It Was the Best of Titles, It Was the Worst of Titles


Arts & Culture


In March, Michele Filgate wrote about Meriç Algün Ringborg’s Manhattan exhibition “The Library of Unborrowed Books” for this Web site. For that exhibition Algün Ringborg selected and exhibited titles that had never been borrowed from their respective libraries—an idea both clever and touching. Last month she opened her new, similarly bookish exhibition in Istanbul’s stylish Gallery NON, which is currently hosting its first show in a new building on a bystreet cutting through Istiklal, the city’s cultural center.

“The Apparent Author” consists of a sound installation which amplifies the voice of an author going on and on about her artistic goals, ambitions, and potentials (it feels as if she prefers speaking over the more difficult task of writing a book). Moving along, the viewer is confronted by two silent videos of the hands of the same author (in one video she ties a knot, in the other she performs a trick with a pen—both movements seem equally devoid of purpose). Then we come to what is, implicitly, the author’s workplace; we see the manuscript of a romance-thriller novel composed entirely from example sentences found in the Oxford English Dictionary, whose random and yet strictly disciplined order serves as the point of departure for the exhibition.

As an Istanbul author trying to finish a first novel in English, I was particularly fascinated by one piece: a shelf holding more than one hundred books devoted to helping authors finish their manuscripts. In fact, I immediately took out my iPhone and made a recording of the manual titles so that I could read them in more detail back home. (With the exception of Milan Kundera’s The Art of the Novel, I hadn’t read any of the books on Algün Ringborg’s shelf.) My fast-panning video is fifty-three seconds long; typing the titles of all the books in it took almost an hour. Below I present the fruits of my labors: a full list of the library’s titles, which Algün Ringborg says are all taken from actual books. I checked them on Amazon; she is right. However absurd their titles may seem, almost all those books are sold under the site’s Education & Reference department.

My feelings shifted from laughter to sadness when I tried imagining not only the readers of those books, but also the authors, themselves in desperate need of attention from the people they are meant to educate. Had the Stanford professor Franco Moretti analyzed the titles of their books with his distant reading methods, he would surely point to the curious ways in which they present the craft of writing: they offer exercises and strategies to create time for writing, they believe that a book is something that the writer grows, like a child, and that the literary voice is something one can find in a manual. Plots can be devised through kits and those same kits can help one write a first draft in thirty days; one can liberate her writing, or release or free her inner writer, just like that.

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing

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200 Writing Prompts

250 Things You Should Know About Writing

500 Ways To Be a Better Writer

642 Things to Write

A Manual of Writer’s Tricks

A Writer’s Space: Make Room to Dream, to Work, to Write

A Writer’s Workbook: Daily Exercises for the Writing Life

About Writing

Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights

Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory

Anybody Can Write

Become a Writer

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Better Writing

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams

Craft of Writing

Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True

Everyday Writing: Tips and prompts to fit your regularly scheduled life

Everything I Know About Writing

Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing

First Draft in 30 Days: A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author

How Not to Write a Novel: Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them: A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide

How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them

How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them

How to Write

How to Write & Sell Your First Novel

How To Write A Book: 3 Steps To A Perfect Outline For Your Book Even If You Have No Idea Where And How To Start

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling

How to Write a Sentence And How to Read One

How to Write and Sell a Novel

How to Write it: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write

How to Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion

How to Write the Perfect Novel: A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide to Certain Literary Success

How to Write: Advice and Reflections

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If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

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Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate

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Magic of Writing Things Down

Making a Literary Life

Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer

No Plot? No Problem! Novel-writing Kit

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

On Becoming a Novelist

On Creative Writing

On Writing

One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers

One Writer’s Beginnings

One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft

Original Writing

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What!)

Painless Writing

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Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish

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Reading and Writing

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them

Reflective Writing

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Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose

Solutions For Novelists: Secrets of A Master Editor

Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew

Steps to Writing Well with Additional Readings

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing

Style: Toward Clarity and Grace

The Art of Dramatic Writing

The Art of Readable Writing

The Art of the Novel

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well

The Careful Writer

The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

The Elements of Style

The Essential Guide to Writing a Novel

The Little Red Writing Book

The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block and the Creative Brain

The New Well Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

The Play of Words

The Right to Write: Invitation and Initiation.. Writing Life

The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader’s Perspective

The True Secret of Writing

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The White Time: How to find all the time you need to write a book

The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing

The Writer’s Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication

The Writer’s Devotional: 365 Inspirational Exercises, Ideas, Tips & Motivations on Writing

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life

The Writers‘ and Artists‘ Guide to How to Write

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The Writing Warrior: Discovering the Courage to Free Your True Voice

Three Rules for Writing a Novel

Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing

Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft

Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing

Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life

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Write Now!: How to Turn Your Ideas Into Great Stories

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Write That Book Already!: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now

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Write Your Genius, Genius! A Rather Quick Guide to Book Writing



Writing a Novel and Getting Published for Dummies

Writing and Thinking: A Handbook of Composition and Revision

Writing Between the Lines

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Writing FAST: How to Write Anything with Lightning Speed

Writing for Impact

Writing from Start to Finish: A Six-Step Guide

Writing from the Body: For Writers, Artists and Dreamers Who Long to Free Their Voice

Writing from the Center

Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within

Writing Life Stories

Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly

Writing on Both Sides of the Brain: Breakthrough Techniques for People Who Write

Writing the Breakout Novel

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Writing With Power

Writing with Precision: How to Write So That You Cannot Possibly Be Misunderstood

Writing with Style

Writing Your Way

You Were Born to Write: Complete Your Book in 30 Days or Less by Mastering the Inner Game of Writing

Zen in the Art of Writing 


The Apparent Author” is open until November 9 at Gallery NON, Tomtom Mahallesi, Nur-i Ziya Street, no 16, Istanbul, Turkey.

Kaya Genç is a novelist and essayist from Istanbul.