Famous and Possessive: A Core List

Inspired by the excruciating ruminations of Lisa Chellman, I finally started a list I’ve been meaning to make for a long time. I think you’ll quickly discern the theme:

Audubon’s Elephant, by Duff Hart-Davis (2004)
Caesar’s Column, by Ignatius Donnelly and Walter Rideout (1960)
Cleopatra’s Nose, by Daniel J. Boorstin (1994)
Cleopatra’s Nose, by Judith Thurman (2007)
Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis De Bernieres (1994)
D’Alembert’s Principle, by Andrew Crumey (1998)
Darconville’s Cat, by Alexander Theroux’s (1981)
Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael J. Behe (1996)
Darwin’s Wink, by Alison Anderson (2004)
Descartes’ Error, by Antonio Damaso (1994) 
Flaubert’s Parrot, by Julian Barnes (1984)
Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco (1989)
Galileo’s Daughter, by Dava Sobel (1999)
Galileo’s Finger, by Peter Atkins (2003)
Galileo’s Mistake, by Wade Rowland (2003)
Galileo’s Pendulum, by Roger G. Newton (2004)
Galileo’s Treasure Box, by Catherine Brighton (1987)
Hamlet’s Mill, by Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha von Dechend (1969)
Kafka’s Prayer, by Paul Goodman (1947)
Prospero’s Daughter, by Elizabeth Nunez (2006)
Prospero’s Daughters, by Sally Stewart (2006)
Puccini’s Ghosts, by Morag Joss (2006)
Pushkin’s Button, by Serena Vitale (1999)
Rembrandt’s Eyes, by Simon Schama (1999)
Rembrandt’s Nose, by Michael Taylor (2007)
Schopenhauer’s Porcupines, by Deborah Anna Luepnitz (2002)
Schopenhauer’s Telescope, by Gerard Donovan (2003)
Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy, by Robert Anton Wilson (1980-1981)
Stalin’s Nose, by Rory MacLean (1993)
Wittgenstein’s Poker, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow (2001)

There is, of course, an impressive Shakespearean subset:

Shakespeare’s Counselor, by Charlaine Harris (2001)
Shakespeare’s Daughter, by Peter W. Hassinger (2004)
Shakespeare’s Kitchen, by Lore Segal (2007)
Shakespeare’s Scribe, by Gary Blackwood (2000)
Shakespeare’s Spy, by Gary Blackwood (2003)

The question is, are there enough of these to create an A-Z? And should the rules restrict qualification to actual historical figures, or can we include titles like Alexander Theroux’s Darconville’s Cat (1981)?

These are just off the top of my head–there must be many more. Help me out!

Update #1: Bill Ott pointed me to his February 15, 2004 Back Page (“Working Titles“), which includes some good ones, especially a bunch of Galileos. Also, amazingly, his forthcoming column, in the May 15 issue, debunks the notion that we ever considered changing the name Booklist to Galileo’s Reviews.

Update #2: Donna Seaman offered a sweet-smelling quartet of books with “nose” in the title, including two Cleopatras.

Update #3: Sue-Ellen Beauregard suggested Prospero’s Daughter, and when I searched it, I found that Prospero had not one but two.

Update #4: More, more, more . . . good tips from Mary Ellen Quinn (Corelli), Ray Olson (Caesar, D’Alembert, Kafka), and Donna (Descartes).

Update #5: George Eberhart from American Libraries suggests Schrodinger, Hamlet, and Darwin.



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

4 Comments on "Famous and Possessive: A Core List"

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  1. mmoran@northwestms.edu' maggie says:

    We started calling our book club the Possessives after a string of My Sister’s Keeper, Memory Keeper’s Daughter, & Angela’s Ashes. 🙂

  2. dwright@spl.org' David Wright says:

    Wonderful! (D’Arconville’s Cat is one of my favorite books that a.) nobody’s read and b.) you need to have a dictionary handy for.)

    For your next trick, if you haven’t already done this, how about a list of ‘The ____ist’ titles? And then a list of ‘The ___ist’s (adjective) (noun).”

  3. dwright@spl.org' David Wright says:

    …oh, and then – and I actually think there might be a shelf of them – ‘The (adjective) ___ist’s (adjective+) (noun).’ In fact, who needs the books; let’s just do titles:

    The Spanish Chartist’s Secret Daughter.
    The Ninth Decembrist’s Special Device.
    The Yiddish Arborist’s Final Maneuver.
    The Naughty Marxist’s Christmas Surprise.
    The Oleaginous Philatelist’s Ninety-Second Stamp.
    The Boorish Columnist’s Latest Outrage.

  4. Keir Graff says:

    A new one, just in: Proust’s Overcoat.

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