‘Novels’ and ‘Numbers’ Both Start With the Letter ‘N’

With “Pi Day” coming March 14, I thought I’d mention novels I like that have numbers in their titles. I’m probably forgetting some of the ones I’ve read, and am deliberately leaving out ones I haven’t read. But here goes — from low numbers to high:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Ken Kesey’s psychiatric ward-set novel says a lot about freedom, individualism, and…psychiatric wards. Perhaps better known for the film version.

One of Ours. Willa Cather’s absorbing World War I-themed novel won a Pulitzer.

One Summer. David Balducci’s poignant look at an unexpected death and life after that.

A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens’ classic tale of the French revolution has what might be literature’s most memorable opening and closing passages.

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. Jorge Amado’s novel looks at an irresponsible (but charismatic) first hubby and a responsible (but kind of boring) second hubby. But the star is the kind, talented, memorable Dona Flor herself.

The Two Towers. The middle installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is not as interesting as the first and third books, but still pretty darn good.

Two in the Field. Darryl Brock’s okay sequel to his amazing baseball/time-travel novel If I Never Get Back includes a cameo by the infamous General Custer.

The Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas’ fun, thrilling, swashbuckling novel. His second-best book after The Count of Monte Cristo — which features a person who’s a count rather than a numbers-related counting. 🙂

Three Junes. Julia Glass’ absorbing tale contains a trio of sections set a number of years apart.

Three Stations. One of Martin Cruz Smith’s seven excellent sequels to Gorky Park.

The Sign of the Four. Among Arthur Conan Doyle’s best Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Slaughterhouse-Five. Kurt Vonnegut’s iconic look at the horrors of World War II.

The House of the Seven Gables. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s melancholy novel of old New England.

From a Buick 8. One of Stephen King’s lower-key novels, and quite haunting.

Twenty Years After. The first of Dumas’ sequels to The Three Musketeers.

Catch-22. Joseph Heller’s hilarious, bitingly satiric antiwar novel.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Robin Sloan’s quirky novel is set in San Francisco and New York City, and has a mystery element.

61 Hours. Might be my favorite of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. Set in a snowy and bitterly cold South Dakota.

Around the World in Eighty Days. A Jules Verne adventure novel whose title is self-explanatory.

One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabriel García Márquez’s tour de force is a multi-generational family saga that’s also about Latin America’s social and political history.

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury’s sobering book about book-burning.

Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell’s dystopian classic about an ultra-controlled society.

2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C. Clarke’s mind-blowing sci-fi novel.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Another Jules Verne favorite with a self-explanatory title.

And then there are the 25 (so far) Janet Evanovich novels starring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum that have numbers in their titles: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly

Life of Pi doesn’t qualify for this blog post because Pi is of course not a number but rather the nickname of Piscine Molitor Patel — the star of Yann Martel’s novel.

Your favorite books with numbers in their titles, including ones I mentioned or didn’t mention?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about a massive mega-mansion coming to my town — is here.

71 thoughts on “‘Novels’ and ‘Numbers’ Both Start With the Letter ‘N’

  1. I have a soft spot in my head for can-do, ordinary Britishers who become extraordinary under the shadow of national emergency– in other words, those characters as depicted in movies such as “The Cruel Sea”, “Mrs. Miniver”, etc.

    Manning Coles is the non-de-plume of two British writers, a man and a woman, who wrote a series of suspense novels featuring Tommy Hambledon. The one I’ve read is a tight, if formulaic counter-espionage thriller titled “The Fifth Man” (1946), and thus, is germane to topic.

    During a visit home not long ago, I found a cheap paperback edition, yellowed but readable on a shelf in the guest bedroom, and having exhausted all reading supplies I had brought in my suitcase, I took up “The Fifth Man”, and somehow, it looked familiar. This was hardly surprising, as books in the family manse are most often like roaches in the roach motel– they got in easily enough, but they never check out, or, more accurately, are never chucked out. I probably had seen, but not registered, its crinkled little spine for years.

    But the familiarity, it turns out, lay elsewhere. In my apartment, to be precise.

    The first year I lived here (1980), I had found a worn book jacket, sans what it was meant to cover, on the street– a typical 1940’s styled thing featuring a silhouette of a sinking ship on rough seas, and the outline of a bottle. Don’t know why, but I taped it up on the inside of a closet door– where it remains to this day.

    Sometime after I returned from Nashville, I happened to notice the cover taped up long ago on the closet door bore the title “They Tell No Tales” and its authors’ name– Manning Coles!

    Sorta spooky…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All these examples of numbers in titles– and they’re all so small!

    Here’s a properly large one: “The Tale of the 1002 Night” by Joseph Roth– his last book published in his lifetime, or maybe not, depending on how these things are calculated– and by whom. Of course, it makes its title out of the classic Middle Eastern collection of fables “The Thousand and One Nights”, as told by Scheherazade, only, as careful readers might note, it’s one more, which makes it better, at least by the logic of Nigel Tufnel.

    The novel is the simple story of a visit to the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s capital, Vienna, by the Shah of Iran, and the fancy he takes to a young lady, his grateful gift of pearls upon the following morning, and the subterfuge of which he is kept unaware, involving, thanks to the eventually thankless quick-wittedness of an enterprising young military officer, who substitutes one young lady for another of a lower caste and in the employ of a procuress.

    Sometimes, as in wikipedia, this novel is titled “The String of Pearls”, but my translation, by Michael Hoffmann, is titled as I have it. The novel also lovingly invokes the latter days of Imperial Vienna, its sights and sounds and sundry characters, high land low. Roth, his own income deriving mostly from journalism, is especially unsparing in his depiction of a newspaperman…

    A sorta aside: if somehow, it has escaped your attentions to date, I recommend “The Thousand and One Nights” aka “The Arabian Nights”. I have owned a few translations, translations of translations, my favorites being made by Galland and Mardrus– these are not necessarily the most accurate, but are among the earliest , and so, the most widely read in the West, and the most influential, along with the version made by Sir Richard Burton.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In defense of my first line above, I was referring to the entries of my fellow commenters– you Dave, have found titles going all the way up!

      Learned something elsewhere today, now that we’re on numbers: pi times a meter equals, roughly, ten feet. (10ft 3 11/16). Who knew? Besides math majors, I mean.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, jhNY! A most excellent description of the very nicely titled “The Tale of the 1002 Night” by Joseph Roth, who I hope to read again.

        Many years ago, I read some version of “The Thousand and One Nights.” Can’t remember if it was an abridged YA-type edition, or whether I just read some excerpted parts of that iconic work. But I don’t think it was the whole thing. (And I’ve often listened to Renaissance’s nearly 25-minute “Song of Scheherazade,” which has some of the most beautiful passages in progressive-rock history.)

        Some math people love to play around with pi. 🙂


    • Thank you, bebe! Definitely more than one Jack Reacher work with a number in the title!

      Speaking of numbers, isn’t it great that Jack always knows the exact time even though he doesn’t wear a watch or carry a smartphone? A man of many talents…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Someone with no possession…so much to learn from Reacher.
        I am in a mood now almost spring, of getting rid of things. So much stuff, in this house last ten years.
        Started with music tapes, I have thousands of them, I have at least 3 tape players so I could listen.
        Next with be CD`s, starting with MJ, can`t listen to him any more , never 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree, bebe — a lot to learn from Reacher’s minimalist style of living.

          Spring is definitely coming soon!

          Good luck with getting rid of things. It’s hard. I didn’t do that much throwing out until I had to — when I moved from a house to an apartment in 2014. I had so much stuff to go through… 😦

          Last but not least, I share your disgusted feelings about Michael Jackson — and other sexual predators, including Trump.

          Liked by 1 person

              • Twitler is no damn good, but MJ, given the fragility and tender ages of his victims, is worser, if measured on a scale of harm by means of predation.

                Now I’ve got to turn down each wherever and whenever they appear on my teevee…

                Liked by 2 people

                • It’s a tough call, jhNY, in terms of who was/is the worst predator of the young. I seem to remember an allegation that Trump was involved in the rape of a girl, and then there was his self-admitted barging into the dressing room of Miss Teenage America contestants. That in addition to the many credible accusations of sexual harassment of adult women.

                  Yes, hard to look at either MJ or DT on the screen, but harder for me to look at Trump — who’s despicable in all kinds of non-sexual-harassment ways as well.

                  Liked by 1 person

              • I posted this, and somehow it got hung up a mo in the ether, so I posted something similar , only for this first attempt to appear. If you could remove one, I’d like it to be this one. Can you? Thanks!

                Liked by 1 person

                • Just watched it, bebe. Interesting indeed. One thing Chris Wallace didn’t mention when saying Trump needs to expand his base to get reelected in 2020 was that if Trump, the Republicans, and possibly the Russians rig the election enough to have Trump squeak through again in the Electoral College (vote tampering, voter suppression, misinformation, etc.) Trump’s base doesn’t have to be expanded that much. 😦

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • You are so right Dave , actually now I see trump is bashing Shep Smith.. 🙂

                    Donald J. Trump

                    Were @FoxNews weekend anchors, @ArthelNeville and @LelandVittert, trained by CNN prior to their ratings collapse? In any event, that’s where they should be working, along with their lowest rated anchor, Shepard Smith!

                    2:18 PM – Mar 17, 2019
                    Twitter Ads info and privacy
                    28.1K people are talking about this

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Another crass/insulting Trump tweet, bebe. 😦

                      Shep Smith and Chris Wallace are two of the VERY few Fox people who are at least semi-journalists, which of course the Crybaby-in-Chief doesn’t like.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I guess Chris Wallace and Shep Smith are Fox’s token semi-moderates — perhaps there to allow Murdoch to claim he’s showing more than one side. But, overall, Fox is as reactionary as can be. (I know I’m not saying anything you don’t already know, bebe. 🙂 )

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • While the Murdoch sons are more liberal than their dad, they’re not really that liberal. I do give the sons credit for having less tolerance than Rupert for all the sexual harassment during Fox News’ history by the likes of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, etc.)

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • Sunday mornings I go for my tai chi class at the healthples close by, then I do some gentle 😄 elyptical and check the the in front. There is nbc, cbs sometimes Wallace who is rather good .

                    Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks like you beat me to the punch with all my titles for this one! Although… I must confess… I haven’t yet read Slaughterhouse Five. It’s all cued up on my Kindle and it’s one of my next reads – think I only have one or two in front of it. I know, I know. Epic fail on my part given my interest in World War II haha. Soon to be remedied though! Also – I’m about half way through I, Claudius which you had mentioned in a previous post (about books that take place a long, long time ago). I’m really enjoying it! That Livia! What are we going to do with her?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Surjot! Glad you liked the post. 🙂

      I’ve read only one Haruki Murakami novel — “After Dark” — and enjoyed it a lot. I can see why you’re a fan of his work. I’ll definitely read more of him when I can!


  4. Dave, I’ll add my two cents and mention two of Dorothy L, Sayers novels, both mentioning numbers in the title. First off is “The Five Red Herrings,” which is probably my least favorite of her Lord Peter Wimsey novels. I think it had something to do with fishing, or least Lord Peter was on a fishing holiday when someone ends up being murdered. I don’t want to insult anyone here, but I find fishing very boring, though many people love it and I’m sure some people find many of my pursuits boring as well.

    The other Sayers’ book is considered by many to be her best, “The Nine Tailors.” Lest anyone think this is about nine tailors that dress men and are murdered, it’s actually about church bell ringing. and it means that teams from different churches each try to make it to have members ring their church bells ring for a solid nine hours. Of course Lord Peter turns out to be as good at this as he does everything else, and of course there is foul play at work here.

    I often have references to Agatha Christie, and this would be where I have to mention “4:50 from Paddington” as well as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” “Five Little Pigs,” “The Big Four,” “Thirteen Problems,” “Towards Zero,” “The Seven Dials Mystery.” and I suppose one could add, “And Then There Were None.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lit!

      Terrific mentions/descriptions of those Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie novels! Wow — MANY Christie titles with numbers! And, yes, “none” is a number of a sort. I guess there’s also Bret Easton Ellis’ “Less Than Zero,” which I haven’t read.

      “…I’ll add my two cents” — ha! 🙂

      Last but not least, I’m not a fan of fishing, either!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have to say that the first time fishing that I can remember was on the lake in Northern Minnesota, where we spent some time on vacations and where we put our parents’ ashes. I also remember having to portage across with our canoe, to another more secluded lake, which is not my idea of a fun time, but it was simply gorgeous, so there’s that…

        Liked by 1 person

        • I guess one good thing about fishing can be the nature views, as you noted in your poignant/wonderful description, Kat Lit.

          I’ve only went fishing once (while at a sleep-away camp as a teen). I felt bad for the fish (I threw back the only one I somehow caught). And I’m now a vegetarian, so fishing bothers me on that level, too.


          • As a Son of the South, I have done a bit of fishing, mostly in my youth, mostly of the humble bamboo pole, float and weighted hook variety. In NC, whole families would surround ponds, or cast from either side of streams or rivers with such apparati, in hopes of a catch or several for Sunday dinner. It was pleasant, convivial fun, and most of the time, dinner arrived: bass, sunfish, and for those who weighted down their hooks sufficiently, and used strong-smelling bait, catfish. An occasional snapping turtle was brought up, to the consternation of all but small shouting boys, when catfish was the intended prize.

            In the upper NE corner of IA, I acquired a rod and reel for application to trout. That IA fishing was the best: I could cast, let the current take my line downstream and while awaiting bites, if any, with the toe of my tennis shoe I could stir the gravel underfoot, and, more than occasionally, come up with a fossil. Nothing fancy, mind you– crinoids most often, brachiopods and a gastropod or so. Once I found a lump of agate!

            Now that I’m thinking about it, aside from a fine afternoon fishing for bluefish sprats off a pier on Fire Island in 1980, I haven’t held a fishing pole since 1965!

            Reading this, I’m sure any wary fish that feared my piscatory prowess years back might feel free now to come out of the water, though not without inviting other more immediate threats to its mortality.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thank you, jhNY, for sharing those evocative fishing memories. “To each their own,” as they say. 🙂 Also, I guess we sometimes have different feelings about things when we’re kids vs. when we’re adults.


  5. I have to throw in “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” here.

    And since you mentioned Lee Child, I finally got around to reading something by him. A collection of short stories about Jack Reacher was on sale, so I snapped it up. Completely addictive! Guess I’ll have to get a couple of the full-length novels next.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. 11/22/63 is a novel by Stephen King with the premise that a time travel goes back in time to try to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. I haven’t read it but it is on my TBR list. I was going to take it out of the library but it weighs more than I do, so I’m going to borrow it from my son’s kindle account. He loved it and I’ve heard others say it is an excellent book. I love the Janet Evanovich series. I’m behind though. I think I stopped at book 17. Fun post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Molly!

      I thought of “11/22/63,” but also haven’t read it (yet) — partly for the reason you alluded to…its length. The premise of the novel is fascinating, of course. It’s definitely a major time-travel-novel theme to go back to the past and try to prevent a tragic event — as Jack Finney, for instance, also did re the Titanic sinking in “From Time to Time.”

      “…it weighs more than I do” — very funny line! I guess, as you drolly noted, “11/22/63” doesn’t weigh quite as much on Kindle. 🙂

      Impressive that you’ve read 17 installments of the Evanovich series! I enjoyed it a lot, and, as a New Jersey resident, loved the Trenton, NJ, setting. But the first three of the books were enough for me.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Dave, am I allowed to comment this week if our pi day actually falls in July? As our date comes before our month, 22/7 is closer to 3.14 than 14/3. I guess we could celebrate it on 31/4, but that might take a while…

    Thanks to Kat Lit’s hearty recommendations, I read Liane Moriarty’s “Three Wishes” which I greatly enjoyed. I also have her “Nine Perfect Strangers” on my TBR list.

    Last year my book club got swept up in “Ready Player One.” A kind of sci-fi virtual reality story that was a LOT of fun.

    “1788” is Captain Watkin Tench’s fascinating journal, written during the landing of the First Fleet in Australia in 1788.

    Bryce Courtenays’s “The Power of One” is a remarkable coming of age story set in Africa in the 1930s and 1940s.

    “The Drawing of the Three” is a volume in Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” which is about bringing three people from our world into the Gunslinger’s world.

    I’m thinking “American Gods” Vol 2 a bit of a stretch for this week’s topic…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Sue, thanks for your mention of “Three Wishes” and “Nine Perfect Strangers,” by Liane Moriarity. As you know, I loved the former The latter is very good and you should probably enjoy it as much as I did. Please let me know what you think!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, Sue and Kat Lit!

        I LOVE Liane Moriarty’s work, but haven’t gotten to “Three Wishes” and “Nine Perfect Strangers” yet. I wanted to mention Moriarty so much in this blog post. 🙂 (The novels of hers I’ve read are “Big Little Lies,” “The Husband’s Secret,” “The Hypnotist’s Love Story,” and “Truly Madly Guilty.”)

        And I appreciate the GREAT mentions of those other books.

        Sue, hilarious pi riff and “American Gods” reference!

        Liked by 1 person

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