Thirty-four years ago The Bookseller, an industry and review magazine published in the UK, announced the first winner of its Diagram Prize. This award was conceived as a way to liven up the annual Frankfort Book Fair, the announcement to be made at that august gathering after nominations and voting had been conducted via Bookseller. The very first winner, acclaimed as the year’s oddest book title for 1979, was Proceedings of the Third International Workshop on Nude Mice (there’s more; something about Bozeman, Montana, but that’s the good part).
After that, a stampede! The Diagram announcement is eagerly awaited every year by book nerds who don’t have anything better to do, and this year is no exception. But before I get to that, let’s remember last year’s winners and runners-up:
- How to Poo on a Date (grand prize, and ’nuff said)
- Are Trout South African? (second place)
- The Origin of Feces (third place–apparently it was that kind of year)
- Working class Cats: the Bodega Cats of New York City (hon. mention)
- Pie-Ography: When Pie Met Biography (hon. mention)
Memorable titles of the past include
- For 2008: The 2009-2014 World Outlook for Sixty Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais (all the good tiny-cheese-container titles were taken)
- For 2004: Bombproof Your Horse (or else!)
- For 2003: The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (didn’t know that was a thing)
- For 2000: Designing High Performance Stiffened Structures (nope; not going there)
- For 1996: Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (and the women who love them?)
- For 1980: The Joy of Chickens (chickens in the title always gives you an edge; see Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop, 2012)
- For 1992: How to Avoid Huge Ships (#1, stay out of the water)
- For 2010: Managing a Dental Practice: the Genghis Khan Way. (Is your dentist also an author? Better check.)
More odd titles at Goodreads, here.
I know the suspense is killing you, so enough with the delaying tactics and on to this year’s award. First the relentless drumbeat of runners-up:
- Nature’s Nether Regions, by Menno Schilthuizen
- Advanced Pavement Research: Selected, Peer Reviewed Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Concrete Pavements Design, Construction, and Rehabilitation, edited by Bo Tian
- The Madwoman in the the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones, by Sandra Tsing-Loh (actually, I wish I’d thought of that one)
- Where do Camels Belong?, by Ken Thompson
- Divorcing a Real Witch: For Pagans and the People That Used to Love Them, by Diana Rajchel
- The Ugly Wife is Treasured at Home, by Melissa Margaret Schneider
So many odd titles, so tough to choose one. The winner this year broke two records: the first self-published title to be nominated is also the first self-published title to win, namely
- Strangers Have the Best Candy, by Margaret Meps Schulte
To dispel the inevitable creepiness, the author hastens to explain that her book is about depending on the kindness of strangers while backpacking all over the world. Glad she cleared that up.
And now, on to 2016. Keep a weather eye out of odd titles (must have actual books attached to them) and let The Bookseller know when you find one!