July 26, 2006

Books Whose Titles Say It All

This morning Ambivablog has a post about Iraq, a post I'm linking to not because of Iraq but because of an offhand remark about "books whose titles say volumes," in this case Peter Galbraith's The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End and Thomas Ricks' Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. It made me think about the fact that there are certain books whose titles are so pithy and illuminating that they obviate reading the book. The titles say it all and the rest of three hundred pages of padding with examples. Often these are outstanding books with worthwhile, even important, ideas, but why spend twenty bucks and a couple of weeks when you can understand the whole message from a four-word phrase?

My favorite is Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. That's right, Neil, we Americans are slowly destroying our civilization from within by spending all our time watching television, obsessing about celebrities, foaming at the mouth about spectator sports, getting stoned at rock concerts, and masturbating in front of our computers. Now leave me alone while I go watch VH1's Celebrity Fit Camp.

Next candidate...?

The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. True, very true, Ernest (who died so soon after finishing your book you received a posthumous Pulitzer). All of civilization is a massive project of self-deception, of whistling in the dark, trying to persuade ourselves that our lives have importance when we're just going to short out at any moment and leave not a spark behind; and yet we, who have been placed here for so short a time for such unknowable reasons if any, must strive heroically in the face of fate to blah blah blah...

Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher. Yes, yes, unrestrained growth is a cancer on our society, and therefore I'll keep this observation short.

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Ah, how well you knew, Virginia, that each of us, male or female but especially female for some reason, needs solitude and space and leisure time in order to fulfill our creative potential. So don't distract me any further; let me engage my own mind, free from the elevated chatter of trendy classic authors.

And I can't help adding: I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson. Just my little joke, folks.

Anybody else have any suggestions for the list? And any fiction? I can't think of any novels that meet the standard of having titles so fully explanatory that they make reading the book unnecessary.