Call Me Ishmael

10 Literary Baby Names Inspired By Great Books

Call them Ishmael. No, really.

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Father and young daughter reading book together at home
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Among a certain fretful literary population, there’s a fear that books could go extinct. Of course, that’s a ridiculous worry. What else are we going to use to prop up wobbly tables, arrange by color on our bookshelves, or try to impress people with?

Of course, if you want books to continue being printed (or written) in the future, it might help if you give your kid a strong, literary name. That way, when people eventually ask why the hell you settled on that baby name, you can remind them there’s such a thing as books and they’re freakin’ awesome.

From magical teens to mad scientists, here are the baby names that’ll make the preschool roll-call a hell of a page turner.

Literary Names For Girls


For: Hermione Granger

Why: As Harry Potter’s super-smart and powerful gal-pal, Hermione helps us all feel like, even though we have muggle parents, we could have the capacity to cast a patronus charm that is otterly ridiculous. If you don’t get that reference, this is not your daughter’s name. Moving on.


For: Lisbeth Salander

Why: Calling the protagonist of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo a “girl” is a bit misleading. Lisbeth is a badass with a violent streak and a way with breaking into computers. Of course there is a danger that your own girl could grow up to play with fire. Keep the extinguisher handy.


For: Hester Prynne

Why: Hawthorne’s great character received a scarlet letter from the puritanical asshats that ran her town, sure. Still, she grew to develop a deep sense of individual strength and moral understanding that you can only hope your little Hester develops without all the drama. Bonus? She’s likely to be an A student.


For: Jean Louise “Scout” Finch

Why: The curious and ever wide-eyed Scout of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the perfect narrator to help readers discover what right and justice really is. Her name personifies tree-climbing and precociousness. Frankly, no one can say boo about this moniker.


For: Shug Avery

Why: Alice Walker’s blues singer from The Color Purple is more than just a sultry voice and good looks. She helps usher Celie, the book’s main character, out of a world of abuse into a world of love and self-empowerment. But will people possibly mistake your girl’s name for “Shrug”? Shrug.

Literary Names For Boys


For: Ishmael

Why: Dude’s the narrator in Melville’s Moby Dick. It’ll also mean your kid has the best opening line in any conversation he ever has: “Call me Ishmael.” Boom. Genius.


For: Huckleberry Finn

Why: Huck is the wandering philosopher to Tom Sawyer’s chaotic trickster. His raft journey with his compatriot and escaped slave Jim are a portrait of seeking, though not always finding, freedom. For a spirited boy, Huck is the perfect name. But not Huckleberry, unless you want the kid to be hounded.


For: Dorian Grey

Why: As Oscar Wilde’s symbol of narcissism and eternal youth, there’s a certain cleverness in naming your kid Dorian. Because like their namesake’s portrait you’re basically getting decrepit while your kid stays relatively youthful. That lucky jerk. Actually, symbolism sucks.


For: Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins

Why: Walter Mosley’s incredible private investigator and protagonist of 14 crime novels is as clever and tough as they come. He’s a hero tracing the socio-political arc of the greater Los Angeles region with a hero’s eye. Also he was portrayed by Denzel Washington, who had a Devil of a time.


For: Haroun Khalifa

Why: As the main character of Salman Rushdie’s Haroun And The Sea Of Stories, this kid takes on a massively imaginative journey that allows him to defeat a creativity-despising force. He also manages to overcome some serious ADHD. At the very least the name will have other people paying attention.

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