The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels


By Johanna Dickson, Digital Publicist


The naming of a book can be a difficult task for even the most creative author. The title has to be relevant to the subject matter and enticing enough to catch the attention of readers. Some of the most famous books in history started with titles that never made it off the manuscript. Surprisingly, some of them started with titles that bear no resemblance to book’s plot. A few were changed later by the publisher for commercial reasons, and a few were just a joke that the author or their family came up with.

Here are the original titles of twenty famous books. A few might surprise you:


  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was called First Impressions in the first manuscript submitted by Austen’s father. It was rejected and later submitted under the new name.
  2. The Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann was once titled They Don’t Build Statues to Businessmen.
  3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck was first called Something That Happened.
  4. 1984 by George Orwell was originally titled The Last Man in Europe. The title was apparently not commercial enough and therefore changed.
  5. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway was originally called Fiesta. The original title is still used in some foreign editions of the book.
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was titled Atticus in the beginning. When Lee decided the book was about more than just its famous protagonist Atticus Finch, she changed the title.
  7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was first conceived as Mistress Mary. The working title was used in reference to the famous nursery rhyme Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.
  8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was originally called The Kingdom by the Sea.
  9. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell had multiple original titles including Tomorrow is Another Day.
  10. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy was originally released with the title All’s Well That Ends Well.
  11. Lord of the Flies by William Golding was first called Stranger From Within.
  12. Paradise by Toni Morrison oddly had the first title of War.
  13. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was called The Strike until the author’s husband noted the title was too much of a spoiler.
  14. All The President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward was first titled At This Point in Time until it was changed to the more dramatic title.
  15. Dracula by Bram Stoker was once called The Dead Un-Dead.
  16. Jaws by Peter Benchley was jokingly called What’s Noshin’ on My Laig by the author’s father.
  17. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner was called Twilight.
  18. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was titled The War of the Ring.
  19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald had several working titles, including Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires.
  20. Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley was first called Before This Anger.


Related: 6 Books from our Adolescence that We Would Reread


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