Crossover Appeal

Book Titles That Would Make Great Band Names

I’m not really a music person. Visual art? Yep. Food? Certainly. Books? Abso-fucking-lutely. But music…I don’t know, but it’s never been a huge part of my life. Definitely background music more than soundtrack, if that makes sense. But, at the same time and a bit awkwardly, I’ve always loved brainstorming band names. When I was in high school, a dear friend started a music promotion group, and I spent hours and hours coming up with a list of names for it, which has, unfortunately, been lost in the sands of time (or, more precisely, the toxic drifts that made up my room as a teenager).

Since then, I’ve sublimated this love into another, related one: coming up with titles for papers, articles, dissertations, books. Titling something is like a small, epic moment of poetry. It’s a chance not only to articulate the content of a book but, more importantly—and this is where band-naming is so similar—to communicate its mood, a near-ineffable sense of its style and voice. You may not know exactly how, but you know War & Peace and A Visit from the Goon Squad are going to be different, as are The Mountain Goats and Jefferson Starship. (This is, I think, part of the source of Kit’s frustration with the 4 types of book titles she’s totally over: in being so derivative, predictable, and bland, the titles don’t actually communicate any sense of their books’ particular, peculiar moods.)

The connections between these two practices—band-naming and book-titling—occurred to me not long ago, and it inspired me to do a circuit of my apartment. Sticking just to books I had on shelves (not digging into the boxes of books packed away in the closets, because seriously, what do you want from me?), I mined those shelves for book titles that would make awesome, interesting, or funny band names. I also stuck to nonfiction, since that limitation made things more fun. I’ve marked a few with ideas about what kind of band it would work perfectly for, but I’m open to other ideas. Check it out:

  • Reluctant Capitalists
  • Power Trip
  • Swimming in Circles
  • Maps & Legends
  • The Whites of Their Eyes
  • Anxious Intellects (Perfect for a band fronted by former graduate students.)
  • Buda’s Wagon
  • Interior States (Searching, autobiographical/fantasmic folk group, a la The Mountain Goats.)
  • Epic Encounters
  • American Vertigo (Political pop-punk, naturally.)
  • Free for All
  • American Pests (More political pop-punk, naturally.)
  • Science in Action
  • Sideshow U.S.A. (Sarcastically patriotic death metal, maybe?)
  • Fun Home
  • River of Shadows
  • How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed (A sister band for Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.)
  • Our Own Snug Fireside
  • Split-Second Persuasion (Great for a really weird Temptations cover-band, maybe?)
  • Last Harvest (One of those hyper-political hardcore groups who talk for 5 minutes before a 2-minute song.)
  • Turning the Century
  • Hark! A Vagrant (Following the mid-title-punctuation trail that Panic! At the Disco blazed.)
  • Arts of Deception
  • Concrete Planet
  • The Haunted
  • Electric Sounds (An ironic name for an acoustic folk duo?)
  • Blood, Bones & Butter
  • Good Wives, Nasty Wenches & Anxious Patriarchs (Great for a cerebral riot grrl group.)
  • Bucolic Plague
  • Republic of Shade

Which one’s your favorite, and what kind of band would it be perfect for?

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Derek Attig writes and teaches about book culture, technology, and history. In addition to writing a book about bookmobiles in American life, he blogs at Follow Derek on Twitter: @bookmobility