothing (but that’s my fault).

The book might have been good in itself, but the title set up an expectation that it didn’t match. 

In contrast is You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters (review below). Author Kate Murphy covers a lot of diverse areas, but they ALL relate to listening. I love how she stuck with her theme from beginning to end.

Maybe this is just my pet peeve. But I like a book to deliver what it promises.

3 Books I Recommend

Every month I share the best of what I’ve finished reading. Here are books I recommend from February. See all my recommended books here.

3 Books I Recommend Feb 2020_pin

Nonfiction

1. You’re Not Listening
What You’re Missing and Why It Matters
by Kate Murphy

You're Not Listening

Learn more about how and why your listening skills need to improve. Excellent material, well-organized, and informative.

[click here if you can’t see the 1-minute book review, You’re Not Listening]

2. Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause
An Unexpected Spiritual Journey
by Cheryl Bridges Johns

Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause

This is not a book about hot flashes and hormones. Instead it shows how women can use this season of life to transition to new things, even when it’s different than anything they’ve experienced before. (Full book review to come in March.)

Fiction

3. The Dearly Beloved
by Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved

Once I got the four characters straight, I loved watching their individual journeys and then their side-by-side journeys through life and faith and family. This novel doesn’t give easy answers along the way, but it shows real struggles that we have through the lens of two pastors, their callings, and their very different wives.

Reading Now

  • Talking to Strangers
    What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

    by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
    How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World
    by John Mark Comer
  • Write Better
    A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality

    by Andrew T. Le Peau
  • Upstream
    The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen
    by Dan Heath
  • Stay
    Discovering Grace, Freedom, and Wholeness Where You Never Imagined Looking
    by Anjuli Paschall
  • The Turn of the Key
    by Ruth Ware

* * *

What good book are YOU reading this month? Please share in the comments.

My books on Goodreads
More books I recommend

19 thoughts on “Should a Book’s Title Match Its Content? + 3 Books I Recommend – February 2020

  1. Michele Morin

    LOVED the one minute review.
    And I share your disdain for inaccurate titles–knowing all the while how HARD it is to choose titles for my little blog posts. Book titles must be an agony to craft.

  2. bill (cycleguy)

    I’ve read and am reading and will be reading several Lisa. I found Mary Jo Sharp’s book Why I Still Believe an excellent read. One of the best I have read lately is James Emery White’s book “Christianity For People Who Aren’t Christians.” I almost finished with Sam Allberry’s “Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?” (an excellent read). I’m about to read “In Pursuit of Love” by Rebecca Bender. Heard her on a podcast and was amazed by her story of being one who was sex trafficked to finding freedom. I’m looking forward to reading it. Oh, I also highly recommend “A War of Loves” by David Bennett. he was a gay atheist activist who came to Christ.

  3. David

    Dear Lisa, “You’re Not Listening” sounds good! I’m reading “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. It’s very corporate but I’m finding myself debating with it in fruitful ways. I like it – he tells a good story.

    I love your one minute book reviews by the way! Inspired, I have started doing one minute pitches/presentations about my work. It’s very hard to say anything at all in 60 seconds! I knew I would have to organise the information strictly, but it’s also challenging me to be confident and fluent in the delivery.

  4. Laurie

    Oh, Lisa. More books to add to my very long TBR list! 🙂 I just finished reading a very hefty biography of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was heavy in many ways. Now I need something much lighter. Maybe the novel you suggest. Although, for Lent, I am considering focusing on listening more. Maybe “You’re Not Listening” would be a better choice. Thanks for the very good suggestions.

  5. Barbara Harper

    Definitely! I just read a post from a publishing agent this morning saying the same thing, that a nonfiction title should reflect the content. Even if the title has a bit of a twist or humorous take, the subtitle should clarify.

    The one on menopause sounds interesting. I’ve discovered that when child-rearing ends, it’s sad to have that part of life come to a close. But then so many new opportunities open up. It’s an exciting time.

  6. Pam Ecrement

    Amen! Amen! I so agree about non-fiction books. I LOVE a good title and it will be more likely to draw me in if it is by an author I do not know, but I will feel shanghaied if they lead me down a primrose path by deceiving me about the thesis of their work.

    Fiction is a very different story.

    Blog posts titles make a difference for me as well. If the title reminds me of a number of others I recently read, I won’t likely stop to read or spend much time. (Yours do not fit in that category, by the way.)

  7. Tina

    Good question- yes, I do think the title should match the content of the book, especially for non fiction! I also hate when publishers wrongly compare two books- i.e. “this is for fans of The Martian!” and there’s barely a connection.

  8. Beth

    That book on menopause sounds really intriguing to me, Lisa! Lol! Always ready to think about what my next chapter should look like! And I agree about the book issue–meandering off topic! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and book recommendations! Always great to visit, my friend! Pinning this for sure!

  9. Hazel

    If a book title doesn’t match the content, I would probably feel cheated and would be interested for a money back… (just a fancy). I love your one-minute book review and have subscribed to your youtube channel.

    When I took my son to his developmental pediatrician for the first time, I realized I did about 90% of the talking; all she did was listen. And I paid her. The situation was similar for the second and third consultations. Getting paid for listening sounds interesting.

    Hi Lisa, it’s wonderful to be back to your blog. I used to (around 2011 – 2014) until I went on blogging hiatus. I got here from the Anything Goes linky party.

  10. Jean Wise

    So often I do buy or borrow a book based on the title so that definitely does bug me. Please keep doing your video reviews. I so enjoy seeing and hearing you “in person.”

  11. floyd

    I agree with you on a title and how it should be reinforced, not detoured from. I also appreciate the first line of a book to summarize the story. One example of that genius was Stephen King’s The Gunslinger; “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed”. That is the entire story.

    I’m going to pass on the menopause book…😁

  12. Dianna

    I like to try to catch the title’s inspiration in the text, so definitely expect the book to deliver on that front. I don’t often read non-fiction, though.

    I loved Turn of the Key! Currently reading The Sun Down Motel.

  13. Kym

    I agree with you that the title and the content should match up in non-fiction books! Don’t set me up to expect something that the book doesn’t intend to deliver.

    You’re Not Listening looks interesting, and I am definitely checking out the second book you recommended, the one about menopause! 😉

  14. Barbara Mojica

    Definitely, I don’t appreciate titles that are excessively long because they are packed with keywords that don’t apply to the meat of the book’s message. Whether a book is fiction or nonfiction, the prospective reader should be given an accurate indication of just what is inside the book. Today, the majority of book sales happen online. Readers don’t have the opportunity to study the spine, the cover, and the back of the book for information.

  15. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Oh yes, I agree! Nonfiction book titles should not just be a marketing ploy to get you to read the book. There should be an honest attempt at accuracy, starting with the cover. These days that doesn’t always seem to be a priority.
    With fiction, there is more leeway, obviously. I find myself annoyed more often by un-memorable, trend-following or copycat titles than by misleading ones. I know it’s hard to find a unique and memorable title, but sometimes I think more effort could be made.

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