Book Title

For a book of brain teasers with economic morals, how do we collectively feel about this title?

Rational Explanations: 100+ Puzzles to Make You Smarter About Economics

I’m interested in whether we like it, but more interested in whether we think it will sell books.

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31 Responses to “Book Title”


  1. 1 1 Jonathan Kariv

    I think the most book-selling title you’ve had (indeed the one that made me start reading your stuff) was “more sex is safer sex”. This one strikes me as being a lot more vanilla sounding and hence a lot less book-selling.

  2. 2 2 Khodge

    “Rational Explanations” does not have the same comfortable welcome as “Armchair Economist.” My first instinct when reading that title is to expect paranormal debunking, appealing to a small niche market.

    I’d be interested a title more along the style of Martin Gardner’s books.

  3. 3 3 Toby

    Puzzles for the Armchair Economist: 100+ puzzles to make you a better economist.

    I would refer to the title of your previous book. It might also boost its sales then. And previous readers might be more likely to notice this book.

  4. 4 4 The Original CC

    Wasn’t the author of the 4 Hour Work Week able to test out various titles using google ads or something like that? Oh wait… here’s the link:

    http://freakonomics.com/podcast/tim-ferriss/
    “The 4-Hour Workweek title was one of 12 titles that I tested on Google AdWords. So I created campaigns to test the respective titles and subtitles and then just looked at the click-through rates, which went to under-construction pages. And that performed the best of the options that I had.”

    Maybe you could do something like that. Your current title isn’t bad, but it doesn’t exactly grab my attention. (The author’s name does though!)

  5. 5 5 Pete

    I like it and think that it’d be an easier gift to give than “more sex is safer sex.” However, I completely agree that “Rational Explanations” is going to confuse a lot of people. If I saw it cold in a bookstore, I probably wouldn’t make the right assumptions about the content. Perhaps really emphasizing the words “puzzles” and “economics” would help.

    Unhelpful compliments: Fair Play was the best argument I’ve ever read about politics and The Big Questions was the best book I’ve ever read about reality.

  6. 6 6 Keshav Srinivasan

    Steve, I don’t think is a catchy title at all. First of all, my first reaction was the same as Khodge, it sounds like a book which tries to argue that seemingly supernatural phenomena have rational explanations. So people interested in puzzles wouldn’t pick it off the shelf. Plus, I think it should be more clever-sounding, possibly involving a pun. Something like “Rationally Irrational” or “Irrationally Rational” or something. “Rational Explanations” sounds too straightforward.

  7. 7 7 Keshav Srinivasan

    Also, the subtitle “100+ Puzzles to Make You Smarter About Economics” makes it sound as if the book is targeted to people taking an economics course, as opposed to something that would appeal to the lay reader who might find the insights of economics interesting.

  8. 8 8 Hugh A.D'Andrade

    I would prefer “This Book Will Make You Smarter:100+ Puzzles About Economics”

  9. 9 9 Tristan

    I really like Toby’s suggestion:

    Puzzles for the Armchair Economist: 100+ puzzles to make you a better economist.

    I think it stands a chance of being enticing to both academic and non-academic would-be economists.

  10. 10 10 Bill

    Don’t Read This Book Unless You Want to be Smarter: 100+ Puzzles About Economics

  11. 11 11 Harold

    I think a reference to The Armchair Economist would be helpful. To those who know it is a signal of what one might find inside, and to those who don’t the armchair economist is a cozy and comfortable image whilst setting the context rather well.

    However, if you have “Puzzles for the Armchair Economist” before the colon you can’t really have “100+ puzzles to make you a better economist” after it, as both economist and puzzle have already been introduced. However, I cannot for now think of anything better.

  12. 12 12 Jim WK

    The Return of The Armchair Economist: Puzzles to Make You Smarter About Economics

    Great books sometimes deserve a sequel, and with this title you will:

    A) Have a title that summarises exactly what the book is all about

    B) Bring new readers to the attention of the original Armchair Economist book

    C) Ensure that when one of the books is searched for in Google the other one comes to their attention too

    D) Possibly add the weight of the quality and reputation of the first Armchair Economist to the sales impetus of The Return of The Armchair Economist

  13. 13 13 SBF

    +1 to Toby’s suggestion: “Puzzles for the Armchair Economist: 100+ puzzles to make you a better economist.”

  14. 14 14 Neil

    I don’t think this title captures the theme of your book, which I understand to be “What is obvious is often wrong.” So what is wrong with the title What is Obvious is Often Wrong: 100+ Puzzles to Challenge Your Economics Intuition.

  15. 15 15 Neil

    PS Rational Explanations is too cute, IMHO.

  16. 16 16 LuisO

    Since you are a successful author your name will be very prominent in the cover, this will give context to the title. But I agree with the rest, this title doesn’t have the visual imagery strength that the titles of your other books had.

  17. 17 17 Harold

    I like Neil’s “what is obvious is often wrong”

  18. 18 18 Thomas

    Rational Explanations is good, but not punchy enough, especially with the long (but necessary) subtitle after the colon. Here’s an alternative — Econologic: Puzzles to Make You Smarter about Economics. I’ve omitted 100+, which seems unnecessary and only lengthens the subtitle.

    I would prefer Ecologic to Econologic — it’s shorter and punchier — but Ecologic is too easily confused with ecological.

  19. 19 19 Alessandro

    Drawing on previous suggestions: Obvious but wrong: 100+ puzzles for the Armchair Economist.

  20. 20 20 Zazooba

    “Rational Explanations” is a lot of syllables to chew through, so not crazy about it. Also, non-economists aren’t going to get the joke.

    The rest of the title is kind of hard to get through too.

    From left field:

    Snap!
    100 Economic Puzzles
    … and Then Some

    (Maybe it will open up a different line of thinking.)

  21. 21 21 Enrique

    I second Thomas and Zazooba’s comments. Frankly, proposed title is lame.

  22. 22 22 Zazooba

    “Rational Explanations: 100+ Puzzles to Make You Smarter About Economics”

    On further thought, I’m liking the first two words of the title a little better. It conveys the notion that the book will reveal rational explanations for seemingly irrational phenomena. The first two words are still pretty dry, though, which is ok for people looking for a dry book on economics, but fails to convey the undoubtedly fun nature of the actual contents to the rest of the book-buying public.

    There also seems to be a bit of confusion of perspective in the title.

    (1) “Rational explanations” sounds like the author is going to explain in a calm and reasonable manner various things to the reader. This sets up a picture of the author teaching the reader things in a rather passive teacher-student relationship. Kind of dry too.

    (2) “100+ puzzles” suggests that the author will give the reader a bunch of puzzles to solve. This is a more participatory relationship that makes the book sound like a book of crossword puzzles that the reader can work through with some effort. It could even be fun.

    (3) “to Make You Smarter” is a bit of a third perspective. This adds a self-improvement tone that clashes a bit with the “for-fun” tone of doing puzzles. It also conflicts a bit with “rational explanations”, which are passively received by the reader, while becoming smarter about economics is more like doing brain exercises.

    (4) “About Economics” saves until the very last word of the title the important information that the book is about economics. Readers have to go back and update their mental images of these explanations, puzzles, and ensmartenings to include this new information that these are economic explanations and puzzles and they will be ensmartened about economics.

  23. 23 23 Zazooba

    How about: Puzzles to Build Economic Insight?

  24. 24 24 Zazooba

    Actually, Toby has a better version of “Puzzles to Build Economic Insight”, i.e., “Puzzles for the Armchair Economist”

  25. 25 25 spaf

    A puzzle book title/cover should convey a sense of fun or at least be sort of mysterious/intriguing.

    You have my money already, but I would not buy a book based on that title.

    You’ve done well with title before (Fair Play, etc). But this one is bad.

    I agree with falling back on the “armchair economist” brand if you cannot come up with something good.

  26. 26 26 doc

    I think:

    1 I know you so that I think I’ll buy your book regardless of its title.

    2 You have to persuade who doesn’t know you. In this scenario on my part “about economics” is too much selective, so that I prefer something like “about reasoning” (somebody could think that a book on economics is to much specific without considering that economic principles are about logic and good forms of argument)

  27. 27 27 Andrew M

    Depending on the audience, I wouldn’t put “economics” in the (sub)title, but rather something like “how the world works”. The title immediately struck me as a play on “rational expectations” but maybe that’s unintentional. Something like “hidden explanations” is more direct and connects with the puzzle concept.

  28. 28 28 Andrew M

    I can’t decide whether the “make you smarter” pitch is overkill/redundant. Without it, my above comment would give something like “Hidden Explanations: 100+ Puzzles (and Solutions) About How The World Works”.

  29. 29 29 AD

    Just publish it and take my money

  30. 30 30 Ken B

    Thumbs down. “Make you smarter” sounds too Dale Carnegie.

    Readers might like this excellent video on using waves in QM, for beginners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzRCDLre1b4

  31. 31 31 Enrique

    If “Mind fuck economics” is off the table, then I love Toby’s “Puzzles for the armchair economist,” since it harkens back to Landsburg’s previous best-seller and is much shorter than the proposed title. There should be Occam’s Razor principle for book and paper titles.

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