Tuesday, January 10, 2023

All the historical novel titles you could ever need


Very recently, I've been noticing a trend in historical fiction titles. Have you seen this too?  One might say that they're... all over the place.

All the Pretty Places; All the Lost Places; All the Broken Places
Unlike a previous trend we've seen (The X's Wife, The X's Daughter), you often can't tell from the titles what or who the books are going to be about.

All our Shimmering Skies; All the Children Are Home; All the Lights Above UsMany titles seem symbolic of an overarching theme from the books. They provide a sense that the novels are going to be on the literary side, or that they have a purpose and meaning that go beyond entertainment.


All the Lights We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My guess is that the historical novel above, Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, was the book that started this all off.  It had a rare combination of literary and commercial success: it won the Pulitzer Prize and the Carnegie Medal and was a Goodreads Choice Award winner (2014). You don't see that a lot.

All That Is Hidden; All the Blood We Share; All the Queen's Spies
The cover art can help provide more context, as well as the likely subgenre.  And sometimes there's a noun or two in the title that's helpful for potential readers, too.

All the Ways We Said Goodbye; All We Left Behind; All the White SpacesAre you getting an idea now about the number of these books out there?  Nearly all the books in this post have publication dates between 2021 and 2023.

All of You Every Single One; All the Seas of the World; All the Quiet PlacesThese titles do create a sense of mystery about what's inside.  (And here we have one more "places" title, to join the first three at the top of this post.)

All the Courage We Have Found; All the Little Hopes; All the Flowers of Paris
What do you think about this title trend?  Does it make you curious about the story?  The following two don't fit the exact pattern shown above, but they are close cousins.

Before All the World; The World and All It HoldsAnd just to provide a bit more information about all these books, I'll list them all separately, below, along with the historical setting. The links go to Goodreads.

All the Pretty Places, Joy Callaway (Gilded Age New York)
All the Lost Places, Amanda Dykes (19th & 20th century Venice)
All the Broken Places, John Boyne (multi-period, present-day and WWII)
All Our Shimmering Skies, Trent Dalton (WWII Australia)
All the Children Are Home, Patry Francis (1950s-60s Massachusetts)
All the Lights Above Us, M. B. Henry (occupied France)
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (WWII France)
All That Is Hidden, Rhys Bowen and Clare Broyles (1907 NYC)
All the Blood We Share, Camilla Bruce (1870s Kansas)
All the Queen's Spies, Oliver Clements (Elizabethan England)
All the Ways We Said Goodbye, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White (France, multi-period)
All We Left Behind, Danielle R. Graham (WWII Canada)
All the White Spaces, Ally Wilkes (post-WWI Antarctica)
All of You Every Single One, Beatrice Hitchman (20th-century Vienna)
All the Seas of the World, Guy Gavriel Kay (an alternate Renaissance era)
All the Quiet Places, Brian Thomas Isaac (1950s British Columbia)
All the Courage We Have Found, Carly Schabowski (1940s France)
All the Little Hopes, Leah Weiss (WWII North Carolina)
All the Flowers in Paris, Sarah Jio (WWII Paris)
Before All the World, Moriel Rothman-Zecher (1930s Philadelphia)
The World and All It Holds, Aleksandar Hemon (WWI Europe and beyond)

12 comments:

  1. I actually think about those title choices quite often and am usually feeling disappointed that someone has felt the need to ride the coattails of an already published popular book. But of course it's a tough business and they should make whatever efforts they can to sell their book. Can you tell I'm conflicted?! Am I right in thinking that the publisher usually has more sway in the title choice than the author? Thanks for highlighting this trend!

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    1. I'm conflicted also. You're right that the publisher has more say (and the final say in the end). None of these is independently published. Some of these could've been the author's choice, too. With All the Lost Places, being lost is definitely a theme (both protagonists are in that situation, and it also fits some settings), and the author echoes the phrase ("all these lost places") in the text. But I still have a concern that the title similarities are making the books seem indistinguishable, especially when they don't give a hint as to what they're about!

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  2. Also, to be fair, All the Queen's Spies was likely a riff on "all the king's men," both the book title and from the nursery rhyme, but it fits this trend too.

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  3. The publishing world has ever been thus - jumping on a trend and riding it till it's done. Doesn't bother me personally, but I'll feel sorry for those authors who're at the end of the tail, when it peters out and people stop buying the books.

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  4. Hadn't noticed that. Now, how do I UNnotice it! The volume of book titles with 'girl' in them made me deselect all (yikes!) of them.

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    1. You're right, there are a lot of those too!

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  5. In my defense, my "daughter" title came out twelve years ago, when daughter titles were somewhat rare. I would change it, but it seems that might be confusing to readers, who might think it's a new book or something. Live and learn!

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    1. Your "daughter" book (which I really enjoyed!) has such a distinctive title (and cover) that I don't think it has a chance of being confused with others fitting that pattern!

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    2. Anonymous2:26 PM

      I hope you're right Sarah! I cringe every time I see one nowadays. I had not noticed ALL the "ALL" titles till you put them ALL together like this!

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  6. Technology is a blessing and a curse for sure! So many books, so many authors having to compete with all these different forums. Gone are the days of simple bookstores and libraries. Now it's like everything else. Gotta be flashy and jump on trends to be successful. But then, we all wouldn't have these fun blogs without technology, right? This was a very interesting, insightful post. I really enjoyed it.

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