Last year was a toughie for printed books. Attacked from all sides by an army of electronic upstarts, all printed books could do was hope that the public still loved them‚ loved them enough to fight against this raging e-nemy. Sadly, e-books found an ally in the economic downturn and sales of the poor old printed book fell by £56m. Ouch.
Despite this annus horribilis, and the fact that publishers have been slashing the literary and the academic from their publishing schedules (in favour of Vorderman, Pegg, the Hairy Bikers, etc), I am happy to report that oddity endures, nay thrives. Each of the six titles on the shortlist for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is available to purchase from even the most mediocre of British bookstores.
In total, I received 66 submissions for the 31st instalment of the Diagram Prize, which recognises the very best of 201's oddly tìtitled books. But which one is deserving of the crown so memorably won last year by Daina Taimina's unputdownable Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes? I leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide.
8th International Friction Stir Welding Symposium Proceedings
TWI Ltd, £185
In theory: If you missed the eighth instalment of the now biennial International Symposium on Friction Stir Welding (it's welding, Jim, but not as we know it) shame on you, but worry not. This book can be yours for just 185 English pounds, but you'll have to bind it yourself as it comes as a CD-ROM only. I thought the seventh symposium (in Japan) was a tough act to follow (Theado and Ivanov's 25- minute presentation on high-strength target assembly using FSW of dissimilar aluminium AA7075 and Al-0.5% Cu alloys was a cracker) but thanks to a surprise appearance by FSW inventor Wayne Thomas, 8ISFSW was a blast (and German's beers went down a lot easier than 7ISFSW's sake).
In reality: This collection of 80 papers from the three-day event in Lubeck, Germany,
Spotted by: Andre Breedt
The Generosity of the Dead
In theory: Well, indeed. Providing, of course, you are in said dead person's will and have been left something a little more substantial than the cat.
In reality: This 192-page hardback is not a guide on the selflessness of cadavers, but a deeply serious sociology of organ procurement in France—in which the University of Groningen's Dr Nowenstein investigates the Express Consent (opt-in) system versus the Presumed Consent (opt-out) alternative. The question as to whether or not to include this title on the shortlist split the judges—sure the title is intriguing, but is it odd? And does a book on such a serious and quite sensitive subject deserve a place on a light-hearted prize's shortlist? Well, I'll let you know as soon as the votes start rolling in.
Spotted by: Anon
The Italian's One-night Love-child
Mills & Boon, £3.19
In theory: Berlusconi's memoir.
In reality: Pregnant with De Angelis' baby! I kid you not. Billionaire Cristiano only went and got virgin Bethany up the duff, didn't he? But she was no socialite, she was just house-sitting a glamorous apartment and tried on one of the owner's designer dresses. Like, OMG.
Spotted by: Emma Dewson
Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way
Radcliffe Publishing, £27.99
In theory: Rule a dental practice like an evil 13th-century Mongolian warlord. Open wide (with terror), gargle and rinse (with fear). Snap this up for just £27.99 and watch your waiting list vanish (perhaps because you've killed everybody on it).
In reality: Instructional guidebook on how to run a dental practice.
Spotted by: @michaelgrr
Myth of the Social Volcano
Martin King Whyte
Stanford University Press, £27.95
In theory: I used to think Eyjafjallajokull was a nice volcano. Gregarious, a little mischievous, and incredibly popular at parties. But last year he went ballistic, particularly with Alistair Burtenshaw, and he did his best to ruin the London Book Fair. Now Harvard Professor Whyte nails the myth once and for all.
In reality: Perceptions of inequality and distributive injustice in modern-day China. Well, duh.
Spotted by: Xavier Davies
What Color Is Your Dog?
Joel Silverman Kennel Club, £14.99
In theory: One wonders just how stupid you need to be in order to spend £14.99 on a book that apparently informs owners of white dogs that their dog is, umm, white. And even if you are colour blind, I doubt you will gain much comfort from being told your dog is the same colour as snow, certain clouds, or a clean sheep. Still, if you've got more money than sense, then Hollywood dog trainer Silverman has just the book for you.
In reality: Hollywood dog trainer's dog training method. Something to do with canine personality colours, or something.
Spotted by: Phil Best
The public vote will be launched at http://www.thebookseller.com later today (18th February 2011), with the winner announced on Friday, 25th March 2011.