What is it about novels and nonfiction books with numbers, countdowns, days and deadlines in their titles? Just seeing one makes us want to grab them and dive in. Which, we suppose, is the whole idea. Why are books with numbers in their titles so strangely irresistible? We’ve got some thoughts on that. And just for fun, we rounded up a list of terrific novels and nonfiction books with a specific number of days in their titles. Don’t be surprised if one catches your eye and demands to be read. And be prepared to learn – as the song says – what a difference a day makes.
why are books with numbers of days and nights and countdowns in their titles so irresistible?
Our unscientific exploration of current books in print that have a title with a specified number of days and nights in the single or low-double digit zone indicates that most books fitting this description are in one of three genres. Romances. War histories. And nonfiction books about sports.
Why? Well, a title like this adds a palpable sense of excitement and urgency. It holds out the promise that there will be sudden reversals of fortune (and if they can happen here, perhaps they can happen in our lives, too). Finally, it gives immediate assurance that this story has a clear beginning, middle and end – and that it won’t take long to get there. Short attention span readers, these are for you!
Personally, we find it almost irresistible to walk past a book with a title like this and not give it at least a quick skim. If you’re similarly situated, here’s our countdown of books with a specific number of days or nights in the title. Don’t ask us why, but the number nine is oddly absent. And our entry for the number four is a bit of a stretch. Publishers of the world, take note. Nine days and nights await their moment in the sun.
In the meantime, it turns out that finding love, winning baseball games, conducting successful diplomacy and winning a war all defy the general rules of time. Each one happens very slowly . . . and then all at once.
Countdown: 13 Books with numbers, days or deadlines in the title
1. One Day in December by Josie Silver.
One Day in December is our first entry in the list of nonfiction books and novels with numbers in the title, and fittingly, it’s a bestselling romance novel. Through a fogged-up London bus window, Laurie sees a man who she knows instantly is The One. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of connection . . . and then her bus pulls away. A year later, she finally meets him – when her best friend introduces her to her new boyfriend. Ugh! Over the course of 10 years, fate takes a hand in sorting it all out. But it all began one snowy day in December.
2. Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone.
Of course there’s a thriller on the list of novels and nonfiction books with numbers in the title. How could there not be?
Two Nights in Lisbon is the latest thriller from one of our favorite novelists. And it lives up to our high expectations. Ariel Pryce wakes up in Lisbon, alone. Her husband is gone. Something is wrong. The clock is ticking and Ariel is getting the run-around from hotel security, the local cops and the American Embassy. Only one person can help – and it’s the last person on earth she wants to talk to.
3. Three Days at Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy by Jeffrey E. Garten.
Three Days at Camp David tells the riveting history of how President Richard Nixon and his brain trust changed the global monetary system for decades to come in just three days. From August 13 to 15, 1971, at a secret meeting at Camp David, Nixon unilaterally ended the last vestiges of the gold standard. By breaking the link between gold and the dollar, he caused temporary havoc in the markets. But ultimately, the decision is credited with opening borders and fostering international trade at a scale never seen before.
4. Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager by Buzz Bissinger.
Three Nights in August takes a standard time span in Major League Baseball – the three-game series – and uses it to illuminate the cunning and strategy of legendary manager Tony La Russa. As the St. Louis Cardinals battle their archrival Chicago Cubs, we’re in the dugout. Whether or not you’re interested in baseball, this is a riveting account of how one leader captured hearts and minds and prevailed against the odds.
5. 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster.
The widely acclaimed novel 4 3 2 1 has a plot similar to Sliding Doors – except on steroids. We see four different ways in which the life of the infant Archibald Isaac Ferguson might transpire. The fortunes of his family diverge from one “life” to another. Athletic and intellectual prowess differ wildly. But there’s one constant: in each of the four scenarios, Ferguson falls under the spell of Amy Schneiderman. Their love story ends differently each time, but his pursuit of her is the one through-line in an otherwise highly eventful set of lives.
6. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink.
Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, takes us inside a hospital fighting for its life during and after Hurricane Katrina. After the hospital’s power failed, amid rising floodwaters and heat, the exhausted staff had to make terrible choices about which patients would have to be last in line for rescue. Later, a doctor and two nurses were arrested and accused of ending these patients’ lives illegally. This is a riveting tale of how people can behave under extreme pressure – and a meditation on end-of-life care and how it can be improved.
7. Six Days in Rome by Francesca Giacco.
Emilia arrives in Rome reeling from heartbreak and reckoning with her past. What was supposed to be a romantic trip has, with the sudden end of a relationship, become a solitary one. In what becomes a poignant meditation on the process of self-discovery, she meets an American expat. As their intimacy deepens, she begins to see herself anew, both as a woman and as an artist.
8. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams.
The sharp, smart and sophisticated love story of Seven Days in June takes a classic trope and modernizes it. A Black young man and woman meet in high school, and spend seven intense days together. Days of sex, drugs, self-harm and salvation. At the end of the week, he disappears and she ends up in rehab. Twenty years later, both are successful writers. And when they meet at a publishing industry event in Manhattan, it becomes clear that they’ve been writing about and to each other since they parted as teenagers. Now they have seven days to figure out if their story is over . . . or if this is the start of a whole new chapter.
9. Eight Days in May: The Final Collapse of the Third Reich by Volker Ullrich.
For some reason, lots of books with a countdown or a specific number of days or nights are historical accounts of wars, especially World War II. Eight Days in May is just one of the many histories that fit this bill. You’d be forgiven for assuming that this global conflict took place in a short period of time. Instead, there were many decisive decisions and actions that played out for over four years, one intense burst at a time.
10. Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley.
Hollywood turns up more than once in our list of novels and books with numbers in the title. In Ten Days in the Hills, its the aftermath of the 2003 Academy Awards. An Oscar-winning writer/director and his wife open their Hollywood Hills home to a group of friends, industry insiders and hangers-on. Everyone is eager to escape the outside world and dissect the latest news, gossip, and secrets of the business. What could possibly go wrong? Over the next ten days, old lovers collide, new relationships form, and sparks fly.
11. Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter.
In the suspenseful debut novel Eleven Days, it’s May 2011. Sara’s son, Jason, has been missing for nine days, following a Special Operations Forces mission that took place one the same night as the raid that killed bin Laden. Through letters and flashbacks, we learn of the profound bond between this mother and son. And we’re forced to reflect on life choices, the military, war, and what it means to serve.
12. Twelve Days in May by Niamh Hargan.
Twelve Days in May is another example of how romance novels can deploy numbers in the title to capture the urgency – and the huge odds against – finding a true soul mate. This one is a romantic comedy that unfolds over the 12 days of the Cannes Film Festival. A pair who met 12 years prior meet again and get a second chance, with a backdrop of Hollywood intrigue and the glamour of the Croisette.
13. Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright.
We close our list of nonfiction books and novels with numbers in the title with an exemplary chapter in the history of diplomacy. Say what you will about the Carter Administration. But statecraft is a delicate matter requiring skill and patience. And in this instance, the President and his team had both.
In September 1978, three world leaders—Menachem Begin of Israel, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and Jimmy Carter—met at Camp David. Their goal was brokering a peace agreement between the two Middle East nations. During the thirteen-day conference, the author reports that Begin and Sadat got into screaming matches and had to be physically separated. Both attempted to walk away multiple times. Yet, by the end, a treaty had been forged. Thirteen days is a long time. And yet such a short time for a seemingly impossible outcome.
irresistible novels and books with numbers, days and deadlines in the title
That’s our take on why nonfiction books and novels with numbers, days and countdowns in their title are just irresistible, with 13 examples to prove our point. What say you, dear reader? Do any of these capture your attention?
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Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. A Detroit native, she has 3 Harvard degrees and has written 3 mystery novels published by Simon & Schuster. After serving as a senior corporate executive, CEO of CNBC and partner at McKinsey, she now serves on the boards of several tech companies. She loves fashion, Paris, New York, books, contemporary art, running, skiing, coffee, Corgis and violets.