At the moment I’m reviewing Philip Ball’s Curiosity. Another fine book by my favourite science writer. But for a while I was puzzled because although curiosity is an organizing concept behind the book, it is really A History of Science in the 17th Century. Now that would not be a selling title, whereas “Curiosity” – we’ve all go that haven't we?
A few lesser examples come to mind. Bill Bryson’s At Home purported to be a look at life, the universe and everything seen though the lens of the rooms in his house. A good idea – each familiar object linked to its history in the universe. But it isn’t that: actually its a ragbag of random observations. Nicholas Rankin's Churchill's Wizards is about camouflage and deception in WWI and 2. The title strictly refers only to WW2. Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong is really an attack on the Modern Synthesis promulgated almost a century after Darwin's time. And so on . . . It says much about our culture that we cannot declare accurately what our books are about. Marketing departments insist on a selling title at all costs. For the moment, you can’t judge a book by its title.