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If you do a lot of research for books online, you may have pondered the question: Can two different books from different authors have the same title? The answer, as the following books show, is yes. In the US at least, book titles are not copyrighted, and aside from searching the Internet, there is no surefire way to find out if your book has the same title as someone else’s. Sometimes books share a title because one is a backlist release when the other comes out, but sometimes they can be published within weeks of each other. It seems most common that titles are doubled when authors choose shorter names for their books, and some of the options listed here share titles but differ in subtitles.
Another complication of the problem is that web-enabled book buyers may purchase the wrong book, often because of a buzzing new release that leaves them unable to dive into the plot summary for the copy they actually bought. The following seven examples are just a selection of suitable title books, but offer some interesting trivia and a few laughs about how authors reacted to this unique situation.
Note: This list of title alikes does not include the variety that we normally aim for here. If you have suggestions for suitable titles from different authors, we’d love to hear them!
Life after Life by Jill McCorkle and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
When I heard about the story behind these two closely matched titles, I primarily led myself into the rabbit hole with the same titles. In March / April 2013, the two books were published within a week, which led to media reports of the strange coincidence of such events. McCorkle’s book was her first novel in 17 years at the time, and when she titled it she believed that there were no contemporary novels by the same name. Your book is about an elderly community in North Carolina and the staff and residents who live there, in stark contrast to Atkinson’s book, which is a mixture of fantasy and historical fiction and shows a time-traveling protagonist with a seemingly unlimited number of lives. Despite the very different genres, structures, and actions, each title seems to go well with its book in different ways.
Joyland by Emily Schultz and Joyland by Stephen King
What if your work not only has the same title as another book, but that other book was written by one of the most prolific and well-known authors of the 20th century? That was the situation in which Emily Schultz found herself when Stephen King released Joyland in 2013. After Schultz wrote her own novel of the same name, which came out in 2006, eight years later she received unexpected royalty checks, not because of her own novel, but because at the time King’s book was only available in print, and e-book lovers had Schultz ‘ Accidentally bought book. Fortunately, Schultz didn’t let negative reviews from confused shoppers get down and ran a Tumblr blog for a while about “spending Stephen King’s money.”
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One person of interest from Susan Choi and one person of interest from Theresa Schwegel
Both novels are about secrets. In Choi’s story, when a colleague is the latest victim of a serial bomber, Professor Lee, a near-retirement math professor, faces suspicion and his past. In Schwegel’s book, Leslie explores the secrets of her husband, Craig, a Chicago police officer, and his investigation into her daughter, as well as the appearance of mysterious payments in her bank account.
The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan and the Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Mitchell’s cloud atlas is considered a seminal example of postmodernism in the early 21st century and has also been made into a film. It examines the interconnected lives of different characters across times and places in a narrative that readers either accept or hate after reviews. Liam Callanan’s The Cloud Atlas, published just two weeks before Mitchell’s book, is a historical fiction adventure set in Alaska during World War II. Sgt. Louis Belk was hired to find and dismantle balloon bombs that were sent to Alaska from Japan, and as history progresses, the Alaskan wilderness becomes a character in itself. Like other writers on this list, Callanan took the title match in a good mood, compiling a list of “Ways The Movie Cloud Atlas Changed My Life” and even lists a title mix-up warning on the page for his book.
Fire and Fury by Randall Hansen and Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff
Similar to Schultz, Hansen only realized that a book with the same title as one of his backlist works had come out when it suddenly topped the bestseller lists on Amazon years after its original publication. Hansen’s book is written for history buffs and focuses on the Allied bombings on Germany in the years before the end of the war, while Wolff’s much more recent event at the White House highlights. Perhaps unexpectedly, both books speak of gaps in understanding between leaders and those who rule them. Hansen discusses how the heavy bombing raids on Germany during this war period were at times called into question by the Allied military leadership, who, given the number of civilians killed, were unsure of their necessity. Wolff’s book revealed what he said, behind the scenes conversations between Trump administration staff, many of whom expressed doubts about the then president’s ability to carry out his duties.
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin and Elsewhere: A Memory by Richard Russo
These two books may have the same title but are different in many ways. Different audiences (YA vs. Adult), different genres (Fiction vs. Memoir), and different subjects (what happens when we die? Versus a writer’s memories).
Wonder by Rachel Vail and Wonder by RJ Palacio
I fully included both of these because I read and reread the copy of Rachel Vail’s Wonder from my school library at least five times in middle school and found it during my research for this article, which produced a number of memories that I didn’t knew had saved. Like Palacio’s book, Vail’s is the story of a middle school student who feels he doesn’t fit in, albeit for reasons less deep than Auggie, Palacio’s main character. It’s now fun to think about reading and relating the 1991 miracle as a teenager and see my students do the same with the 2012 book. It reminds me of the power of stories to help us in times of transition.
Going deeper into the titles of books always provides something fascinating to discuss, as it both gets to the heart of the authors’ perspective on their stories and connects to the larger publishing and marketing machines in the world of books. Have you come across books with the same name that readers should know about? And is someone ready for a book club where we compete against books of the same name? If you’re looking for more thoughts on book titles and the inspiration behind them, you can check out books that are the same but have different titles by country, books that share their titles with songs, or those deep insights into book titling.