Academic texts on the human posterior and animal entrails, a tome on famous birdwatchers and a photography book showcasing the beautiful architecture of bus stops in the former Soviet Union are among the titles nominated for the 38th Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, administered by The Bookseller.
The seven-strong shortlist celebrates the most peculiar titles published in the year, with the winner chosen via a public vote on The Bookseller's website.
Making up the shortlist are Reading the Liver: Papyrological Texts on Ancient Greek Extispicy (Mohr Siebeck), an academic study on sacrificial sheep by William Furley and Victor Gysembergh, nominated by Anna James; Too Naked for the Nazis (Fantom Films) by Alan Stafford, a biography of a musical hall troupe, submitted by the author himself; and Paper Folding with Children (Floris Books) by Alice Hornecke and translated by Anna Cardwell, a craft book that appears to assume children are extremely flexible, nominated by Sarah Lamb.
They are joined by Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space: A Consideration of Cult Film (MKH Imprint) by Mark Kirwan-Hayhoe, nominated by John Dale; Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers (Pelagic Publishing) by Mark Avery and Keith Betton, nominated by Matthew Flynn; and Soviet Bus Stops (Fuel) by Christopher Herwig, nominated by Dr James Hinkman.
Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus (Zed Books) by Jonathan Allan rounds out the shortlist, having been nominated by Alison Finch.
Horace Bent, The Bookseller diarist and Diagram Prize administrator since 1982, referred to the shortlist as "one of the strongest in living memory".
“Once again readers from across the globe have scoured the bookshops and looked into the far-flung corners of the internet to suggest a raft of the peculiar, downright batty and unintentionally hilarious book titles," he said. "Our crack squad of judges—well, me, actually—have whittled the voluminous nominations down to this magnificent seven of a shortlist. And what a shortlist! One of the strongest in living Diagram Prize memory—something I really mean this year and am not saying it simply to pad out a press release."
Bent added: “I am particularly pleased with the academic bent this year. Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus is really trying to get to the bottom of its subject matter. Meanwhile, Reading the Liver: Papyrological Texts on Ancient Greek Extispicy has become my go-to book on divining the will of the gods from the entrails of animals; I can also imagine it becoming the core text at a pop-up street food vendor in Shoreditch. And Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space is not only a trenchant examination of cult film, but would be an excellent theme for your next fancy dress party.”
Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller features and insight editor and Diagram Prize co-ordinator, agreed that the titles are a "stellar bunch".
He said: “Though now in its 38th outing, the Diagram is bang on trend in our age of the shortening attention span. We don’t judge books on the contents within or even by their covers, but by their purest, quickest and shallowest way possible: from the title. An early favourite for me is Too Naked for the Nazis—humbly nominated the book’s author, Alan Stafford—as it combines two Diagram well-worn themes of nudity and the Third Reich. Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers fascinates, too, as it promises to ‘get behind the scenes’ with superstar twitchers like Phil Hollom, Andy Clements and Debbie Pain—no, me neither.
“But now we turn it over to the public to have their say on what is the oddest titles of this stellar bunch. And as we have seen time and again, such as the US Republican presidential primaries, we can always rely on an electorate to make the sane and rational decision.”
There is no monetary award for the victor, but a “passable bottle of claret” is traditionally given to the person who nominates the winning entry. This is the second year that the prize has allowed self-published titles to be entered.
Originally conceived in 1978 by Trevor Bounford and Bruce Robertson, co-founders of publishing solutions firm The Diagram Group, as a way to avoid boredom at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, this is the 38th edition of The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.
The inaugural Diagram was awarded to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. The Bookseller and its diarist Horace Bent have been administering the prize since 1982. Two very dark years—1987 and 1991—had no award owing to the lack of odd titles published. Previous winners of this prestigious literary prize include: How to Avoid Huge Ships (1992), Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (1996), The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003), Cooking with Poo (2012), How to Poo at Work (2013) and last year’s winner, Strangers Have the Best Candy.
Vote for your Diagram Prize winner here.