As it happens, I had some time ago stumbled upon John Burkardt's list of one-letter book titles, and quite enjoyed it -- I even suggested a few new ones, and Mr. Burkardt was kind enough to mention my name. I wonder if ABE's spam searchbots saw that? Or is it just coincidence? (I actually suspect the latter).
Not surprisingly, the 21-title list of ABE books and the 23-title list of John Burkardt are pretty similar. By my count, ABE caught only one book that Burkardt missed (the recent C) while Burkardt found three that ABE didn't (two earlier C's, plus Leacock's Q).
Merging these, I present for posterity (or spambots) the following list of
- a, Andy Warhol
- C, Maurice Baring
- "C", Anthony Cave Brown
- C, Tom McCarthy
- c, Thomas Sowell
- E, Matt Beaumont
- F: Hu Feng's Prison Years, Mei Zhi
- F, Daniel Kehlmann
- G, John Berger
- H, Elizabeth Shepard
- H., Lin Haire-Sargeant
- J, Howard Jacobson
- K, Mary Roberts Rinehart
- K., Ronald Hayman
- M, John Sack
- N, Louis Edwards
- O, Omari Grandberry
- P, Andrew Lewis Conn
- Q, Luther Blissett
- Q, Stephen Leacock
- S, Harry Mathews et. al.*
- S., John Updike
- V, Thomas Pynchon
- W, or the Memory of Childhood, Georges Perec
- X, Sue Coe
- Y: the Last Man, Brian Vaughn et al.
- Z, Vassily Vassilikos
I'm not sure about that Sowell title, however... a quick google doesn't turn it up. Does anyone have a reference for that?
Where their pages differ, not surprisingly, is the category that Burkardt calls "Close but no cigar" and that ABE calls "Books that almost made the cut". There I definitely prefer Burkardt, where nearly all his near-miss books catch the spirit of the list, whereas ABE just lists a bunch of books with short words as titles. The two-book overlap between the near-miss lists are definitely the most relevant of the bunch, however:
- N or M?, Agatha Christie
- U and I, Nicholson Baker
In fact, one item that Burkardt lists in the "near miss" category is actually one I would argue belongs on the list proper is
- ∈ by Jacques Roubaud
Despite there being 25 such titles, however, overlap in usage (no less than four "C" books, assuming the Sowell is legit) means that a fair number of letters are still up for grabs. Writers of the world, take note! The following books remain to be written:
(The other obvious extension here, I suppose, is to numbers. But so far as I can tell, there aren't any books titled 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9. It seems if books wish to be a single-digit number, they spell it out (e.g. One). There are some films -- the one's I've seen in a brief search are 1, 3, 4, 8 and 9 (again, discounting films like Seven that spell it out). And album titles positively abound in single-digit numbers: there are multiple albums called by each of those eight titles, and for some there are a great many indeed. But it looks like these are, literarily, uncharted territory.)
Unrelated postscript: anyone who's read this far will probably also like John Burkardt's marvelously idiosyncratic list of Hapax Leomenon. (What would the plural be of that anyway?) And probably also his list of multiple homonyms (i.e. homonyms with three or more words in the set not just two).
Update, Years Later: Added two new titles, F and J, and removed those letters from the list of ones yet to be written. Now, at the end of 2014, the title of this post should be BDILRTU. But I'll leave it as is.
* This is the English translation of a book written partly in English and partly in French, by seven authors, with the French title Semaines de Suzanne.