Chapters in a Novel– Names or Numbers?

I’m always amazed by the different ways authors choose to break up their novels.  I mean, I guess it’s particularly noticeable to me right now because my seven-year-old son is also regularly reading chapter books.  The books he reads?  Tend to have pretty consistent structure.  The chapters tend to be about 5-10 pages each and they don’t vary overly much from author to author, really.


But my books?  Holy toledo, they’re all over the map.  I read books with chapters well over thirty pages and books with tiny little two-page chapters.  Some of them are numbered, some are named.  Some are broken by whole new pages, some just note a change and move on with little to no fanfare.


Me?  Though I’m really not too fussy about how a book is structured, I have noticed that I’m a bit partial to books with chapter names or titles.  I guess I like the intrigue of it… I like to imagine what might be coming next based upon how the author has chosen to label it.


I was particularly fascinated by the section titles of the last book I read, The Book of Jonas.  This book is the tale of a “young Muslim war orphan whose family is killed in a military operation gone wrong, and the American soldier to whom his fate, and survival, is bound.”  Given that the story intricately tells the story of this Muslim boy, it was a bit of a jolt to the system to see section titles like, “Processional”, “Communion”, “Confession”, etc.  These words are all reminiscent of a Catholic Mass.  (And fitting!  You’ll have to read the book to see why. ;))


Anyway, I find that an author’s choice of titles for chapters or sections adds dimension and richness to the story for me– I’m definitely a fan.


How about you?  Do you like it when authors label their chapters?  Do you prefer numbers?  Or do you just have no preference about the matter?


(for more discussion about The Book of Jonas, be sure to pop over to the BlogHer Book Club page)


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2 comments to Chapters in a Novel– Names or Numbers?

  • michelle s

    i think most NF books have chapter titles, which I love…and often makes me skip sections…fiction, I prefer numbers…want to discover on my own what’s coming…
    interesting write up! :)

  • I love chapter titles when they are well-done. I particularly enjoy those that express a theme that works well with the book and isn’t too obscure.

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