Discussion: The mysterious existence of chapter titles

Discussion 2

Let's talk about chapter titles!

I was reading Lirael by Garth Nix, and as I started reading Chapter One, I noticed with a sort of jump that the chapter was titled "An Ill-Favoured Birthday". I say I noticed with a jump because... well, Lirael is the sequel to Sabriel, right, and while I was reading Sabriel, I could have sworn I never once took notice of any chapter titles at all. So I thought, oops, did I just completely miss out on the chapter titles in Sabriel? I MUST HAVE. Now this is not entirely implausible, because I've been known to miss chapter titles in the past.

So I started trying to make an effort to read every chapter title in Lirael, but I'm pretty sure I've still missed a few. Whenever I start a new chapter my eyes just tend to glide straight down to the text. I have to really pay attention and put effort into reading each chapter title, or else I'd just forget it.

BUT THEN I GOT HOME AND I REALISED SABRIEL DIDN'T ACTUALLY HAVE ANY CHAPTER TITLES AT ALL. PHEW. Just plain old "Chapter One", etc.

So this got me wondering. What do you think of chapter titles? Do they really do anything for you most of the time? I really don't think chapter titles have ever made much of an impression on me. I try and think back, and literally the only chapter titles I have any memory of IN MY ENTIRE LIFE are the ones from Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, which all started with "In which": "In which Sophie talks to hats", "In which Sophie becomes Howl's old mother", etc. etc. (NO OF COURSE I DIDN'T RECALL THOSE FROM MEMORY, I just found a website that listed them! Don't be silly, I can't remember anything.)

Okay, that and Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson, but I only read that one a couple weeks ago. I remember very clearly the title of the prologue: "Zero (Is Translucent)". And on each chapter went: "One (Is Grey)", "Two (Is Red)". For the first few chapters I think I still hadn't realised the significance of the chapter titles, but then I understood that it was because the protagonist had synesthesia, and the chapter titles were telling us how she perceived the numbers. WHICH WAS REALLY COOL. But after the first few chapters my attention started to slip and I stopped reading the titles again. Oops.

Do you remember any particularly awesome chapter titles? Do you always read chapter titles or not? Would you rather a book have them or not have them?

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21 thoughts on “Discussion: The mysterious existence of chapter titles

  1. I always read the chapter titles, but because I think sometimes they can give you a clue as to what the chapter was about. Sometimes, after I've read a chapter, I might (rarely) go back to see what the chapter title was again if I'm confused about how it fits. But after I'm done with a book, I generally forget. I can take them or leave them.

    However, yesterday I just finished Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley, and I thought the chapter titles were really well done; they fit in with the title of the book, being the lies, and each lie linked with the events of the chapter. Without those chapter titles, I think the only link I would have got from the title to the story was Linda and her opinions on the integration and black people in general, and them both about their sexuality. The chapter titles made the lies much more specific and personal - each moment there was a lie of some kind. Made me think - how often do we lie to ourselves? I thought it was really good!

    I love the chapter titles in the Harry Potter books as they're reminders of what happens when I'm re-reading. "Oooh, I'm excited for this part!" And who doesn't love "The Boy Who Lived"? The beginning of all the amazingness! :D

    1. See, now that you mention it I remember Lies We Tell Ourselves had those chapter titles! I did try and read them, though I'm not sure if I managed to read all of them, haha. But yes, I did like those chapter titles a lot too! I just forget things too easily. They were very fitting with the theme of the book and definitely provided more insight into the characters.

      Haha, Jo, I wouldn't have known that that's the title of the first chapter of HP if you hadn't told me that. :P Chapter titles just elude me.

  2. I always read the chapter titles. I adore them. =D I feel disillusioned when it's just 'Chapter One, Chapter Two...' And I agree with Jo ^ when you're re-reading it, it reminds you what the chapter was about.

    1. I guess I will never understand that because I hardly ever reread books. And if I ever do reread a book I'm probably even less likely to reread the chapter titles, haha. But it's interesting that you love chapter titles! :D

  3. Hahah I often skim the titles as well. I like them, I think they are cooler than just the normal "Chapter One", but it doesn't affect me either way haha. And yayayyaya Sabriel and Lirael :)

  4. This is a pretty cool post, and I never really given that much though to chapter titles.

    I usually read the chapter title if there is one, other than 'chapter 1' of course. It doesn't particularly bother me of there isn't one, and it doesn't bother me when there are chapter titles. I think they can be quite useful at times, to kind of tease the chapter, and reveal, without too much, what the chapter is going to be about!

    I'm currently reading Grasshopper Jungle, and it has some pretty awesome chapter titles. I mean, some of them are darn weird, but it's fun. Other than that, I don't think I can remember a particular chapter title that was especially awesome. As much as I try to read them, I don't really have a tendency to remember them.

    1. After I wrote this post I definitely decided to pay more attention to chapter titles, haha. I do think they're a nice teaser for the chapter.

      Oh yeah, now that you mention that about Grasshopper Jungle...... Er. Actually I still can't remember anything about the titles in Grasshopper Jungle. :P Hmm. I read that book early last year. But yeah, I do like it when chapter titles are a bit different from the standard ones.

    1. Yeah, after I posted this I tried to pay more attention to the chapter titles and I guess it's nice sometimes when they set up a sort of expectation of what's going to happen and especially when they overturn that expectation. That's kind of cool.

  5. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Yay for Howl's Moving Castle! One of the best examples of chapter titles out there (and I do have some by heart, like "In which Sophie expresses her feelings with weed-killer").

  6. Cait

    To be really honest I....just skip chapter titles.>_< I've been reading Percy Jackson and it does have them and I only remember to even glance at them about once or twice during the whole book1 I just...my brain is focused on the actual story. ;-) So I prefer books without them.

    1. HAHA YAY SOMEBODY WHO SKIPS THEM. :D :D Thank you for your honesty, Cait! <3 I completely agree, it is so hard to actually remember to look at chapter titles. After writing this post I've made it a personal resolution to pay more attention to them, but I feel like I'll probably forget again sooner or later, haha.

  7. What a great discussion question! It doesn't bother me if there are no chapter titles, but I do pay attention to them to get some kind of clue as to what's ahead in the story. Also, it's helpful if the book has alternating character perspectives which I just had reading Allegiant.

    1. Post author

      Hmm, yeah, if a book has more than two POVs then chapter titles indicating which character's POV it is now is definitely helpful! I am trying to pay more attention to chapter titles now, haha. :P

  8. I love this post because >.> this is legit what happened to me when I first read Lirael! Suddenly wild chapter titles appeared and I had to scramble to find my copy of Sabriel because I couldn't possibly have skipped every single chapter title in a whole book, right??

    1. Post author

      OMG YOU TOO?? Hahaha it's nice to hear that happened to somebody else too! Seriously, I was like, HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED A WHOLE BOOK'S WORTH OF CHAPTER TITLES, I mean, I don't pay attention to those things but I usually do vaguely notice that they're there!! Haha.

  9. Just like I never really seem to pay attention to chapter headings, my eyes just jump to the first line. I don't even know how many books I read that have chapter titles as I don't remember any of them. I do remember when I read Harry Potter when i was younger I read every chapter title as they could be clues for what was goign to happen and I liked those hunts. Beside that I can't remember a book were I did that.
    Lola recently posted Review: Fear’s Touch by Emma L. Adams

    1. Post author

      Oooh, you don't pay attention to them either! :D That's great, haha. I honestly don't have much of an impression of reading Harry Potter chapter titles at all either. I have the worst memory. :P

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