Why Not Catch-21? : The Stories Behind the Titles, Paperback

Why Not Catch-21? : The Stories Behind the Titles Paperback

4 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Most book titles simply describe the contents of the book they are attached to.

Crime and Punishment is about crime and punishment, and Brideshead Revisited is about revisiting Brideshead.

But a small number of book titles have a rather odd, separate existence, almost as independent literary artefacts.

The stories behind them are quite different from the stories behind the actual books. Winnie-the-Pooh, for example is to do with a swan on a pond at a holiday cottage.

The Postman Always Rings Twice is about the travails of a screenwriter. And Catch-22 only got that way after a clash with another author, and via a route that included several other numbers.

In Why Not Catch-21?, Gary Dexter looks at 50 iconic books and explores the fascinating stories behind how they got their titles.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary reference works
  • ISBN: 9780711229259


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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

I was very excited to start this book, and I had some high expectations - unfortunately, the book fell short.The concept is wonderful - giving the "story" behind the titles of 50 works of literature. And there were parts of the book I really liked. The problem was two-fold. In order to fit the backstories for 50 titles into a 200 page book, each chapter was necessarily pretty short. So in the cases where the story was truly interesting, it kept me wanting more. But that is also part of the 2nd problem. Most of the stories were not interesting. Admittedly, some of my lack of interest was due to the fact that I had not read - and in some cases, had not even HEARD - most of the titles in the book. Picture of Dorian Gray, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Moby-Dick, etc. - no problem. Again, not all were interesting, but I could get "into" the explanations. But Gargantua and Pantagruel, Astrophil and Stella, Shamela, Poems of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell ????? The fact I had heard of none of these wouldn't have been a problem if then the story behind their names was even remotely interesting. The redeeming value came from the nuggets I could sink my teeth into. Worth a skim for some of the factoids (impress your friends at dinner parties with the original title of Catch-22, etc.) but not a tome worthy of heavy study.

Review by

A short, quick, witty and intelligent read. I'd recommend this for any book lover, history buff, or trivia lover. The author occasionally takes liberties and stretches the idea of the book, but does so with style. I can imagine some might think his humor occasionally ventures into the rude or obnoxious, but I found it entertaining.

Review by

This book takes a number of famous titles and discuss the reasons behind the title. Kinda comforting to know that several books that are quite iconic went through a number of name changes before becoming the titles we know.Sometimes it more goes into the background of the novel rather than the title itself and while interesting isn't really what I was expecting