10 Books With Titles That Came From Other Books

Much like how books can inspire and change people, books can inspire and even change other books, which can very well be indicated solely based on the newer ones’ titles, as if cuing us in on what the new book would be about from this little literary Easter egg!

The Fault in Our Stars book in maps room

Any book-lover would know that books can have a profound effect on our lives, enough to keep us reading, as well as encourage others to read along with them. If you have been an avid reader for years, or at the very least have done your school-assigned reading and have been paying close enough attention, you may have noticed that classic books can have a similar effect on the newer books that follow in their footsteps (or would it be page-steps?).




Much like how books can inspire and change people, books can inspire and even change other books, which can very well be indicated solely based on the newer titles, as if cuing us in on what the new book would be about from this little literary Easter egg!

So, here are ten books that were inspired by other works, whether classic or contemporary to their time but older enough to inspire. Who knows, maybe you just might be interested enough to get into these older works!



1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings book cover

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To start off our list, we have a very famous autobiography written by African American poet Maya Angelou. The book was named after a line in a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, another African American poet! Needless to say, both works deal with the lack of freedom, comparing their struggles to being like a bird trapped in a cage, suppressed to the point of breaking its wings from trying to get out…

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore, —
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

In this context, this may seem a tad obvious for this title to be named after poetry—beautiful poetry I might add—but the other picks on this list and their inspirations may surprise you.



2. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote


In Cold Blood book cover

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This book, also nonfiction, from the same author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, happens to be the first pick on the list to have a title coming from a single line in a Shakespeare play! Timon of Athens, to be exact, from Alcibiades’ speech in Act III, Scene V…

Who cannot condemn rashness in cold blood?

Given that both works have to do with murder, especially in Shakespeare’s cases countless times throughout his plays, this line fits in Capote’s nonfiction work very bloody well.



3. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green


The Fault in Our Stars book cover

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If you’re a huge fan of John Green’s works (as am I), then you were likely bawling while reading this one, as well as watching the movie for it. (For me, I was seriously crying on the inside.) Now, if you’re a true fan of specifically this book, then you would have read the bonus material within the B&N exclusive copy of the book, which explains the inspiration behind its title. It was taken from a line Cassius says to Brutus in Julius Caesar, which goes like this…

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

According to Cassius, man’s misfortune is not in their fates but in their character, most notably shown in the decisions they make or actions they take. However, in Augustus’s case by the end of the novel, the problem was not his intentions or his actions, as pure as they were; it was that, to loosely quote Green, “some people just aren’t lucky.”

*Note: before you read on, if you started to tear up just now, I suggest that you pause to take a tissue to dry your face, then continue.





4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time book cover

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This 2000s-classic novel, which spanned a Broadway musical in the mid-2010s, gets the name from Sherlock Holmes himself! In one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes short story entitled Silver Blaze, Sherlock and Watson both play a role in birthing this very unique line by sharing this exchange…

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Indeed, it was curious that the dog in Mark Haddon’s novel to get this honor, out at night…impaled by a garden fork, and only Christopher John Francis Boone can avenge him of this “curious incident”!



5. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley


Brave New World book cover

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To continue our trend of books named after Shakespeare plays, let’s hear it for the most well-known of its kind! Huxley’s 1932 novel takes its name after a line in Act V, Scene I of The Tempest, as said so optimistically by Miranda…

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in ’t! 

In both instances, it is all about coming to a “new world,” though in stark contrast to the “beauteous” world that Miranda herself sees in the play, the world portrayed in the novel is nothing of the sort.



6. The Dark Tower series – Stephen King


The Dark Tower book series

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Calling all Dark Tower series fans (or even Stephen King fans in general). The origin of this Stephen King series’ name was Robert Barrett Browning’s 1852 poem literally called “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”? In fact, a piece of this poem was spoken within Shakespeare’s play King Lear in Act III, Scene IV…

Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.

So, if I could judge by its context, Stephen King’s epic eight-book series was inspired by a line in a centuries-old poem about the giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk”? I guess some stories are timeless, especially if it inspires something that can be told in eight books!



7. Number the Stars – Lois Lowry


Number the Stars book cover

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This may be the only book on this list to have a title that stems directly from the Bible. Lowry’s title for this book comes from line 147:4, the Psalms declaring that “He [God] telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”

The inspiration behind this book added a thin extra layer for me, as the “stars” within the title can also refer to the Star of David, associated with Judaism.



8. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell


Gone with the Wind book cover

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This 1936 classic novel, set during the American Civil War, garnered its name from Ernest Dowson’s 1894 poem “Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae,” a title which translates to “I am not as I was under the reign of the good Cynara” and its theme of haunting love ties in perfectly with Mitchell’s novel…

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long…

And for those of you who don’t need to see Gone with the Wind, or any kind of romance that keeps you up at night, on this list, well… to quote Rhett, “Frankly… I don’t give a damn.” Just move on.





9. His Dark Materials series – Philip Pullman


The Golden Compass book cover of His Dark Materials book series

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This one goes out to all the fans of the recently released HBO adaptation of Pullman’s 1995 YA Fantasy trilogy. If there was ever a moment when you were scratching your head and thinking, “Why is this series called His Dark Materials?” Well, if you ever had to read John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, then it pops up in Book II, as so…

Unless th’ Almighty Maker them ordain 
His dark materials to create more Worlds,
Into this wild Abyss the warie fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell…

Or… if you don’t want to crack open your dusty copy of Milton’s work, you could just read the whole stanza in which the line appears on one of the opening pages of The Golden Compass (a.k.a. the first novel of Pullman’s series).



10. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck


Of Mice and Men book cover

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While we had to read this 1937 Steinbeck classic in back in high school, I’ll bet you didn’t know that its title was actually taken from a poem by Robert Burn called “To a Mouse.” I surely didn’t! So, in case you were wondering why there weren’t any mice in the novel (if you don’t count rabbits) when the title compares mice to men, then this would be why, though in both cases within the poem and in the novel’s title, the context of the very line is strictly metaphorical, as follows…

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Who would be better: mice or men? You get to decide…



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