The [just published] Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer sports a title that sets viscosity records in mental stickiness. It reminds us by example that titles are much more than accessories or afterthoughts. Would I have opened the book, Heroic Librarians Save the Day down Sub-Sahara Way? Probably not.
A title—bad-ass or otherwise—contributes disproportionately to a book’s identity. And it wields added weight via the Primacy Effect, which skews the impact of messages positioned up front.
The above title succeeds on multiple fronts. Each of its components—i.e., bad-ass librarians; Timbuktu—evokes concrete images. And their juxtaposition is amusingly anomalous. You just might open the book to find out why.
What’s more, the title’s got rhythm. Individually and in combination, its components aid and abet percussive, polyrhythmic cadences. On first and subsequent hearings, the title’s 11-syllable play-out seemed vaguely familiar. Then I remembered the Owl and the Pussycat:
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
The Owl and the pussy cat went to sea