The World’s Oddest Book Prize

Hooray! My favourite book prize of the year is back…

There are many literary awards in this country. Some may consider the prestigious Booker to be the pre-eminent literary prize in Britain; others may perhaps feel the same way about the Whitbread.

I don’t.

For me, there’s only one literary prize worth its while, and that is the Diagram Prize, run since 1978 by The Bookseller magazine to honour the oddest book title of the year; an idea that greatly appeals to my inner geeky bookworm. Much excitement thus ensued in my household when I learned that The Bookseller had announced their shortlist for the 2009 award last week.

Those of you who have followed Another Kind Of Mind from its old home may remember that I have blogged about the Diagram before – for someone with a mind like mine, the mere idea of a prize like this is irresistible, especially so when previous winners and nominees have included such fantastically, epically odd tomes as these; weird book titles for weird books from all over the world:

Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (Various Authors) – The first winner of the Diagram in 1978, with this spectacularly odd volume being a worthy victor despite being a collection of studies on furless lab mice (poor creatures).

Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some Of Them Have Wings (Kuzhali Manickavel) – On the long list for the 2008 prize and likely one of those cases where reading becomes unnecessary because the title really tells you all you need to know. Is this author pitching to make The Fly III or something?

People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What To Do About It (Gary Leon Hill) – Sounds painful. This spectacularly odd-titled volume won the prize in 2006. I have no data on book sales for this one, either here on earth or in the afterlife.

The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan) – This bumper volume of Sapphic equine fun won the prize in 2003 for the obviously odd properties of its title. But does it contain stories about lesbian horses or horse stories for lesbians? Enquiring minds want to know…

Highlights in the History of Concrete (C.C. Stanley) – This remarkably dull-sounding tome was the 1994 Diagram winner. Although I knew the Romans invented it, I must say that I’m still slightly bemused to learn that there is actually a serious history of concrete in the first place, let alone that there are any actual highlights.

The Emotional Life of Contemporary Public Memorials (Erika Doss) – This one was nominated in 2008. I get that this text is about the modern cultural impact of memorials, but, at first glance, Doss’ title actually appears more creepy than just plain odd (although it somehow manages to be that too).

The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today (Ann Wilson) – Won in 1984. Personally, I would vehemently argue that the role of marmalade in the world today is quite clearly on toast, although Wilson may possibly disagree with me on that one.

How to Avoid Huge Ships (John W. Trimmer) – The 1992 winner. Having never previously had any need to avoid huge ships, this maritime self-help guide might be very helpful should I ever find myself in the direct path of a bloody big boat – I’ll know that Trimmer, too, suggests one should avoid them…

All Dogs Have ADHD (Kathy Hoopman) – Another title from the 2008 long list, and one about which I have no clue nor any desire to find one. I would imagine that the titular canine theory is a minority viewpoint – and a very, very odd one indeed.

F**k It (John C Parkin) – Also on the 2008 long list, this brilliant title is another that just says it all. I suspect I should read this book, I feel like that far too frequently for my own good!

The 2009 nominees are an interestingly mixed bunch as ever, chosen after a record number of entries were weeded down to these final six:

Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter (David Crompton) – According to The Bookseller, this volume of wriggly nature notes has sold a grand total of no copies. Anywhere.

The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ellen Scherl and Marla Dubinsky) – A world I have no desire to visit, quite frankly.

Collectible Spoons of the 3rd Reich (James A Yannes) – My personal favourite, mainly because it’s so random. I never had the Nazis down as being particularly into spoons, did you?

Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes (Daina Taimina) – Honestly. What’s next? Quantum knitting? Crafting with dark matter?

Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots (Ronald C Arkin) – Perhaps a copy of this should be sent to the Governator’s office….?

What Kind of Bean is this Chihuahua? (Tara Jansen-Meyer) – Um, it’s not a bean, it’s a small and annoyingly yappy dog, isn’t it?

And all of them – bizarrely but truly – are actual, real, published books. Somebody wrote them and somebody published them.

Believe it or not…

Vote for your favourite title to win the 2009 Diagram here.

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  1. Pingback: The Diagram Prize: More literary oddness « Another Kind Of Mind
  2. Pingback: The Diagram Prize 2013: The oddest book award of the year | Another Kind Of Mind

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