The Power of Numbers

Scotland headerNicola here. A short and hopefully sweet blog from me today as I’m heading off on holiday to Scotland soon and am surrounded by dog and human packing and am trying to work out how much food we will all need for 2 weeks in remote locations!

Anyway, back to the blog, and a writing friend mentioned to me a week or so ago that she thought numbers in book titles were becoming a trend. Just as there had been “girl” titles, so there are now number titles, and a glance at the UK charts seems to support this: Joanna Cannon’s new book is called “Three Things about Elsie” and Jonas Johannsen has written “The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred Year Old Man” to name but two.

Of course, books with numbers in the titles are nothing new. The Three Musketeers was written back in 1844 and The Thirty Nine 39 steps Steps in 1915. (And when you look at John Buchan's books he obviously had a thing about using numbers in titles!) There is definitely something appealing about numbers. According to psychologists and marketing gurus, numbers are a time honoured way of grabbing attention. Our brains are attracted to numbers because of the way they are wired to organise information into a logical order. Curiously other things about numbers are that they attract our attention more if they are written as 7 rather than seven – a number is better than a word. Small numbers are more attractive than larger ones and odd numbers apparently have more appeal than even ones, which really is – odd.

6th wifePerhaps it’s the case that our minds have been trained by social media and by the way that articles in magazines, newspapers and online so often list information in bitesized chunks. But with book titles there is more to it than just logical appeal. There is definitely an intriguing, mystery element about numbers. If we read a title such as “The Ninth Sister” we wonder about the other eight and why the ninth is special. Where do the 39 steps lead?

Some people use the numbers in book titles as a system of organising their bookshelves, which you could also do with colours, or with places (village, town, lake, sea etc) or in lots of other ways. At present the numbers in titles fashion doesn’t seem to have spilled over into romance books as much as some other genres such a crime and thriller, but perhaps it’s only a matter of time. Or perhaps a book called The Seventh Duke wouldn’t be as interesting to a historical romance fan because we would assume the previous six were simply his ancestors!

Do you find numbers in book titles intriguing? Do odd number s work better for you than even? And do you have a favourite book to recommend with a number in the title?

80 thoughts on “The Power of Numbers”

  1. I definitely prefer numbers to “The So-and-So’s Daughter” fad, which is sexist and dismissive of women – even book heroines! – as nothing other than a sidekick of a man, not a person in her own right.
    The problem with any title fad is that it gets easy to mix them up, but then I guess I don’t bother remembering historical romance titles anymore, for the same reason (all those Scandals and Dukes)! I tend to remember favourite authors instead.
    You’re right: “The Seventh Duke” definitely wouldn’t work.
    Enjoy Scotland. We recently had the same problem with shopping for remote accommodation and worrying what we’d forgotten to take with us!

    Reply
  2. I definitely prefer numbers to “The So-and-So’s Daughter” fad, which is sexist and dismissive of women – even book heroines! – as nothing other than a sidekick of a man, not a person in her own right.
    The problem with any title fad is that it gets easy to mix them up, but then I guess I don’t bother remembering historical romance titles anymore, for the same reason (all those Scandals and Dukes)! I tend to remember favourite authors instead.
    You’re right: “The Seventh Duke” definitely wouldn’t work.
    Enjoy Scotland. We recently had the same problem with shopping for remote accommodation and worrying what we’d forgotten to take with us!

    Reply
  3. I definitely prefer numbers to “The So-and-So’s Daughter” fad, which is sexist and dismissive of women – even book heroines! – as nothing other than a sidekick of a man, not a person in her own right.
    The problem with any title fad is that it gets easy to mix them up, but then I guess I don’t bother remembering historical romance titles anymore, for the same reason (all those Scandals and Dukes)! I tend to remember favourite authors instead.
    You’re right: “The Seventh Duke” definitely wouldn’t work.
    Enjoy Scotland. We recently had the same problem with shopping for remote accommodation and worrying what we’d forgotten to take with us!

    Reply
  4. I definitely prefer numbers to “The So-and-So’s Daughter” fad, which is sexist and dismissive of women – even book heroines! – as nothing other than a sidekick of a man, not a person in her own right.
    The problem with any title fad is that it gets easy to mix them up, but then I guess I don’t bother remembering historical romance titles anymore, for the same reason (all those Scandals and Dukes)! I tend to remember favourite authors instead.
    You’re right: “The Seventh Duke” definitely wouldn’t work.
    Enjoy Scotland. We recently had the same problem with shopping for remote accommodation and worrying what we’d forgotten to take with us!

    Reply
  5. I definitely prefer numbers to “The So-and-So’s Daughter” fad, which is sexist and dismissive of women – even book heroines! – as nothing other than a sidekick of a man, not a person in her own right.
    The problem with any title fad is that it gets easy to mix them up, but then I guess I don’t bother remembering historical romance titles anymore, for the same reason (all those Scandals and Dukes)! I tend to remember favourite authors instead.
    You’re right: “The Seventh Duke” definitely wouldn’t work.
    Enjoy Scotland. We recently had the same problem with shopping for remote accommodation and worrying what we’d forgotten to take with us!

    Reply
  6. Very interesting, Nicola, and what the research says about how we respond to numbers sounds accurate to me. But as you say, not so likely to catch on in romance. HER 3RD HUSBAND? I don’t think so!

    Reply
  7. Very interesting, Nicola, and what the research says about how we respond to numbers sounds accurate to me. But as you say, not so likely to catch on in romance. HER 3RD HUSBAND? I don’t think so!

    Reply
  8. Very interesting, Nicola, and what the research says about how we respond to numbers sounds accurate to me. But as you say, not so likely to catch on in romance. HER 3RD HUSBAND? I don’t think so!

    Reply
  9. Very interesting, Nicola, and what the research says about how we respond to numbers sounds accurate to me. But as you say, not so likely to catch on in romance. HER 3RD HUSBAND? I don’t think so!

    Reply
  10. Very interesting, Nicola, and what the research says about how we respond to numbers sounds accurate to me. But as you say, not so likely to catch on in romance. HER 3RD HUSBAND? I don’t think so!

    Reply
  11. Sarah MacLean –
    Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
    Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord
    Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart
    Janet Evonovich
    ABC books like Sue Grafton – easy to remember.

    Reply
  12. Sarah MacLean –
    Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
    Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord
    Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart
    Janet Evonovich
    ABC books like Sue Grafton – easy to remember.

    Reply
  13. Sarah MacLean –
    Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
    Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord
    Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart
    Janet Evonovich
    ABC books like Sue Grafton – easy to remember.

    Reply
  14. Sarah MacLean –
    Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
    Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord
    Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart
    Janet Evonovich
    ABC books like Sue Grafton – easy to remember.

    Reply
  15. Sarah MacLean –
    Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
    Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord
    Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart
    Janet Evonovich
    ABC books like Sue Grafton – easy to remember.

    Reply
  16. Julia Quinn already has “Ten Things I Love About You.”
    With my built-in trouble with numbers “jumping around” I’m not very attracted to them. And I do better when they appear as words rather than digits. But my problems do turn me away.
    And you will have noticed that I remembered an older romance title containing a number (but I looked at my title list to be sure I had the correct title).

    Reply
  17. Julia Quinn already has “Ten Things I Love About You.”
    With my built-in trouble with numbers “jumping around” I’m not very attracted to them. And I do better when they appear as words rather than digits. But my problems do turn me away.
    And you will have noticed that I remembered an older romance title containing a number (but I looked at my title list to be sure I had the correct title).

    Reply
  18. Julia Quinn already has “Ten Things I Love About You.”
    With my built-in trouble with numbers “jumping around” I’m not very attracted to them. And I do better when they appear as words rather than digits. But my problems do turn me away.
    And you will have noticed that I remembered an older romance title containing a number (but I looked at my title list to be sure I had the correct title).

    Reply
  19. Julia Quinn already has “Ten Things I Love About You.”
    With my built-in trouble with numbers “jumping around” I’m not very attracted to them. And I do better when they appear as words rather than digits. But my problems do turn me away.
    And you will have noticed that I remembered an older romance title containing a number (but I looked at my title list to be sure I had the correct title).

    Reply
  20. Julia Quinn already has “Ten Things I Love About You.”
    With my built-in trouble with numbers “jumping around” I’m not very attracted to them. And I do better when they appear as words rather than digits. But my problems do turn me away.
    And you will have noticed that I remembered an older romance title containing a number (but I looked at my title list to be sure I had the correct title).

    Reply
  21. I don’t care too much about numbers in book titles, but I do have a favourite book with a number in the title: Three Fates by Nora Roberts.

    Reply
  22. I don’t care too much about numbers in book titles, but I do have a favourite book with a number in the title: Three Fates by Nora Roberts.

    Reply
  23. I don’t care too much about numbers in book titles, but I do have a favourite book with a number in the title: Three Fates by Nora Roberts.

    Reply
  24. I don’t care too much about numbers in book titles, but I do have a favourite book with a number in the title: Three Fates by Nora Roberts.

    Reply
  25. I don’t care too much about numbers in book titles, but I do have a favourite book with a number in the title: Three Fates by Nora Roberts.

    Reply
  26. What a fun post, Nicola; you made me chuckle with your “and odd numbers apparently have more appeal than even ones, which really is – odd.”
    One (ha) romance I like is Lisa Kleypas’ It Happened One Autumn. An old favorite is 84, Charing Cross Road. In the non-fiction realm, I liked Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
    Should I mention Fifty Shades of Grey?
    Happy Scottish travels!

    Reply
  27. What a fun post, Nicola; you made me chuckle with your “and odd numbers apparently have more appeal than even ones, which really is – odd.”
    One (ha) romance I like is Lisa Kleypas’ It Happened One Autumn. An old favorite is 84, Charing Cross Road. In the non-fiction realm, I liked Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
    Should I mention Fifty Shades of Grey?
    Happy Scottish travels!

    Reply
  28. What a fun post, Nicola; you made me chuckle with your “and odd numbers apparently have more appeal than even ones, which really is – odd.”
    One (ha) romance I like is Lisa Kleypas’ It Happened One Autumn. An old favorite is 84, Charing Cross Road. In the non-fiction realm, I liked Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
    Should I mention Fifty Shades of Grey?
    Happy Scottish travels!

    Reply
  29. What a fun post, Nicola; you made me chuckle with your “and odd numbers apparently have more appeal than even ones, which really is – odd.”
    One (ha) romance I like is Lisa Kleypas’ It Happened One Autumn. An old favorite is 84, Charing Cross Road. In the non-fiction realm, I liked Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
    Should I mention Fifty Shades of Grey?
    Happy Scottish travels!

    Reply
  30. What a fun post, Nicola; you made me chuckle with your “and odd numbers apparently have more appeal than even ones, which really is – odd.”
    One (ha) romance I like is Lisa Kleypas’ It Happened One Autumn. An old favorite is 84, Charing Cross Road. In the non-fiction realm, I liked Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
    Should I mention Fifty Shades of Grey?
    Happy Scottish travels!

    Reply
  31. Thanks, Sonya! We had a fantastic holiday and fortunately remembered everything we needed to take with us!
    I agree about the “daughter/sister/wife” fashion for titles and the way they reduce a character to an adjunct of another – usually male – character. I do find number titles intriguing but like all of these fads, when it gets too much they all merge!

    Reply
  32. Thanks, Sonya! We had a fantastic holiday and fortunately remembered everything we needed to take with us!
    I agree about the “daughter/sister/wife” fashion for titles and the way they reduce a character to an adjunct of another – usually male – character. I do find number titles intriguing but like all of these fads, when it gets too much they all merge!

    Reply
  33. Thanks, Sonya! We had a fantastic holiday and fortunately remembered everything we needed to take with us!
    I agree about the “daughter/sister/wife” fashion for titles and the way they reduce a character to an adjunct of another – usually male – character. I do find number titles intriguing but like all of these fads, when it gets too much they all merge!

    Reply
  34. Thanks, Sonya! We had a fantastic holiday and fortunately remembered everything we needed to take with us!
    I agree about the “daughter/sister/wife” fashion for titles and the way they reduce a character to an adjunct of another – usually male – character. I do find number titles intriguing but like all of these fads, when it gets too much they all merge!

    Reply
  35. Thanks, Sonya! We had a fantastic holiday and fortunately remembered everything we needed to take with us!
    I agree about the “daughter/sister/wife” fashion for titles and the way they reduce a character to an adjunct of another – usually male – character. I do find number titles intriguing but like all of these fads, when it gets too much they all merge!

    Reply
  36. Ah, so Julia Quinn has had some number titles too! I do think there is an appeal to it if used in the right way but that’s interesting how number titles can actually be a turn off if you have a built in issue with them. I’m ok with simple numbers but wouldn’t bother with anything complex in a title for the same reason.

    Reply
  37. Ah, so Julia Quinn has had some number titles too! I do think there is an appeal to it if used in the right way but that’s interesting how number titles can actually be a turn off if you have a built in issue with them. I’m ok with simple numbers but wouldn’t bother with anything complex in a title for the same reason.

    Reply
  38. Ah, so Julia Quinn has had some number titles too! I do think there is an appeal to it if used in the right way but that’s interesting how number titles can actually be a turn off if you have a built in issue with them. I’m ok with simple numbers but wouldn’t bother with anything complex in a title for the same reason.

    Reply
  39. Ah, so Julia Quinn has had some number titles too! I do think there is an appeal to it if used in the right way but that’s interesting how number titles can actually be a turn off if you have a built in issue with them. I’m ok with simple numbers but wouldn’t bother with anything complex in a title for the same reason.

    Reply
  40. Ah, so Julia Quinn has had some number titles too! I do think there is an appeal to it if used in the right way but that’s interesting how number titles can actually be a turn off if you have a built in issue with them. I’m ok with simple numbers but wouldn’t bother with anything complex in a title for the same reason.

    Reply
  41. Thanks, Kareni! It was a lovely trip to the far North! Interesting that numerical titles in a different sense – ie, listing three things like “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” or “it happened one Autumn” can also have an appeal. There is something attractive to a lot of readers, I think, about lists!

    Reply
  42. Thanks, Kareni! It was a lovely trip to the far North! Interesting that numerical titles in a different sense – ie, listing three things like “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” or “it happened one Autumn” can also have an appeal. There is something attractive to a lot of readers, I think, about lists!

    Reply
  43. Thanks, Kareni! It was a lovely trip to the far North! Interesting that numerical titles in a different sense – ie, listing three things like “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” or “it happened one Autumn” can also have an appeal. There is something attractive to a lot of readers, I think, about lists!

    Reply
  44. Thanks, Kareni! It was a lovely trip to the far North! Interesting that numerical titles in a different sense – ie, listing three things like “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” or “it happened one Autumn” can also have an appeal. There is something attractive to a lot of readers, I think, about lists!

    Reply
  45. Thanks, Kareni! It was a lovely trip to the far North! Interesting that numerical titles in a different sense – ie, listing three things like “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” or “it happened one Autumn” can also have an appeal. There is something attractive to a lot of readers, I think, about lists!

    Reply

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