Top Trends: The Irresistible “-ist” List

When you work at a library, some literary trends aren’t that hard to spot: you tend to trip over them. A while back we started seeing lobsters everywhere, which last year were replaced by tigers. We’ve done whole book displays over covers featuring just feet, or headless women. (One avid reader in Montreal is especially gifted at keeping an eye out for similar (or identical) covers, such as this bevy of skirts.)

The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes.The latest trend that’s becoming hard to resist is the current proliferation of titles sporting the same sibillant suffix. Not sure when it began: it might have been Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, or maybe it dates back to Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, but suddenly on a stroll through the aisles one is likely to be accosted by resurrectionists, somnambulists, imperfectionists, informationists, and lonely polygamists.

Not only that: they’re having children, though strictly along X-chromosonal lines. Imagine the lively conversations that must ensue at any gathering of The Optimist’s Daughter, The Abortionist’s Daughter, The Alchemist’s DaughterA Bigamist’s Daughter, The Artist’s Daughter, The Communist’s Daughter, and The Narcissist’s Daughter. I wonder if they talk about their dads?

Here’s some of what we’ve spotted; can you think of others?The Anarchist, by John Smolens.

Now, what -ists have we missed?

12 thoughts on “Top Trends: The Irresistible “-ist” List”

  1. I’m addicted…

    The Conservationist Nadine Gordimer
    The Futurist James P. Othmer
    The Shooting Salvationist David R. Stokes and Bob Schieffer
    The Revolutionist Robert Littell

  2. Let’s bang right off with:
    The Shootist by Glendan Swarthhart (not in SPL, as John Wayne’s movie of it is)
    The Islamist by Ed Husain
    The Spirtualist by Megan Chance
    The Conservationist by Nadine Gordiner
    and follow with some more Reluctants:
    The Reluctant Naturalist by Charles A. Monaga
    The Reluctant Communist Charles Robert Jenkins
    The Reluctant Capitalists by Laura J. Miller

  3. Now, since the plurals door was left open:
    The Creationists by Rolanld L. Numbers
    The Surrealists by William Gaunt
    The Theorists of Economic Growth by W. W. Rostow
    and the longer title door is slightly ajar:
    The Realist at War by Edwin Harrison Cady (about William Dean Howell’s maturity)
    A Physicist on Madison Avenue by Tony Rothman
    The Sophist and the Statesman by Plato (my candidate for oldest -ist even if you can only go back as far as the first English translation.)
    The Impressionist by Hari Kunzu (a novel, actually)
    So, trend or recycled antiquity this has been fun, but I’m done.

  4. The Heart Specialist by Claire Rothman. Page turning novel about a strong woman who attends medical school in Montreal in the early 1900s …. and there is more than one heart!

  5. There’s another alchemist –

    The Alchemist” by Paolo Bacigalupi, a fantasy novella set in Tobias Buckwell’s world for “The Executioness,” where magic is banned on pain of death because it creates randomly-placed deadly thorn barriers a la Sleeping Beauty.

    The question that created Buckwell’s world was almost as good as the novellas themselves: a literary head wondered “Why aren’t there any middle-aged women heroes in fantasy when there are so many in real life?”

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