Wednesday, 7 September 2005

You couldn't make them up

I must have missed the announcement in January of the 2005 Diagram winner, and I have only just caught up. This prize (a magnum of champagne) has been awarded annually by The Bookseller magazine since 1978 to the publishers of the oddest book title of the year, and reflects the book trade's unceasing bafflement and delight at some of the highly specialised titles which get into print; after nominations from the public, the selection is made by a poll of publishers and booksellers.
On the short list this year were Detecting Foreign Bodies in Food and The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox.
Everyone will have favourites among earlier winners or nominees. Here are some of mine:
High-Performance Stiffened Structures
Did Lewis Carroll Visit Llandudno?
Whose Bottom? A Lift-the-Flap Book
Woodcarving with a Chainsaw
Psoriasis at Your Fingertips
Short walks at Land’s End
Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service
(dealing with legal matters)
Living with Crazy Buttocks (not about a Sioux warrior, but a book of Australian cartoons)
Melons for the Passionate Grower
Six-Legged Sex: The Erotic Lives of Bugs
Without Regret: A Handbook for Owners of Canine Amputees
Women and Integrated Pest Management
First You Take a Leek
Forensic Examination of Rubber Stamps
Passing Gas
Postmortem Collectibles
Red-haired Irishwomen on the Bog
Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice
Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality
How to Avoid Huge Ships
227 Secrets Your Snake Wants You to Know
Celtic Sex Magic: For Couples, Groups and Solitary Practitioners
Design for Impact: 50 Years of Airline Safety Cards
Hot Topics in Urology.

Sadly, the contest is nowadays internationally famous and so popular that publishers have started choosing titles in the hope of winning it (the champagne isn't worth much but the publicity is). The magazine rebukes those who submit self-consciously titled entries, perhaps dreamed up in a bid to emulate the 2003 classic winner, Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories. So it is good to hear that this year the runaway prize-winner, also on equestrian matters, was an extremely serious and useful manual selling around 400 copies a month: it teaches riders how to stop horses bucking, baulking, bolting or wheeling around when sudden noises or sights frighten them, and is called How to Bombproof your Horse.

1 comment:

john said...

In 1975 we attended the winding up of the old Carmichaels Store private lending library in Hull. We came away with about ten thousand volumes sight unseen. They included fiction (A to G only) and motley non fiction including the classic work " The Swedish Glove Manufacturers Year Book 1957".

It was gripping.

Our library has umpteen copies of "Persuasion" and "Brighton Rock" but nothing by Elizabeth Howard or H G Wells.

Keep writing and we'll keep reading.

John Pinchbeck