Misleading Fiction Titles

Posted about 8 months ago by Meg Raymond

The library has nonfiction books that aim to teach readers new skills. Want to learn to bring old clothes back to life, brew beer, or raise chickens? There are books for that. If you want to know how to do something, there is probably a book to help you learn. (Want to learn something? Contact your library for help by calling your nearest branch or chat with us online.

There are nonfiction books aimed at helping people improve their lives. The popularity of “self-help” books (which covers a HUGE swath of literary real estate) has skyrocketed. Sales have almost doubled since 2013. For the statistics nerds, The NPD Group, a market research firm, says that the CAGR (compound annual growth rate) for self help books has stayed steady at 11% per year since 2013. That year, there were around 31,000 unique self-help titles. By 2019 the number had grown to over 85,000 – resulting in sales of almost 19 million book purchases.



And finally, there are fiction books that have titles that sound like nonfiction. Take a look at the list These are NOT “how-to” Books for some great fiction with misleading titles.

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
Taking place in the American Southwest, an anthology of short stories, celebrating the author’s trademark blend of humor and melancholy, finds miracles in everyday life and uncovers moments of grace in cafeterias, laundromats, homes of the upper class and hotel dining rooms.

How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas
A misfit youngest child in a large French family of overachievers makes quiet observations about his world and becomes the only family member brave enough to help the others through their grief in the wake of a devastating tragedy.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by Christopher Boucher
In an alternative world where inanimate objects talk and words are given new meaning, a father struggles to save his ailing son, a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle, while looking into his father’s death.

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
Determined to put the past behind him after serving a ten-year prison term for torching an American landmark and killing two people in the blaze, Sam Pulsifer gets married, starts a family, buys a home, and builds a new career, but his past comes back to haunt him when the homes of notable American writers begin to go up in smoke and Sam becomes the prime suspect in the crimes.

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins
Distancing herself from London notoriety when her latest sensational article leads to a high-profile arrest, Lady Katherine clashes with a handsome detective inspector after witnessing a murder upon her arrival in the country.

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway
Entreated to visit her ancestral family in Japan in place of her ailing mother, Sue uncovers family secrets that influence her life in unforeseen ways, offer insight into her mother’s marriage to an American GI and reveal the role of tradition in shaping personal choice.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
After losing virtually everything meaningful in his life, Benjamin trains to be a caregiver, but his first client, a fiercely independent teen with muscular dystrophy, gives him more than he bargained for and soon the two embark on a road trip to visit the boy’s ailing father.

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan
A novelist who writes thrillers about a burglar named Faulks and who moonlights as a thief for hire, Charlie Howard is suspicious when an enigmatic American offers to pay him to steal two small monkey figurines, a suspicion that becomes all-too-real when his employer is nearly beaten to death and a third monkey figurine mysteriously vanishes.

A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out by Sally Franson
An ambitious young woman navigates the slippery world of advertising and the just-as-perilous question of who she wants to be in the face of a hard-to-please boss, a top-secret marketing campaign and the real characters of her literary idols.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
A man with a secret rare condition that has enabled him to survive for centuries moves to London to become a high-school history teacher and considers defying his protective guardians’ rule against falling in love when he becomes entranced by a captivating colleague.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Follows the journey of a poor, rural boy as he becomes a wealthy business tycoon and the twists of his on-again, off-again romance with an equally successful girl.

How to Party With an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings
A quirky single mom in San Francisco navigates the minefields of the “mommy wars” while attending the nuptials of her toddler’s father to another woman, competing in a cookbook writing contest and pursuing friendship and love.

A Lady’s Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson
In 1923, devout Eva English and her not-so-religious sister Lizzie embark on a journey to be missionaries in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar.

The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn
John Lago, New York City’s most successful hit man, doubles as an intern at a prestigious Manhattan law firm where he gathers intel to pull of a clean, untraceable hit, but finds his plans thwarted by a sexy FBI agent who is assigned to take down the same law partner he’s been assigned to kill.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka
Putting aside a lifetime of rivalry when they learn that their recently widowed father is planning to remarry a gold-digging woman, sisters Vera and Nadezhda find themselves outmaneuvered by their father’s scheming fiancée, a situation that is compromised by a hurricane, family secrets, and their father’s obsession with tractor history.

The Young Widower’s Handbook by Tom McAllister
Devastated by the death of the beloved wife who was a shining exception in a life otherwise marked by minimal accomplishments, Hunter Cady takes his wife’s ashes and flees west, where he finds himself in encounters with eccentrics ranging from an overzealous Renaissance Faire worker to a raucous troop of bachelorettes.

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell
When a recently retired family patriarch clears out his bank account and disappears during a sweltering summer in 1976, his three children converge on their mother’s home for the first time in years and track clues to an ancestral village in Ireland, where they uncover illuminating family secrets.

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper
Twenty-nine-year-old widower Doug Parker finds his life spiraling out of control as he struggles to come to terms with grief, love, family, and suburbia while dealing with a bossy, pregnant twin sister who urges him to begin dating again, a younger sister planning her wedding, a mother dealing with her ailing husband, and a hostile teenage stepson.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
In a world transformed by time-travel technology, counselor Charles Yu searches for the father who invented time travel and vanished, a quest marked by quirky pseudo-companions.

Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman
When her life falls apart on the eve of her 40th birthday, Kate Parker finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 97-year-old Cecily Finn. Cecily’s tongue is as sharp as her mind, but she’s fed up with pretty much everything. Having no patience with Kate’s choices, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference. Food for Thought: a charming 1950s cookbook high on enthusiasm, featuring menus for anything life can throw at the “easily dismayed.”

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Stuck in a reading rut?  Looking to read outside your comfort zone? If you want hand-crafted reading suggestions, check out The Bookologist – a bespoke readers advisory service for adults, teens, and kids.


Meg Raymond

If I'm not librarianing, or chasing one of my plethora of dogs around the yard, I probably have my nose buried in a book. I like all kinds of books. Regency romances - love 'em. Gory police procedurals - yes, ma'am. Historical fiction - please, and thank you. Heavy "literary" titles - shhhh, I may not have actually finished some of those! Off-beat, warped, slightly askew books - oh, yes, indeedy. Violent supernatural fantasy - why not? Chick lit, hen lit, lad lit - yeah, yeah, yeah. What have you read? Need a suggestion, or ten? Get hand-crafted suggestions with The Bookologist

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