Can I mention a famous book in my novel?

I was at kboards the other day and stumbled upon a timely thread titled, Legality of quoting the bible and referencing popular culture.

I’m glad I read it because doing so forced me to research a question I had.  See, in my first draft of Book 2 of The Nome Trilogy Chronicles, I reference 3 well-known books. One of them is the Bible, by the way.  All I do is mention the titles of these books and a character avoids reading them because they are thicker than he would like.

Not being sure whether references to book titles would require permission, I started digging and came upon Jane Friedman’s very useful website –  Specifically, I read When Do You Need to Secure Permissions?. That article, first published in 2012 informed me that titles are fine and provided a trove of additional sources with information.

Circular 34 from the U.S. Copyright Office ended up confirming Jane’s article.  Titled Copyright Protection Not Available for Names, Titles, or Short Phrases, this two-page document set my mind at ease. I won’t be removing the references to two popular books from WIP during the editing stage. At least, I won’t remove them for lack of obtaining permissions.

As for the books I mentioned, one is written by the Dalai Lama and the other by Nelson Mandela.  Oh and as I noted earlier, the third is the Holy Bible.

Have you had to obtain permission to use parts of another creator’s works?

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