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Where the Wild Things Almost Weren’t

January 28, 2019

Just because a writer can craft a novel full of compelling characters, remarkable plots, and universal themes doesn’t mean they can come up with a decent name for the thing…at first. Here are some classic and familiar books that were almost published with a different (and maybe not-so-great) title. 

1984 

George Orwell’s publisher agreed to print his dystopian novel about a totalitarian future because it had strong commercial potential. Then, not long before it hit the presses, it felt it needed a more commercial title. Orwell went with the book’s setting — 1984 — and dropped the original title, The Last Man in Europe.  

Where the Wild Things Are 

The “Wild Things” at the heart of Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book about the fantastical adventure of a boy named Max are gigantic but ultimately non-specific and harmless monsters. “Wild Things” is a perfect name for them, but Sendak only went with those monsters and that name because he had a hard time drawing his initial idea. The book was going to be about wild horses and titled Where the Wild Horses Are. 

Gone with the Wind 

Gone with the Wind is a powerful novel of love and war, but that title is a little melodramatic. But it’s only slightly less overwrought than some of Margaret Mitchell’s other name ideas, such as Bugles Sang True, Not in Our Stars, and Tote the Weary LoadThe book was nearly published under a title which also happened to be its last line: Tomorrow is Another Day. 

Pride and Prejudice 

Jane Austen’s 19th century novel of romance, wit, and manners is the prototypical romantic comedy in many ways, and it includes that film genre’s trope of two characters that ultimately fall in love after initially not getting along. To that end, Austen almost called her book First Impressions, after the disastrous early meetings between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. 

Lord of the Flies 

William Golding’s book about the inner savagery that lives inside us so-called civilized humans was rejected by a number of publishers at first, perhaps because he sent it in with the bland, generic title Strangers from Within. 

Of Mice and Men 

Technically, all novels could use the one John Steinbeck almost used for his devastating Great Depression novel: Something That Happened.

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