Can You Guess What a Book is About Based on the Title?

Can You Guess What a Book is About Based on the Title? January 30, 2021
Not too long ago, out of the random blue, when my wife and I were dining at IHOP and taking part of the $ 5.00 menu that is available after 2, for fun I started reading to her some book titles that came out in 2020. I asked her what she thought the book was about based on the title. She would then tell me her thoughts on what the book was about and then afterward I read to her the actual description. The results were rather comical. We thought this might actually make a great Youtube show. And perhaps I might explore that avenue at some point. But I decided to turn it into a blog post instead.
I suppose that a book title will either help sell your particular piece of writing or not. You can’t judge a book or story by its title, but it does help to convey to the reader what overall story you’re trying to tell to others. Listed below are 12 books published in 2020 in a variety of different genres. I gave my wife the title and she wrote what she thought the book might be about. I then read her the real description and she then gave her reaction to hearing what the real book was really all about. So here it is and I hope you can have some fun with this as we did.

Before reading the actual description, can you guess what the book might be about?

Maybe you can play the game yourself, with this list or one that you make up.

Abide With Me (2020) A Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery by Jane Willan

Before Reading Description of Book: It is a religious book for Christians. The Me is Jesus. Maybe the Triune God. It is a book for adults of faith. Like preaching to the choir. Even a choir needs reminders and a deepening of faith.

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Actual Description of Book:  The season of Epiphany is in full swing at Gwenafwy Abbey when ten new nuns from a convent in Los Angeles join the community of Anglican sisters in Wales. They bring energy, youthful enthusiasm, and more electronic equipment than Sister Agatha could have imagined. The arrival of the new nuns brings something else to the Abbey—a bit of unexpected notoriety. Claire Pennoyer, an ambitious young reporter for The Church Times, interviews the new sisters for a feature story. Murder is the last thing on anyone’s mind when Claire is found dead on the beach, her mobile phone in the sand. A tragic death, says Constable Barnes. A selfie gone bad. Meanwhile, Sister Agatha is unconvinced and puts on her detective’s hat. Clues abound including the mysterious discovery of a missing key baked into the king’s cake for the feast of Epiphany. Sister Agatha’s tangled list of suspects includes even the abbey’s residents – and the beloved archbishop of Wales. Worst of all are her worries about the abbey’s beloved Shetland pony, Bartimaeus, who may be reaching the end of a noble life. Time is running out as Sister Agatha uncovers a shocking reality. Will she reveal the truth hidden in an ancient document before it is too late? (Amazon Description)

In Abide With Me, Jane Willan blends cozy Welsh village, sparkling humor, and enough action to keep pages turning.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: Well it is about a group of Christians, but not what I was thinking. It does sound intriguing.

The Address Book (2020) What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power by Deirdre Mask 

Before Reading Description of Book: The precursor to the phone book.  Put out every year.  Only white protestant men were allowed to have their name  in the United States.  Another book was lesser known for African American men.  Some immigrant families started their own secret books, but these were usually for either those very local or those from your same religious group and very local.  When immigrants who were not white protestants a new book came out and by then the phone book allowed all families.

The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power

Actual Description of Book:  When most people think about street addresses, if they think of them at all, it is in their capacity to ensure that the postman can deliver mail or a traveler won’t get lost. But street addresses were not invented to help you find your way; they were created to find you. In many parts of the world, your address can reveal your race and class.

In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Deirdre Mask looks at the fate of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr., the wayfinding means of ancient Romans, and how Nazis haunt the streets of modern Germany. The flipside of having an address is not having one, and we also see what that means for millions of people today, including those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London.

Filled with fascinating people and histories, The Address Book illuminates the complex and sometimes hidden stories behind street names and their power to name, to hide, to decide who counts, who doesn’t―and why.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: Sounds like this would make a great documentary.

The Barnabus Project (2020) Eric Fan, Terry Fan, Devin Fan (Illustrator)

Before Reading Description of Book: He was the one who climbed the tree to see Jesus. It is about how we have to fiugitvly climb the tree as we search for a deeper relationship with Christ who never stops loving us.

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Actual Description of Book:  In a world built for Perfect Pets, Barnabus is a Failed Project, half mouse, half elephant, kept out of sight until his dreams of freedom lead him and his misfit friends on a perilous adventure. A stunning picture book from international bestsellers The Fan Brothers, joined by their brother Devin Fan.

Deep underground beneath Perfect Pets, where children can buy genetically engineered “perfect” creatures, there is a secret lab. Barnabus and his friends live in this lab, but none of them is perfect. They are all Failed Projects. Barnabus has never been outside his tiny bell jar, yet he dreams of one day seeing the world above ground that his pal Pip the cockroach has told him about: a world with green hills and trees, and buildings that reach all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars. But Barnabus may have to reach the outside world sooner than he thought, because the Green Rubber Suits are about to recycle all Failed Projects . . . and Barnabus doesn’t want to be made into a fluffier pet with bigger eyes. He just wants to be himself. So he decides it’s time for he and the others to escape. With his little trunk and a lot of cooperation and courage, Barnabus sets out to find freedom — and a place where he and his friends can finally be accepted for who they are.

This suspenseful, poignant and magical story about following your dreams and finding where you truly belong will draw readers into a surreal, lushly detailed world in which perfection really means being true to yourself and your friends.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: Reminds me of the first Toy Story movie though I am not sure why.  My guess about what it might be about was not even close.  It sounds like it would make a great children’s movie.

Hidden Valley Road (2020) Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Before Reading Description of Book: Sounds hallmarkish. In the end there is a lovely and respectable romance that blossoms. Unless it is about Ranch dressing.

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Actual Description of Book: The heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don’s work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins—aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony—and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?

What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.

With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family’s unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope

Reaction After Learning Real Description: Wow that sounds like a great book and a challenging disorder. These “children” and my parents generation.

The Book of Lost Names (2020) by Kristin Harmel 

Before Reading Description of Book:  It is about the history of graves or found remains and no one really know who the people were or why they all died then and there. There is no book, the names are lost. People guess based on historic evidence and testing of bones etc.


Actual Description of Book: Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: Wow! A tear jerker for sure.

Overground Railroad (2020) The Green Book & Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy A. Taylor 

Before Reading Description of Book:  It is about how the railroads built in the 1800’s changed travel, immigration, food transport, gave people jobs, and people who died because it was a hard and dangerous job with no employee safety laws, unions for them etc.


Actual Description of Book: The first book to explore the historical role and residual impact of the Green Book, a travel guide for black motorists

Published from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book was hailed as the “black travel guide to America.” At that time, it was very dangerous and difficult for African-Americans to travel because black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or buy gas at most white-owned businesses. The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that were safe for black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and Overground Railroad celebrates the stories of those who put their names in the book and stood up against segregation. It shows the history of the Green Book, how we arrived at our present historical moment, and how far we still have to go when it comes to race relations in America.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: Terrible that we should have such a book at all. People can be so prejudice. All are welcome should have been in every restaurant , motel/hotel etc.

The Governess of Greenmere (2020) by Paul Leone 

Before Reading Description of Book: It is about a woman taking care of children in a well to do family in a home called Greenmere.  She worked hard and the children seldom spent time with their parents.  This is her story.

The Governess of Greenmere by [Paul Leone]

Actual Description of Book: Britain, 1899.

Young orphan Elise Cooper applies for a job as governess. Leaving the bustling city to work for a rural aristocrat should have been peaceful, and yet… Hardly has Elise settled in at the remote Barsetshire estate of Greenmere House before she finds evidence that her employers are at the center of an ancient mystery. She quickly realizes that her understanding of history and the world around her are about to be fundamentally challenged.

Armed only with her good common sense and strange abilities she didn’t know she had, Elise finds herself pulled into a shadowy otherworld, the scene of a great battle between good and evil. Can she prove her worth and rise above the challenges, and in the process save Britain from the evil powers that lurk in the darkness?

Reaction After Learning Real Description: I was close, so close .  It was just a guess though.

A Very Punchable Face (2020) by Colin Jost 

Before Reading Description of Book: It is about someone who was not liked by their peers because of race or faith.  The saying among these kids was “I otta punch him in the face.”  In the end the disliked boy saves the life of a peer and no one ever says that about him again.


Actual Description of Book: If there’s one trait that makes someone well suited to comedy, it’s being able to take a punch—metaphorically and, occasionally, physically.

From growing up in a family of firefighters on Staten Island to commuting three hours a day to high school and “seeing the sights” (like watching a Russian woman throw a stroller off the back of a ferry), to attending Harvard while Facebook was created, Jost shares how he has navigated the world like a slightly smarter Forrest Gump.

You’ll also discover things about Jost that will surprise and confuse you, like how Jimmy Buffett saved his life, how Czech teenagers attacked him with potato salad, how an insect laid eggs inside his legs, and how he competed in a twenty-five-man match at WrestleMania (and almost won). You’ll go behind the scenes at SNL and Weekend Update (where he’s written some of the most memorable sketches and jokes of the past fifteen years). And you’ll experience the life of a touring stand-up comedian—from performing in rural college cafeterias at noon to opening for Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall.

For every accomplishment (hosting the Emmys), there is a setback (hosting the Emmys). And for every absurd moment (watching paramedics give CPR to a raccoon), there is an honest, emotional one (recounting his mother’s experience on the scene of the Twin Towers’ collapse on 9/11). Told with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, A Very Punchable Face reveals the brilliant mind behind some of the dumbest sketches on television, and lays bare the heart and humor of a hardworking guy—with a face you can’t help but want to punch.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: I was not close at all here. I’m not sure this book would interest me.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix 

Before Reading Description of Book: It is usually Down South, in the United States Vampires are former Slave owners.  It can happen up north or anywhere slavery was once legal.  Those who were pro slavery were usually down south during the civil war.  I digress.  These vampires suck the blood of anyone who is in favor of treating all people, regardless of race etc. kindly.  I got bit last night, again.  Those of us who have been bit by such a vampire are writing books and blogs about it.  We have a whole group working on ways to slay Vampires.  Perhaps you would like to join us.

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Actual Description of Book: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: I don’t think I would enjoy this one with so much else out there.

Whale Day (2020) And Other Poems by Billy Collins

Before Reading Description of Book: Whale day was an unofficial day when the boat came in with a whale and all the local families would stop what they were doing to help get the blubber from the whale, the food from the whale, whale oil for lamps.  Even children could help and everyone would celebrate the commercial needs were being met for that village.  There would be special prayers, children’s songs about whales.  The whole town was happy when a whale day came.


Actual Description of Book: A collection of all-new poetry from Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate and “America’s favorite poet” (The Wall Street Journal).

Billy Collins’s thirteenth collection, and first in four years, contains more than fifty new poems that showcase the playfulness, wit, and wisdom that have made him one of our most celebrated and widely read poets. This collection covers many themes and moods, including Collins’s insights on the wonders of life and thrill of mortality.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: I might like the poetry, though I did think my idea was quite creative.

 We Dream of Space (2020) by Erin Entrada Kelly 

Before Reading Description of Book: It is about the race to the moon, the space race and all those who worked, mostly in the USA and USSR to get to space. It is also about how it effected the cold war and relations with countries around the world who watched the space race.

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Actual Description of Book: It’s January 1986. The launch of the Challenger is just weeks away, and Cash, Fitch, and Bird Nelson Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware.

Cash loves basketball, Dr. J, and a girl named Penny; he’s also in danger of failing seventh grade for a second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing.

The Nelson Thomas siblings exist in their own orbits, circling a tense, crowded, and unpredictable household, dreaming of escape, dreaming of the future, dreaming of space. They have little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga—a failed applicant to the Teacher in Space program—who encourages her students to live vicariously through the launch. Cash and Fitch take a passive interest, but Bird builds her dreams around it.

When the fated day arrives, it changes everything.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: This sounds like an interesting story. I was in 5th grade. My 4th grade teacher had also applied. We now live in the town where Christa Mcauliffe grew up. It was a sad day. Our teacher told us after lunch and of course it was on TV over and over again.

Why We Swim (2020) by Bonnie Tsui

Before Reading Description of Book: It is a children’s book about water safety. It also helps children who are afraid of the ocean or near by pond, swimming pool no longer be afraid and teaches swimming, floating and how to help someone who is drowning even if you can’t swim.

Why We Swim

Actual Description of Book: An immersive, unforgettable, and eye-opening perspective on swimming—and on human behavior itself.

We swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. We swim for pleasure, for exercise, for healing. But humans, unlike other animals that are drawn to water, are not natural-born swimmers. We must be taught. Our evolutionary ancestors learned for survival; now, in the twenty-first century, swimming is one of the most popular activities in the world.

Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what about water—despite its dangers—seduces us and why we come back to it again and again.

Reaction After Learning Real Description: I grew up going to the ocean in Rhode Island quite often. I remember being afraid to put my face in the water but I have never thought about humans as non-swimmers. Most people I grew up with went to the beach as we lived so near the ocean.














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