Title trends come and go. Sometimes they’re a phrase—we were all there for the “A noun of noun and noun” young adult fantasy trend. Is it over yet? It felt like a bad case of déjà vu every time I walked into the YA section there for a while. Like, wait, didn’t this book come out last month? Oh, no, it’s a different combination of 1- to 2-syllable nouns, I see that now. Silly me. I guess I should not speak of that which I do not know—I never read A Court of Thorns and Roses or A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, and whatever the heck else. And I’m needlessly proud of that. Moving on.
I have, however, participated and become complicit in the “X lives/life of Y Z” trend. Or sometimes it’s “X deaths,” or “life AND death.” They mix it up once in a while. Though a significant enough number of books titled by this formula have become super popular, recently I’ve found a lot more than I thought there were.
I saw enough of these that I just felt like compiling a quick list of the ones I’ve seen and maybe looking in to reading a few.
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer (2010)
I know this Twilight novella was not one of the slew of other popular like titles that emerged following this pattern in recent years. But we have to admit this one matches the formula—and predates all of the other entries in my list. Did it have a role in starting the trend? I couldn’t prove it one way or the other. Love it or hate it, this is an intriguing title. I haven’t read it, nor do I intend to (though I like the fact that it’s short, as per the title), but it deserves a place on this list.
The Seven (and a Half) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (2018)
Is it the seven deaths or 7 1/2 deaths? It seems to be a case of different release titles for different countries/regions, but whatever the situation is, I’ve seen this book around for what seems like ages and had it recommended to me by a friend with discerning taste in books, so it’s currently on my official “to-read” list.
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas (2021)
When I saw this book in the store, it gave me the idea for this post. It is a very recent entry in the title trend, published just this year. I had never heard of it, but it followed the formula so nicely: a number and then “Lives of” and then “Firstname Lastname.” Could it be any more on-trend? And it has a nice cover, so that’s a plus too.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (2017)
For being an earlier (relatively) utilization of the trend, I hadn’t heard anything about this book. I literally stumbled upon it in a library recently, noticing first the title and its recognizable cadence—the numbered lives of so-and-so such-and-such—-and then was surprised to see that I know the author. I read The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti years ago, and really liked it despite some writing style quibbles. She creates a unique and realistic atmosphere, while the story is somewhat fantastic at the same time. I was really impressed by how she crafted the story around unknowns and half-truths, only to have the biggest lie anyone tells in the book turn out to be hard facts. It was pretty great. Makes me curious to read this other book of hers, but it hasn’t officially made it into the list yet. (Update: It made it to my list; read my review here.)
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (2014)
Now this one, I have read. I got hooked, admittedly, by the title and then the premise reeled me all the way in. I have fond memories of reading this book, even though it nearly was lost to the dreaded DNF pile. I had literally just implemented an “at 30% I love it or I ditch it” policy because I’d been disappointed one too many times, when I started this book. Early on, it was a bit of a slow go, as the first couple of lives are fairly repetitive as Harry realizes that he’s cursed to live his life over and over again. But by the time I got to 20-25%, it had gotten good and I was all in. I would recommend anyone give this book a chance; it gets wild. Maybe not for everyone in the end, but I really enjoyed it, and that’s all I can say.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab (2020)
We’ve gotten out of the numbers and into the adjectives, all right! This is another of the more famous entries, and it’s one I have little desire to read. I’ve heard a bit about the plot and it doesn’t exactly appeal to me. With the right writing, it could be very good (and obviously, a lot of people think it is), but I recently read the first two books of Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, and no shade to her, but I don’t think her writing is for me. This story does seem to be quite a different tone from the action-fantasy genre of the Shades series, so maybe she slays in it, I don’t know. Right now, I just don’t have the interest to find out.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014)
I will admit I did a little searching the Google for books with “life” and “death” in the title for this post. Research, okay? But anyway, when this one popped up, I realized I’d heard of it before and I remember exactly where. It was in one of Jesse the Reader’s videos on YouTube when he was doing a bookshelf tour, or unhaul, or something. Whatever it was, his review of it was positive and from what little I vaguely remember of the given plot synopsis, it actually sounds like an interesting book that I might enjoy reading. Someday. (Update: Someday came; read my review of it here.)
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (2015)
Here we get a two for one—life and death in the same title. Another random find in the library: the same library and same day as the Hannah Tinti find, incidentally. This one is also fairly early in the running, beaten only by Bree Tanner (which has a four-year lead on everyone else in this list) and the tied Harry August and A. J. Fikry. Also, it’s interesting that there are two authors in this list with the last name “North.” This deserved more investigation: I turned to the Google once again. Turns out that Claire North is indeed a pseudonym, however, Anna North doesn’t seem to be. But Claire North’s book came out before Anna North’s, so who is copying who on what? Anyway, I have nothing else to say about this book (not that I really said anything specific about it anyway): haven’t read it, barely know what it’s about, the title fits the trend. That’s it.
So there you have it—eight books and over ten years in the “life-and-death-and-full-names-in-titles” trend. Which ones have you read? Are there any other titles I didn’t include on my list? Comment below and validate my compulsion to write this list.