Baby Names from Books: Authors’ Picks

Recently, the London newspaper The Independent published the results of a survey they did asking one hundred British literary figures–including such leading lights as Maeve Binchy, Tracy Chevalier, Cynthia Ozick, David Lodge, AS Byatt and Ken Follett— to name their favorite fictional characters, “the characters who gave them the greatest reading pleasure.”

It was pretty interesting to see how the source books correlated with the choosers’ own works—probably no surprise that Ken Follett found early inspiration from James Bond, and Michael Connelly was influenced by Philip Marlowe. (To check out the  full story, including which writers picked which characters, visit the website of The Independent.)

Here are some of the noteworthy character names that they came up with:

Antonia Shimerdas, My Antonia by Willa Cather

Arturo Gerace, Arturo’s Island by Elsa Morante

Bathsheba Everdene, Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Ebenezer le Page, The Book of Ebenezer le Page by G. B. Edwards

Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Flora Poste, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Godwin Peak, Born in Exile by George Gissing

Haroun, Haroun and the Sea Stories by Salman Rushdie

Harriet M. Welsch, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Horatia Winwood, The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

Joachim Ziemssen, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

Julien Sorel, The Red and the Black by Stendhal

Leopold Bloom, Ulysses by James Joyce

Lorelei Lee, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Louisa Pollett, The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

Lyra Silvertongue, His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

Maisie Farange, What Maisie Knew by Henry James

Milo Minderbender, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

Molly Bloom, Ulysses by James Joyce

Nigel Molesworth, series by Geoffrey Willans

Oskar Schell, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; Oskar Matzerath, The Tin Drum by Günther Grass

Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler detective

Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Rupert CampbellBlack, Riders by Jilly Cooper; Rupert Psmith, the Jeeves books by P.G. Wodehouse

Zazie, Zazie in the Metro by Raymond Queneau

Zeno Cosino, Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo

What’s your favorite name of a literary character?

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26 Responses to “Baby Names from Books: Authors’ Picks”

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spotlightstarlit Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 2:09 am

I love this! I write a book-review blog and I always have a blurb discussing the names, so this is my kind of book.

I am rather surprised not to see Elizabeth on there, though maybe the Brits see the Queen over the lovely Ms. Bennett?

My literary favorites:

Zinnia from Chasing Redbird by Sharron Creech
Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Ophelia (though a play, rather than a book I think Ophelia should always qualify!)
Thisbe (See Ophelia)
Marion (As in Maid Marion from the Robin Hood Legends)
Reveka from Devil’s Arithmetic

Rhett from GWtW

Sarah Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 7:43 am

I absolutely love this post! Literary inspiration makes for the best naming.

Lola Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 8:23 am

Marian/Marion *&* Robert/Robin from Robin Hood

Arya Stark & Jamie Lannister from G.R.R.Martin’s Ice & Fire series.
Actually, I love a lot of the names he uses for his short stories: Lya, Morgan, Laren Dorr & Sharra (such a sad story!), Melantha Jhirl & Kenny! 😀

Eowyn from Tolkien’s LOTR series.

Mongo from Chessboro’s Mongo series.

Josephine/Jo & Margaret/Meg from Little Women.

I love literary names!

pdxlibrarian Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 8:45 am

Some of my favorite Literary Characters that were not mentioned above:

Milo from the Phantom Tollbooth
Alexandra from O Pioneers
Anne from Anne of Green Gables
Alice from Alice in Wonderland
Charlotte Doyle from the True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Jo from Little Women
Walt from Gasoline Alley
Harriet from the Lord Peter Wimsey Detective series
Enid from Ghost World
Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye
Mick Kelly from the Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Don Quixote from the eponymous novel
Laura Ingalls the Little House series
Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird
Dora Greenfield from the Bell
Charles Arrowby from the Sea, the Sea

I actually regret sometimes that I don’t like some of these names more because I would otherwise consider using them!

Lola Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I forgot a few

Ailsa & Genevra from “Too Deep for Tears” There’s another girl in the book, but she didn’t make as big an impression on me!

Gloriana & Tabitha from “Tabitha Hall” (it’s the first book in the series).

From Outlander:
Claire
James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (I think I’ve remembered his whole name right – someone correct me if I’m wrong!
Mr. Willoughby
Dougal

Lisa Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Sad we didn’t get to use Louisa, but my husband just couldn’t get past his old-lady image of the name. And I was thinking of it as more of a Louisa May Alcott reference.

Jennie Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Awwww… while this is a great topic, I was kind of hoping for an April Fools post.

linda Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Guess we fooled you!

Claire Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 12:56 pm

@pdxlibrarian Glad to see another fan of Charlotte Doyle!

I would add:

Portia from The Merchant of Venice
Fantine, Cosette and Eponine from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Iris Chase from The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Frances (Francie) Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Sarah A Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Rahel from The God of Small Things
Arwen and Eowyn from LOTR
Santiago from The Alchemist

And, not to toot my own horn of course, but the upside to having a really common name like Sarah is seeing it on literary characters. Though (imho) misspelled, my two favorites:
Sara Crewe from A Little Princess
Sara Smolinsky from Breadgivers

IndianRuby Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I love literary names. I just wanted to contribute Lux and Cecilia from ‘The Virgin Suicides’, Hermione and Luna from ‘Harry Potter’, Jean-Louise/Scout, Atticus and Jeremy from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and Anouk, Roux and Vianne from ‘Chocolat’. Oh, come to think of it, there’s Claudia and Louis from ‘Interview with the Vampire’, Bryony from ‘Atonement’, Heathcliff from ‘Wuthering Heights, Holly/Lula Mae from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and Tyler and Mara from ‘Fight Club’

linzybindi Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Antonia is an absolutely beautiful name! One of my favorites!

Nicole Says:

April 1st, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Matilda from “Matilda” by Roald Dahl!!!

Janel Says:

April 3rd, 2011 at 1:37 am

As a big reader, names of different characters usually invoke a long period of thinking, and awe of how the author created a name to suit their characters so perfectly.I thought Margaret Mitchell did a stunning job naming her characters in her only novel “Gone With the Wind”. Scarlett was firey, Melanie sweet, and Ashley weak and longing for old Southern ways.
I also found Betty Smith’s characters terrifically named in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. They may seem plain, but what if Francie Nolan was given another name, like Mary or Katherine? And her brother had the terrific name of Cornelious nn Neely.
Long response, I know.
I can only hope I’m a great namer like them one day. If not I can cry about it later.

Elizabeth Says:

April 3rd, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I am obsessed with Harry Potter: Severus and Hermione are two of my favorite names, and I also love the names of minor characters like Ignatia, Percival, Septimus, Godric, and Rolanda.
The only Roald Dahl book I ever read was Matilda, but I found some very unusual names in there. Examples include Zinnia (though she’s not the nicest of people), Agatha (see Zinnia), Hortense, and I think even Lavender.
When searching far back into my memories, I remember a book called Chrysanthemum, about a little girl with that name who was jealous of girls with common names like Victoria until her parents told her it was her grandmother’s name.
I personally think Rick Riordan did a nice job in his books by making Percy Jackson’s actual name Perseus…of course, that was because the series is based on Greek Mythology.
Very few namenerds give Stephenie Meyer credit, but she did bring to light obscure old names like Carlisle and Esme. If not for her, I would still think Carlisle was a girls’ name!

kelsey Says:

April 3rd, 2011 at 8:30 pm

The names in Witch and Wizard by James Patterson really impressed me: Wisteria (Wisti) and Whitford (Whit) are the main characters, as well as Celia, Margo, Janine, Emmett, Sasha (boy) and Byron.

From the Gemma Doyle trilogy there’s Gemma,Felicity and Pippa.
Lucinda from Impossible, Alice form Alice in Wonderland, Archer from Fire, Nerine from The Reluctant Heiress, Katniss and Primrose from The Hunger Games, Coraline from the Neil Gaiman book with the same name, Lark and Eilan from books I forget the titls of, I could go on…

I’m currently reading a book (Incarceron) with main characters Claudia and Finn.

Nephele Says:

April 3rd, 2011 at 9:44 pm

I loved the girls’ names “Eustacia” and “Tamsin” from Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native.

Sassy Says:

April 3rd, 2011 at 11:03 pm

I’m always looking at the character names in books I’m reading. I’ve even got my husband suggesting names from the books he reads :).
I love most of the main female characters in The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. Eloise, Henrietta, Penelope, Arabella, Charlotte, Jane. Strangely, most of the mens names don’t really jump out at me.
Other names I like:
Eowyn from LOTR
James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (You’re correct, Lola) from the Outlander series (My brother’s middle names are Alexander Malcolm and my Dad is James so they are also family names)
Elena, Clay, Eve from the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong.

Leslie Owen Says:

April 4th, 2011 at 12:04 am

Love the fact that Louisa is a family name as my favourite character is Louisa Pollitt too, my daughter’s middle name is Louisa. Other names from books are Reuven from The Chosen, Rhys from a James Hanley novel, Angharad from Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters, Olwen from Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, and Bartholomew from Brat Farrar

Baby names from books « snipHits (or misses) Says:

April 26th, 2011 at 11:41 am

[…] And, here’s another list of baby names from books. […]

Lindsay Says:

May 1st, 2011 at 4:15 pm

We love the name Ender From Enders Game.

Issy Says:

July 6th, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I absolutely love names that just pop out at me in books. Most of them Jane Austen like Elinor or Marianne, but I have others, as well.

“The Ex-Debutante” by: Carlisle (a girl’s name and the main character), India, Morgan, Ridgley (a girl or boy’s name), ect.

“I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend” by Cora Harrison: Jenny, Cassandra, Eliza, James, Edward, Frank, George, Charles, ect.

So yeah, you get the point. :p

charlotteblu Says:

July 6th, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I just started reading this series but I love the name Finley Jayne from the Steampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross.

sarahmezz Says:

January 28th, 2013 at 6:36 am

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, no contest!

sarahmezz Says:

January 28th, 2013 at 6:37 am

Okay, I forgot Jo March from Little Women!

octobertales Says:

June 10th, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Milo is also the main character of The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my favorites growing up!

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