College basketball and book titles may not seem to have much in common, until you lay the best ones out on a page and plot a course to figure out which one should win the title of champion. Duke or Carolina? Good to Greator Miracle Cures? As March Madness office pools heat up, here's a literary take on bracketology.
Good to Great is the implicit subtext of every self-help book: your're okay now, but you can be better. Only Jim Collins had the good sense to say that in a title every publisher envies. But How to Talk takes symmetry a step further by giving readers a vision of both sides of a testy situation.Combine a highly desirable result with a pleasurable activity, the more impossible the better, and you have a classic title. Eat More, Weigh Less, like Nothing Down, is an absurd promise, flirting with outrageous prevarication. But the format sells books—because people want to believe the impossible. Eat Morewins because it has symmetry too.What if the title had been Love, Medicine & Health? Yawn. Or in the previous round, The Eight-Week Cholesterol Plan? Double yawn. That's the power of promising miracles and cures. When you put both words in a title you double the power—and keep advancing.Two megasellers with magical numbers.7 Habitsalso has a flattering component (we're all effective, right?). But Mitch Albom's title grasps the concept of eternal life, which has a mysterious hold on us well beyond the workplace. Heaven moves on.A virtual dead heat between an oxymoron and an impossible promise. The edge goes to the fib because it appeals to a wider audience. After all, who doesn't want that bruise, that sore muscle, that cardiomegaly to disappear instantly? Good luck with that.Women Who Love Too Much has so much going for it. It targets women (70 percent of book buyers). It flatters their sense of romance. It suggests approval rather than disdain. And it hints that help is on the way. What woman wouldn't pick up the book?What bad thing? Is it cancer, an ingrown toenail, or a lost iPod? The severity of the "bad thing" doesn't matter. You're a good person, life's not fair, but this book will right that wrong. The champion title flatters people, offers hope, and does it with a symmetrical construct that is a play on several familiar aphorisms.
|Robert S. Miller is the president of Hyperion Books. This bracket originally appeared in The Enlightened Bracketologist, edited by Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir, out this month from Bloomsbury.|