The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (and other great titles)

So, in my neighborhood, there's a train track and a road that both curve in such a way that they cross each other twice. Here, I'll draw a picture of it to show you what I mean (that's the track on top, the road on the bottom):

Now, I ask you to consider, for a moment, the implications of this. Imagine: you're driving peacefully southeast along the road, la la la. As you approach the train tracks, lights start flashing and bells start ringing, the gate comes down, and you stop your car. A VERY SLOW AND VERY LONG train crosses the road from right to left. Fifteen minutes later, the caboose finally makes its appearance, the lights stop flashing, the bells stop ringing, the gate comes up, and you continue along on your merry way... and then, a few minutes later, what happens? You guessed it. Lights start flashing, bells start ringing, the gate comes down, and THE VERY SAME, VERY SLOW AND VERY LONG TRAIN crosses your road AGAIN. And this time, not only is it stupid, it's surreal, because the train is crossing your road from left to right, the opposite direction from before.

Who planned this?

I happen to love train crossings (and drawbridges and all such things), and I love this stupid, illogical train crossing most of all, because it's silly and nutty and makes me laugh. Kind of like the title of the Alexander McCall Smith mystery, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones.

(Okay, that was not an award-winning segue, but give me a break, I'm preparing for a move in 1.5 weeks and my center is barely holding. Things fall apart and nothing is illuminated and one day I'll be dead and I am always, always late and packing is heartbreaking work of staggering discouragement and I think I may be being stalked by a moonshadow.)

So. This was meant to be a post about some of my favorite book (and play and movie) titles.

Some favorite titles of books/plays I've read (and/or plays/movies I've seen):
  • John Patrick Norman McHennessy: The Boy Who Was Always Late. (A [fabulous] picturebook by John Burningham.)
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. (A book of short stories by Sherman Alexie, some of which evolved into the movie Smoke Signals, screenplay by Sherman Alexie and directed by Chris Eyre.)
  • Proof. (A play by David Auburn and, later, a movie directed by John Madden.)
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. (A play by Tom Stoppard and, later, a movie directed by Tom Stoppard.)
  • Things Fall Apart. (A book by Chinua Achebe.)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being. (A book by Milan Kundera and, later, a movie directed by Philip Kaufman.)

And here are some of my favorites among books/movies I have not read or seen (yet):
  • The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness. (A book by Elyn R. Saks.)
  • Everything Is Illuminated. (A novel by Jonathan Safran Foer and, later, a movie directed by Liev Schreiber.)
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. (A book by Dave Eggers.)
  • I'm Being Stalked by a Moonshadow. (A book by Doug MacLeod.)
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. (A book by Anne Fadiman.)
  • The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead. (A book by David Shields.)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Scones. (A book by Alexander McCall Smith.)
Hmm. Apparently I like long titles, especially titles that are entire sentences.

What do you think of my titles? What are some of your favorites?


Nasir said…
'Never Let me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro is brilliant. (
mysteryflavour said…
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert

I've always loved the name "Subtle Knife," in reference to both the book and the item for which the book is named (by Phillip Pullman).

LOTS LOTS MORE that I unfortunately can't recall, and definitely already loved some of the ones you listed.
missusb said…
I have in fact read the Doug McLeod book, 'I'm being stalked by a moonshadow', and it is GREAT! I am about to start his latest one, 'Siggy and Amber', whose title is somewhat mundane, but I am sure I will love it. (australian, so, that's how come I have easy access to it).

I love the title 'Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List', but that could be because it's a great book. No, it's def because it's a great title.

trisha from brisbane Australia
maximum ride by james patterson (AND SOON TO BE A MOVIE PRODUCED BY AVI ARAD!!!!!!! WOOT!!!!! YAY!!!!!! HURRAH!!!!!!!)
the daniel x series by james patterson
tsubasa: people with wings by natsuki takaya
bleach by i-dont-remember
the melancholy of haruhi suzumiya by i-dont-remember
the ghostgirl series by tonya hurley
the 13th reality series by james dashner
the seems series by john hulme and michael wexler
the mysterious benedict society series by trenton lee stewart.

please notice that yes i do have an obsession with wings, james patterson, n manga. DONT JUDGE ME!!!!!
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

I've been reading this book for at least 6 months now. And yet, every time I pick it up, I can remember where things were.

Plot stuff:
Funny thing about running on the beach nude and getting your picture on a magazine cover!
tinkandalissa said…
The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton. I kind of worship Tim Burton. He rocks.
Ghostie said…
First of all, those train tracks sound amazing. XD

Hmm, titles.... Socrates in Love was a work of art. (IMO) (Written by Kyoichi Katayama.)

House of Dark Shadows, Watcher in the Woods, and Gatekeepers, all by Robert Liparulo.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen.

Kino's Journey (Kino no Tabi) by Keiichi Sigsawa

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

There are a lot more, but I don't want to make this comment too long! (That, and I can't remember all of them at this moment!)
Anonymous said…
What about Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion or The Widening Gyre by Robert B. Parker? Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen? Or are you only going for a single line out of "The Second Coming"?
Anonymous said…
Along those lines, there's Slouching Towards Kalamazoo by Peter De Vries.
Artemis Grey said…
The Gashlycrumb Tinies
The Fatal Lozenge: An Alphabet
The Epiplectic Bicycle
The Doleful Domesticity; Another Novel
Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses

All of these by Edward Gory. *sigh* I love him. There are many, many more of his I could list.


Villians By Necessity, Eve Foward

Ballad of the Amored Hen (okay, this one's a wip of mine, but I'm rather fond of the title myself) :)
Sam said…
Maximum Ride by James Patterson
The Otherworld series (love them all) by Kelley Armstrong
The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
The Night World saga by L.J. Smith
Triskellion by Will Peterson
The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Clare
The Inheritance Saga by Christopher Paolini

and the list goes on and on and on...
and yes, I like Urban fantasy/Thriller alot.
Anonymous said…
Any books by Eva Ibbotson
Generation Dead and Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters
Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
The Pendragon series by D.J. Machale
Kelly H-Y said…
What a wacky train track/road combo!!! LOVE that title!!
Anonymous said…
some awesome books with awesome titles: the knife of never letting go by patrick ness- absolutely amazing, sublte knife is great too mystery flavor, i'd tell you i love you but then i'd have to kill you was a fun book, frozen fire by tim bowler was interesting, and peeps by scott westerfeld was great, funny and informative about parasites. but yeah, we also have some train tracks like the one in your city, but its more annoying cuz its rite by where i have swim practice and they do switch cars and they r ther 4ever!!
Unknown said…
This topic was a great idea Kristin, its wonderful to read what other ppls favourite books are. Although imagining the trains made me go crosseyed (o_O);

A fun book I liked recently was Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar.

Seventeen: I'm definetly going to try Socrates in Love by Kyoichi Katayama it looks amazing. Kino no Tabi is my all time favourite anime.

Books I'm looking forward to read:

The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.
Train man by Hitori Nakano
Kristin Cashore said…
HA HA okay, my modernism teacher would not be impressed that I didn't even notice that two of my titles made up a line in "The Second Coming." (For those not familiar with the Yeats poem: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold".)

I totally agree with a lot of these titles, esp. I Am America (And So Can You!). And the Gory. And A Wrinkle in Time, how did I forget that one? I actually had A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius on my list, and only removed it because the list was getting too long.

This is the second time someone's commented about Oscar Wao recently. I just finished it earlier in the week. It was really, really, really, really, really good. REALLY.
Nina said…
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones and The Epileptic Bicycle sound excellent.
I've always wanted to read Things Fall Apart, but I never really took the time to do so... am I missing out?

Some fun titles:
America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart sounds both funny and tragic.
Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter... can't say I'd ever read it, but the title always makes me laugh.
When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris.
Fancy White Trash by Marjetta Geerling.
Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.
"Grandma's Got It Going On" is part of a poetry slam by Shane Koyczan that I absolutely adore:
A Million Words said…
My favorite title is Get A Life That Doesn't Suck by Michelle DeAngelis. I haven't read it though, because my life is awesome.

-jake the girl
conlombardo said…
I saw a title in the library today of a book I would like to read one day: Because It Is Bitter and Because It is My Heart by Joyce Carol Oates. She has lots of great titles (and great books) but right now I'm reading The Penderwicks. It's a little too sad for me at the moment, but also beautiful.

And of course A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Great title and great pen name.
clombardo said…
Re: Oscar Wao, what an amazing book. Junot Diaz spoke in our local library, in Asheville, NC. Not only is he a genius, he's also very handsome, sweet and extremely humble.
Kim A said…
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You, Peter Cameron.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon

Both of which live up to their titles.

Everything On a Waffle, Polly Horvath (which also lives up to it's title, and is Canadian, to boot!)
Kristin Cashore said…
Oh, I LOVE Polly Horvath, esp. Everything on a Waffle. And yes, Things Fall Apart is well worth reading. And that Joyce Carol Oates title has struck me, too!
Aria said…
favorite titles?

Midsummer Night's Dream

By these Ten Bones

Keturah and Lord Death

Dragon Slippers


Wondrous Strange

Cry of the Icemark

I'm not in the mood to go dragging my laptop into my closet/library.
Kristina said…
My favorite titles would have to be:

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks (also a fairly hysterical take on vampires)

A Man For All Seasons (a play by Robert Bolt centered around the life of Sir Thomas More and his relationship with Henry VIII)

That is my list for now! Great topic idea, and I also must find those train tracks. ;)
Anonymous said…
Here I was, thinking that all your references to the center not holding over the past few weeks was a deliberate demonstration of intertextuality. And now you're saying that you weren't thinking about it?

Even if accidental, it was still enjoyable.
Anonymous said…
Hi Kristin,I recommend to you this book:
I will try some of your favorite books. English is my second language and still I have a lot of good books to read. I saw your book "Graceling" in Spanish and I think the translation is excellent.
alanajoli said…
Your train track/road is part of a Vesica Piscis! Obviously your urban planners were thinking on a spiritual level.

Two titles I've liked recently were:
Dead to Me by Anton Strout (urban fantasy with undead)

and, tangentially

You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay (a YA, also with undead)

Mark Henry also does great title: Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead.
Gina Browniing said…
Love your site!
Thanks for all the great suggestions and for bringing your talent to my attention.
Best of luck in your future endeavors!
Gina Browning

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