Silly Titles For Serious Topics


Is it just me, or has anybody else noticed how silly Christian book titles have become?  Zondervan is in a dust-up with Soong-Chan Rah and other Asian-American church leaders over the book Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership.  Dr. Rah’s beef, and rightly so, is with the cultural insensitivity of the book.  But, if you don’t already know the subject matter of this book  (behaviors that can lead to moral failure in a church leader’s life), then you’d never guess it by the title.  The fact that it premiered at Catalyst, an event targeted to young pastors, might be a clue to the title.  However, if I were a young pastor, I think I would be insulted.

I also ran across Frank Page’s book, The Incredible Shrinking Church, online the other day.  Page, former SBC president and now North American Mission Board evangelism head, seems to be a very nice guy with some serious things to say about church decline, growth, and evangelism.  Yet B&H Publishing, a Lifeway imprint, titled the book for 7th graders rather than church leaders.

While these are two examples, they are not the only instances of trivial titles used to sell books on supposedly serious topics.  I’m all for a little light-heartedness, but is this dumbing down of Christian leadership books a trend, or am I just getting too old and grumpy to get it?  Actually, I never buy books that look like they are written for the lowest rung of the church leadership ladder.  What about you?  Do these catchy, and somewhat silly titles put you off?  Or, are you not one to judge a book by its cover?

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7 Comments

  1. Chuck,
    The cover of a book is a very important selling point, as is the title. The cover you give above is the perfect example of a book I would not even pick up. The only way I would consider it is if I was familiar with the author’s previous work and then I would wonder how he or she would allow their publisher to belittle it.
    David

  2. Chuck,
    Maybe I’m old and grumpy, too. I’ve been thinking this along with the hearing some of the mindless, repetitive lyrics of contemporary Christian music. I wonder if it doesn’t also trivialize faith. As I am wont to do, I jump to a deeper meaning. How can this serve us well when faith is needed to assist us with really deep human dilemmas that challenge meaning in our lives?
    And I wonder how contemporary designers would promote the Song of Solomon. 🙂

  3. I’ve been guilty of trying to jazz up my sermon titles too much. The book industry just falls prey to whatever will create buzz. I agree with you, it’s getting out of hand. What if some classic books got a modern cover update? Any takers?
    -Mere Christianity
    -Calvin’s Institutes
    -Dare to Discipline
    -So on…

  4. These snazzy titles can be seen as a attempt to relieve the anxiety of the subject matter. We aren’t comfortable with the tension that is created by the anxiety surrounding these topics. An easy (and unhealthy) way of pushing that anxiety aside is through the use of humor.

    The answers to a topic like the incredible shrinking church lie in the midst of uncertainty and not its absence. I dislike using this example but it fits in this case: If you don’t know you are in danger then how will you know that you need help?

    Humor has its place but not as some juicy hook into a serious topic.

  5. The catchy titles remind me of some kind of slick marketing campaign that is trying to sell me something. I have gotten the same reaction when all of a sudden I see a person like Ted Haggard all over the media. My first thought is what movie trying to promote or book is he selling. It is not that I dislike him as a person it is just that I am getting weary of all the stuff that is pushed at us constantly.

    I am looking across my office at my bookshelf and it is filled with books with catchy titles and they have great content.

    The Ragamuffin Gospel
    The Pursuit of God
    The Cost of Discipleship
    The Imitation of Christ
    Real Christianity
    The Pursuit of Holiness

    We have never been immune to books that try to catch our attention. What is different to me is the intent behind these book not so much by the authors but by those who seek to sell us these materials.

  6. From looking at the cover it is just a matter of months before that book ends up with SAS distributors. SAS is a clearance for Christian and other Books that just aren’t selling. We used them at the bookstore because it was possible to by a pallet of books for about $1,000. They do throw in a couple of good books with the order.

    I know how we would have handled the book. After all the jokes amongst the workers it would find it’s way to the $4.99 buy 2 get 1 section with other similar titles.

  7. I can’t think of a more appropriate time and place to begin a good piece of science literature… snow on the ground… my faithful dog at my feet, bathed in the warmth of the yule time log in the fireplace.

    I am looking forward to visiting this forum regularly.

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