Lenore Skenazy

Girls and Books

By Lenore Skenazy /

If you're thinking of writing a bestseller, I've got one word of advice for you:


Put "Girl" in the title and you almost don't have to do anything else, except figure out a plot, some twists and an ending. Just don't forget to put a girl character in there! She can be doing anything — kicking a hornet's nest or sporting a dragon tattoo like the girl in Stieg Larsson's epic sellers or riding a train like the girl in Paula Hawkins' best-seller or being gone like the girl in Gillian Flynn's thriller. She can have pearl earrings or marry a lion, fall from the sky, chase the moon, play with fire or be interrupted. She can also love Tom Gordon. Recently, I really enjoyed "The Girl You Left Behind," by Jojo Moyes. All those girls made it big on the bookshelves.

To make it big on TV, apparently, all a girl has to do is hang out with a bunch of her tormented friends who are trying to grow up, as in "2 Broke Girls," "New Girl" or Lena Dunham's squad. Or she can have grown up so long ago that now the "girl" part is ironic. (See "The Golden Girls," which, come to think of it, may have started something.)

Last year, an author named Emily St. John Mandel looked at 810 non-children's books with the word "Girl" in the title. She crunched some numbers and found that 79 percent of those were written by women, yet 65 percent of the time, the "girl" in the title is actually a woman.

So why call the woman a girl?

One theory holds that when we see the word "girl," we automatically feel protective and worried — more than we'd feel about a grown woman. But another theory is that mega best-sellers tend to inspire publishers to copy them slavishly and often. So if you're looking for a title for that best-seller of yours, you're welcome:

The Girl Last Seen Running Away From a Bunch of Angry Hornets

The Girl With the Misspelled "Pougkeepsie" Tattoo

The Little Dumber Girl

The Girl You Left in the Dairy Section

The Girl Eating Cheez-Its on the Bus

The Girl Who "Forgot" to Call Her Mother's Friend's Super-Nice Son

The Girl Whose "Be Mindful" Lululemon Tote Took Up a Whole Seat

The Girl With the Greenish Incisor

The Girl Who Mistook Her Hat for My Hat

A Girl Named Sue

Gone Girl Comes Back

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Girl

The Girl From Iwo Jima

The Hardy Girls

I Am the Coppertone Girl

The Girl With the Squirrel Earring

The Squirrel With the Girl Earring

The Girl With the Wagon Tattoo: A Laura Ingalls Wilder Update

The Other Other Boleyn Girl

The Little Mulch Girl

Even Cowgirls Get Sick of Beans

The Girl Who Chased Viggo Mortensen (And Who Can Blame Her?)

I Am Melania: The Story of a Girl Who Stood Up For Trump

Too Many Girls, Not Enough Kombucha (from the Haunted Hipster series)

Girl Meets Girl

Girl, Interrupting

The Girl Who Knew Too Much About the Kennedy Assassination

The Girl Who Slugged the Beehive

The Girl Who Stuck Her Head Into a Wasp Nest

The Girl Who Sat on a Mound of Scorpions Because She Was Livestreaming Her Desert Vacation

The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Down

Lenore Skenazy is author of the book and blog "Free-Range Kids" and a keynote speaker at conferences, companies and schools.

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