I couldn't even manage a full list of my favorites with a worthwhile explanation for all of them, so instead, I'm counting down my top five Favorites and top five Fails. Enjoy!
FAVORITES1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee - Atticus Finch
I've seen this on a lot of lists for today, and I think I know why: the name is simply associated in our memory with the honor, integrity, and work ethic exemplified by the iconic character. And, for Tacomans, with the friendly black cat that resides in King's Books on St. Helens Ave, downtown.
2. Holes, Louis Sachar - Stanley Yelnats
Excuse me for being an oblivious ten-year-old, but the revelation that Yelnats is simply Stanley spelled backwards, was completely mind-blowing.
3. Throne of Glass, S.J. Maas - Celaena Sardothien
There's definitely a wrong way to do fantasy names: eventually, it just seems like authors start randomly smacking their keyboard with a copy of Tolkien to string together an incomprehensible mix of consonants in order to name their protagonists. However, Maas does it right with a name that's a mix of flinty strength and elaborate beauty, just like her heroine.
4. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens - Ebeneezer Scrooge
This is just a fun one, kind of silly and whimsical, but one that you will always remember. In our family, this story is equivalent to a Biblical parable, thanks to three years of performances with a local community theater: celebrate Christmas with all of your heart, because that's better than any gift you can find under the tree. Bless you, Ebeneezer. (On a completely unrelated note, how many days until December? I've been ready to deck the halls since Costco started carrying human-sized nutcrackers back in September.)
5. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin - Sam Westing/ Sandy McSouthers/ Barney Northrup/ Julian Eastman/ Samuel Windkloppel
To completely and irrevocably spoil the incredibly surprising ending for those who haven't already read the classic children's novel, the five characters listed above, in a shocking turn of events, all turn out to be the same person. Any more information than that would be too much, so you should really go read this Newberry Award winner, and figure out the mystery for yourself.
FAILS1. The Selection, Keira Cass - America Singer
So. Terrible. So. Obvious. So. Annoying. (Eventually, I'm just going to have to read a book that somehow manages to be worse than this one, or I'm going to get incredibly bored.)
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling - Albus Severus Potter
Name him Remus. Name him Sirius. By Merlin's beard, name him Hagrid! Name him after any of the father-figure-stand-ins you've had over the course of your life, Harry, with whom you've had much better functioning relationships than the man who refused to tell you the truth for seven years, or the man who protected you because you had the same eyes as your dead mum, and save him the years of embarrassment!
3. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte - Heathcliff
Is it a first name? Is it a last name? Is it a nickname? Is it a geological formation? On his tombstone, is it inscribed, "Here lies the surly jerkwad and professional life-ruiner, formerly known as Heathcliff"? Regardless, it's a stupid name. For a stupid person. I hate you, Heathcliff.
4. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina
Honestly only on this list because no one I've talked to about it pronounces it the same way, and that is positively aggravation-inducing. Which syllable do you place the emphasis on? There's so many!
5. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte - St. John Rivers
Proper pronunciation, once again, ruins everything, as was pointed out to me in comments made by two new friends from English class: it's pronounced SIN-JIN, not Saint John, no joking. Probably put in place just to confuse the heck out of high school literates everywhere.
What are some of your favorite unusual names?