Vote now for the Diagram Prize 2017

Horace Bent takes a look at the shortlist for the 2017 Diagram Prize, and you can vote for your favourite below...

Let’s be honest: lesser literary prizes - and they are ALL lesser - copy the Diagram. But this year, your old pal Horace was tempted to follow in the footsteps of... oh, what’s it called? The award funded by guilt, war profiteering and blood money? Ah, yes: the Nobel Prize.

The Nobel committee clearly sat around the table last October and said: “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we got to meet Bob Dylan?” So, it got me thinking - perhaps I could steer Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run onto this year’s Diagram? I mean, “born to run”? No one can run when they are a baby. Isn’t that an odd title?

But after seeing that Bob the Bard didn’t even bother to collect his Nobel made me realise that The Boss probably wouldn’t fall for my “playing a private concert with the E Street Band for the prize administrator is part of the shortlisting duties” ruse. So normal service is resumed.

Which leads me to our fab-five shortlist for the 39th edition of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

Kicking off is Peter Andrews’ An Ape’s View of Human Evolution, submitted by Cambridge University Press’ Keith Sands. How did the eagle-eyed ELT publisher spot it? Er, by reading his employer’s catalogue. Sands helpfully provided his precis of the book:

Chapter 1: Ugh.
Ugh. Ug. Eee-ooooh ooo. Eeyah! Ugh... (etc).

The Diagram’s long history of animal husbandry-themed champions - see Goblinproofing One’s Chickencoop, The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories and Developments in Dairy Cow Breeding: New Opportunities to Widen the Use of Straw - crops up again with Michaela Giles’ The Commuter Pig-Keeper: A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Pigs when Time is your Most Precious Commodity (Old Pond). Funnily enough, this was the exact title shelved at the last minute by Ladybird, which favoured Peppa Pig: Beep! Beep! Brrrm! Our porcine pleaser of a nomination was sent in by Jeff Wilson of the Royal Irish Academy.

The gang at Dublin’s The Gutter Bookshop - current Indie Bookshop of the Year, of course - spotted another shortlistee: Nipples on My Knee (Maple Creek Media) by Graham and Debra Robertson. Though this is what usually happens to presidential chubster Donald Trump’s moobs when he sits down, the book is not about the POTUS. It is, once again, from the farming community: anecdotes of 25 years of sheepherding from a husband-and-wife team. (A word of warning: don’t do a Google Image search for “Nipples on my Knee” from a company computer.)

Bertram’s buyer Paul Taylor noticed Love Your Lady Landscape: Trust Your Gut, Care for “Down There” and Reclaim Your Fierce and Feminine SHE Power (Hay House) by Lisa Lister. Now, I realise this is a third-wave feminism type book - mixed, I have to say, with a fair bit of MBS mumbo-jumbo - and a male, pale and stale Mr Bent is not its intended audience. But if we ran a Diagram for blurbs, Love Your Lady Landscape would be a shoo-in: “There was a time, roughly 5,000 years ago, when SHE Power reigned and lady landscapes were revered. A time when the space between a woman’s thighs was considered a power portal with a direct hook up to Source...” Incidentally, Lister’s previous book is called Code Red: Know Your Flow, Unlock Your Super Powers and Create a Bloody Amazing Life. Period (SHE Press). I am astounded no one put it forward for last year’s Diagram.

Our final shortlistee comes from Seattle, Washington-based librarian Lara Seven Phillips: Ian McConnelly’s Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors: The Premier Guide for Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors. That’s right, the premier guide, none of those knock-off Australian pre-decimal and decimal coin error guides you see flooding the market and sold on street corners. The nominee has echoes of 1996 winner Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, which keen Diagram watchers will know also took home 2008’s 30th-anniversary Diagram of Diagrams award.

Over to you, dear readers. Public voting opens today, with the winner announced on 28th July. Tell the world (or your social media echo chamber) if you are #TeamNipples, #LandscapeLover, #GoingApe, #PigPower or, uh, #SupporteroftheReallyLongCoinErrorBook.

As usual, the winning author and publisher win nothing (save the adulation of millions), but the nominator will be sent a passable bottle of claret.

Diagram Prize 2017 - vote now