We bookworms love the endless amounts of creativity possible when it comes to playing with words. Obviously, we adore the words strung into sentences and arranged into novel form, but there are other clever ways to work with words. One of the best is a nice, silly, so-bad-its-good, groan-worthy pun.
Puns reveal the fluidity and layers of meaning that can be packed into a single word. Combine multiple words to suggest several meanings, play off of some sort of pop culture reference, and you have the highest form of pun humor; something punny.
I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.
Anyway, here are twelve books with punny titles, guaranteed to make you smile. The focus is entirely on a clever title, rather than the contents of the book, so if you’ve read one of the novels listed please do tell us how it was!
Feta Attraction by Susannah Hardy
“But when her husband disappears and her main competitor is found dead, it’s up to Georgie to solve a big fat Greek murder.”
There’s an entire sub-genre of cozy mysteries built entirely around puns for titles. Most of them have to do with food, and the opportunities for puns are legion. Go forth, fellow bookworms, and find some good cozy mystery titles.
Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
“‘Cross my heart and hope to die…’ Promises only last if you trust each other, but what if one of you is hiding something?”
An excellent use of pun that also manages to be downright threatening. Reviewers like Pinborough’s “twisted psychological thrillers” and “intricately plotted storylines”.
Much Ado About Muffin by Victoria Hamilton
“When muffin baker Merry Wynter sees an innocent woman accused of murder, it’s dough or die…”
If you thought the puns were confined to only the title, you were oh so wonderfully wrong.
Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews
“Meg tangles with Biff Brown, the petty, vindictive league head. On opening day, Biff’s lookalike brother is found dead in the porta-potty at the ball field . . .”
Being killed in a porta-potty has to be one of the worse ways to go and to be honest the eagle on the cover looks angry enough to have done it. The eaglet playing with a baseball is a nice touch as well. Hats off to the cover designer, for taking the title and running with it.
Night Mare by Piers Anthony (Xanth #6)
“Exiled to the day world with a message for King Trent, Mare Imbrium met the relentless, unforgiving Horseman. For the nightmare, it began to be all a horrible nightmare!”
Piers Anthony built an entire alternate-Florida magical world (Xanth) based on puns. Not only the titles but all of his books are stuffed, crammed, jammed full of puns. I particularly liked his literal take on “catastrophe” (say each syllable slowly and then picture what it would look like, and you’ve got it). If you’re looking for the master of the admittedly small punning niche, Anthony is it.
Say No Moor by Maddie Hunter
“As one guest goes missing and another turns up dead, Emily discovers that well-kept secrets and family treasure can provide more than enough motive for murder.”
Another cozy mystery series, the Passport to Peril, which is highly rated by reviewers. The puns are rampant throughout and each features a different fun location for murder, such as “Fleur de Lies”, “Catch Me If Yukon”, “Hula Done It?” and “G’Day To Die”.
Kiss The Earl by Gina Lamm
“On the eve of her first comic book release, Ella Briley has a problem: no date to the launch party. Things go from bad to worse when she stumbles into the past . . . and straight into the arms of her very own Mr. Darcy.”
Cozy mysteries aren’t the only books to take advantage of a good pun. Romance is in on the secret, and wow is this a great entry for the list. Not only is there an homage to a Disney song in the title, there’s a fabulous touch of Colin Firth Darcy on the cover, and a time-travel Regency romance on the inside. Perfection.
Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare
“On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
• Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
• Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
• Perhaps the butler did it.”
Another hint of Disney (from Frozen, this time) in the title. And with a wonderfully silly mystery driving the plot, this is a strong contender for the list.
Does a Bear Shift in the Woods by Ruby Dixon
“I’m a loner for a reason. I don’t have much in the way of social skills. I’d rather sit on my deck and watch the sunset than hit a tavern with coworkers. My idea of grooming is to trim my beard with a straight blade when it hits my collarbone.”
The sub-genre of paranormal shifter romance is wild territory, rich with opportunities for puns. Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, here comes Ruby Dixon with this were-bear take on a popular saying. Thank you, Ms. Dixon. Thank you from the bottom of our pun-loving hearts.
His Big Mountain, Axe by Madison Kaye
“Beard? Check. Alpha as hell? Check. Huge, hard lumber? Very check.
The biggest outlaw on the mountain has his sights on one woman, and he’s carrying a very big axe…”
More of a double entendre, although you could even call it a loud and proud single entendre. I admit it’s not really a pun but looking at the cover . . . can you blame me? Also, the images that also popped up in the Google search for the cover made writing this entire list worth it.
Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen
“His heart may be the last thing she ever steals…Marlowe is a pickpocket, a housebreaker-and a better actress than any professional on the stage.”
Yet another clever take on a popular song title. The word “Earl” seems to lend itself well to creating puns, there were plenty of titles like this one to choose from.
The Very Virile Viking by Sandra Hill
“Magnus Ericsson is a simple man. He loves the smell of fresh-turned dirt after springtime plowing. he love the feel of a soft woman under him in the bed furs. He loves the heft of a good sword in his fighting arm.”
There’s no way to write a list like this without including Sandra Hill. She is the mistress of puns and innuendos. Tongue tucked firmly into cheek, she also wrote an entire series about–and I’m not kidding–freaking Viking Vampire Angels, called Vangels. I honestly thought the person who told me about this series was joking with me.
The seventh book (The Angel Wore Fangs) has a Vangel suffering eternally for the deadly sin of gluttony, a dude ranch, time travel, a heroine who is a star chef, and, as the icing on the very top of this crazy cake, battles against agents of ISIS. If you’re going to write this kind of thing, Sandra Hill proves it’s the kind of plot to go big, or go home.