Novels that almost had a different title

Your favorite novel could have had a very different title. At some point, the publisher, the editor, or the authors themselves decided to publish the book under these names…

Where the Wild Horses Are by Maurice Sendak

A slight difference for this title (only one word changes), a beloved children’s story by Maurice Sendak.

The thing is that the author actually wanted to feature horses but when he sat down to write and draw… he found it hard to draw these animals! So they ended up turning into “things”, wild things.

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Tomorrow is Another Day by Margaret Mitchell

(Spoiler alert for the video: movie ending).

Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With the Wind, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the base for one of the most unforgettable novels of all time, almost had a title that sounded a lot more like the name of a soap opera.

She considered Tote the Weary Load, Bugles Sang True, Not in Our Stars, and the already mentioned Tomorrow is Another Day (a bit 007). The latter is one of the most quoted lines from the film.

Gone with the Wind comes from a poem by 19th century French poet Ernest Dowson.

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Harry Potter and the School of Magic by J.K. Rowling

If you’ve read Rowling’s debut as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, then you’ve read the original UK version. The “philosopher” was changed to a “sorcerer” because her publisher was convinced that an American audience wouldn’t know what the Philosopher’s Stone was.

Also, according to Philip W. Errington’s book on the writer’s work, the publisher also tried to go with Harry Potter and the School of Magic but Rowling didn’t like it.

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Trimalchio in West Egg (and more) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald had numerous ideas for the title of his now revered book: Under the Red, White, and Blue, Gold-Hatted Gatsby, The High-Bounding Lover and his personal favorite, Trimalchio in West Egg.

The latter is a literary reference to Trimalchio, a character who enjoys life in excess in the 1st century Roman book The Satyricon by Petronius. However, the reference could have gone unnoticed so he chose The Great Gatsby, probably a better title than Gold-Hatted Gatsby.

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Catch-11 by Joseph Heller

Don’t you mean Catch-22? No, Catch-11 was one of the alternate titles for Heller’s classic, a book that gave birth to an English language expression.

Which number would follow the “catch” was debated by the author and his publisher; Heller considered 11 and 18, but they were both discarded to avoid confusion with the original Ocean’s Eleven (the 1960 film starring the Rat Pack) and Leon Uris’s Mila 18, respectively.

So why 22 then? Well, simply because it was 11 (his original choice) doubled.

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Fiesta by Ernest Hemingway

Actually, this book is called Fiesta (the original title that Hemingway wanted) in Spanish-speaking releases. You might have read it or heard of it as The Sun Also Rises. It’s also the name of the film adaptations.

The basis for the novel was Hemingway’s trip to Spain in 1925. The author loved the country as well as corridas (bullfighting).

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All’s Well That Ends Well by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s original title translated to All’s Well That Ends Well. That’s because he intended to write about an aristocratic revolutionary and his return from exile in Siberia in 1856. However, in order to explain the atmosphere of Russia just after the Crimean war, Tolstoy felt he had to go back, and then a bit more, and a bit more… until he ended up in 1805 (!) when War and Peace begins.

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Panasonic by Don DeLillo

White Noise could have been called Panasonic. And you guessed it: the change was due to a copyright issue.

DeLillo’s meditation on modern life, one of the most relevant American novels of the ’80s, was almost published under that title. But there was a problem: the Matsushita Corporation, which controlled the trademark of the famous electronic company, wouldn’t grant permission, so White Noise (also a very cool title) was born.

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Atticus by Harper Lee

It’s such a classic (both the book and the movie) that we’ve all heard of Atticus. However, it’s pretty obvious that To Kill a Mockingbird is a far prettier title.

Harper Lee made a lot of changes as she worked on her debut novel (the only one she’d write until the release of Go Set a Watchman, first promoted as a sequel, now considered a first draft of her famous book since it was written before Mockingbird).

She decided to change the title when she made the story less about Atticus Finch.

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First Impressions by Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s original title for Pride and Prejudice. Some fans think that, while it’s not a bad title, it can’t compete with the one her classic ended up having.

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Twilight by William Faulkner

When you hear Twilight, you might go “OMG” or “ugh”. But it’s not that Twilight that we’re talking about; it’s Faulkner’s classic The Sound and the Fury (great title).

If he’d gone with Twilight, Stephenie Meyer would have probably chosen a very different name for her first novel.

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The Last Man in Europe by George Orwell

Orwell released two novels now considered classics and both had a title change:

Animal Farm had a subtitle (A fairy story), and 1984 was going to be called The Last Man in Europe. It was changed at the last minute, when his publishers asked him to come up something more commercial (they thought it sounded like a story about the last human still standing after a zombie apocalypse, like the famous big screen adaptation of I am legend called The Last Man on Earth).

He went with the (at the time) futuristic year in which the novel took place: 1984.

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Something that happened by John Steinbeck

Props to Steinbeck for wanting to call his book Something that happened. Would you buy that book? Well, we’ll never know because he released it under Of Mice and Men.

The author reportedly wanted to make sure that we didn’t judge the characters one way or the other after the book’s violent conclusion; that’s why he wanted that nonjudgmental (although funny) title.

After reading Robert Burns’s poem Of Mice and Men, he found words that expressed his feeling (that humans are just victims of fate) in a very, well, poetic way.

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