An academic treatise on dung, a how-to guide of acupuncture for horses and the first-ever German language entry are among the six books in the running for the 40th edition of The Bookseller's Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year.
The prize, founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robinson of publishing solutions firm the Diagram Group, is the annual celebration of the book world's strangest and most perplexing titles. The Bookseller and its legendary diarist Horace Bent have been custodians of the prize since 1982.
The six books up for what Bent has called "the most prestigious literary gong Britain—nay the world—has ever known" are: Are Gay Men More Accurate in Detecting Deceits? (Open Dissertation Press); Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung (Pelagic Publishing); Equine Dry Needling (tredition); Jesus on Gardening (Onwards and Upwards); Joy of Waterboiling (Achse Verlag) and Why Sell Tacos in Africa? (Blue Ocean Marketing).
Bent admitted to controversy "rocking" the Diagram committee when considering Joy of Waterboiling, a cookery tome that began life on Kickstarter which is primarily written in German. Bent said: "I admit there was some robust discussion—by that I mean a punch-up between judges—whether it should be allowed in, but a check of the rules revealed that only the title need be in English. So let me say ‘wilkommen’ to Joy of Waterboiling."
Bent added: "And how apt a cookery book becomes the first German entry, for if our Teutonic neighbours are best known for anything it is for their delicious cuisine.”
Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller managing editor and Diagram co-ordinator said that "2018 was a banner year for bat-guano crazy titles". He added: "It cheers me that 40 years on from when we started, the Diagram is more relevant than ever. Indeed, since we focus on what can be argued as the shallowest measure—a book's title—it is perfect for the superficial, Instagrammed times we live in."
The shortlisted titles now go forward to a public vote, which can be accessed here. Voting will close on 16th November, with the winner announced on the 23rd November.
There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a "passable bottle of claret" is given to the nominator of the winning entry. However, as all of the shortlisted titles were put forward by the in-house team, the claret will be given randomly to one member of the public who votes for the eventual winner.
Bounford and Robinson first conceived of the Diagram Prize in 1978 at the Frankfurt Book Fair in order to "stave off boredom". The inaugural prize was awarded to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (University of Tokyo Press). Other notable winners include: How to Avoid Huge Ships (1992), Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (1996), Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way (2010) and Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop (2012). Last year’s winner was The Commuter Pig Keeper.
The 2018 entries in full:
Are Gay Men More Accurate in Detecting Deceits?
Hoe-Chi Angel Au
Open Dissertation Press
Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung
Equine Dry Needling
Cornelia Klarholz and Andrea Schachinger
Jesus on Gardening
Onwards and Upwards
Joy of Waterboiling
Why Sell Tacos in Africa?
Blue Ocean Marketing
Vote for your winner here; voting closes on the 16th November.