A guide for the modern time-harrassed pig keeper has roasted the rest of the shortlist, trotting home with The Bookseller’s 39th annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.
The Commuter Pig Keeper: A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Pigs when Time is your Most Precious Commodity (Old Pond Publishing) by Michaela Giles hogged the limelight, garnering 40% of the public vote. The Commuter Pig Keeper saw off a late surge from Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors: The Premier Guide for Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors, which earned 32.7% of votes.
Horace Bent, The Bookseller’s legendary diarist and administrator to the award since 1982, called The Commuter Pig Keeper a “classic” win as it “reflects Diagram voters’ long-held love—bordering on unhealthy obsession—of titles with farming or animal husbandry themes”. Bent name-checked previous winners in the field such as The Joy of Chickens (1980), The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003) and Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop (2012).
The diarist also saluted second-placed Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors. “Antipodean numismatists have demonstrated once again that they are a small, but crucial, voting bloc in the annals of this august literary prize,” Bent said.
The Bookseller features editor and Diagram Prize co-ordinator Tom Tivnan said: “Is it any wonder that Michaela Giles’ title sowed the seeds of love amongst the Diagram electorate? Pigs have long been favourites of readers as the main characters in a broad section of works from E B White’s Charlotte’s Web to George Orwell’s Animal Farm to Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal.”
Tivnan added: “And it is a triumph that will surely resonate with celebrity pig lovers such as George Clooney and David Cameron.”
No monetary award is given to the winning author, but the traditional “passable bottle of claret” is bestowed on The Bookseller reader who nominates the winning entry. The Commuter Pig Keeper was submitted by Jeff Wilson, of the Royal Irish Academy.
Wilson said he immediately knew the title could have the chops to win the Diagram: “Working in academic publishing I would regularly spot obscure and niche titles of journal articles and books, but The Commuter Pig Keeper was a different breed altogether. I was immediately intrigued: what were their greatest concerns? Are there many commuting pig keepers? Can you really just keep pigs as a side gig? So many questions, such precious little time…”
The results in full from the month-long public vote were: The Commuter Pig Keeper (40%); Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors (32.7%); Nipples on my Knee by Graham and Debra Robertson (Maple Creek Media, 13.9%); An Ape’s View of Human Evolution by Peter Andrews (Cambridge University Press, 10.8%) and Love Your Lady Landscape: Trust Your Gut, Care for “Down There” and Reclaim Your Fierce and Feminine SHE by Lisa Lister (Hay House, 2.8%).
The Diagram Prize was 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.
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. Last year’s winner was Too Naked for the Nazis.
Read Horace Bent's thoughts about all of the contenders here.