C by Tom McCarthy, one of the novels shortlisted for this year's Booker Prize, is not the first novel to be assigned a single letter from the alphabet as its title. In fact, there are numerous examples that stretch from A by Andy Warhol to Z by Vassilis Vassilikos, although not every letter of the alphabet appears to have been singled out for the literary treatment – does anyone want R?
Literary superstars like John Berger, John Updike and Thomas Pynchon all have penned single letter titled books. Purists will be quick to say some of these titles on our list are subtitled by the words ‘A Novel’ but thousands of books are named this way and readers seem to gloss over this aspect of naming literature. Others have longer subtitles but we’re talking about titles, not subtitles.
Although there is some memorable reads on this list, authors and publishers would be wise to move away from this trend as the influence of the Internet continues to affect book-buying. Single letter titles are not particularly friendly to Internet search engines that thrive more detailed data than just A or B. It’s also interesting to debate whether V by Thomas Pynchon is more memorable than a longer title like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. To some people length matters, to others it does not matter at all.
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