Titles featuring nude biblical figures, pillaging Vikings and the fabled war on cheese are among the contenders for the 2019 edition of The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.
The prestigious literary prize, now in its 41st year, has two self-published books on the shortlist: Charles L Dobbin's The Dirt Hole and its Variations and Xanna Eve Chown's Noah Gets Naked: Bible Stories They Didn’t Teach You at Sunday School. Self-published books have been allowed since 2015 after a controversial rule change.
University presses are represented by Eric Kurlander's Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich (Yale) and Anne Pedersen's and Søren M Sindbaek's Viking Encounters: Proceedings of the 18th Viking Congress (Aarhus University Press). University presses have won an astonishing 40% of the overall Diagram awards, beginning with the very first winner, 1978's Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (University of Tokyo Press). Ecological and politics specialist Chelsea Green's Ending the War on Artisan Cheese by Catherine Donnelly and Fiona Beckett's How to Drink without Drinking (Kyle) round out the shortlist.
The shortlist now goes a public vote, with the online poll open until 22nd November. The winner will be announced on 29th November.
The Bookseller's legendary diarist Horace Bent, who has been administering the prize since 1982, said: "The British people find themselves in one of the most important votes in a many a generation in the run-up to Christmas: this year's Diagram. I also hear rumblings that there is a General Election on. Brexit/shmexit, what the world really needs to know is whether the public is Team Dirt Hole, Cheese, Viking, Noah, Hitler's Monsters or Drinking/Not Drinking."
As is traditional, a "passable bottle of claret" will be given the person who nominated the winning entry. Three of this year's entries have been nominated by in-house Bookseller staff; if any of those prevail a person who participated in the public vote will be chosen at random to receive the claret.
The Diagram was 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. Past winners include Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop (Conari Press, 2012), Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way (Radcliff, 2010) and The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (Kensington Publishing, 2003). Last year's winner, The Joy of Waterboiling (Achse Verlag), was the first-ever foreign language winner.
The shortlist in full
The Dirt Hole and Its Variations
Charles L Dobbins
Re-released self-published title on the (perhaps?) humane practice of trapping, complete with “over 80 detailed photos to help you catch more fox, coyote, bobcat and raccoon”.
Ending the War on Artisan Cheese
Chelsea Green Publishing, 9781603587853
A prominent food scientist defends the use of raw milk in traditional artisan cheesemaking.
Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich
Yale University Press, 9780300234541
The “definitive” history of the Nazi obsession with the occult.
How to Drink Without Drinking
Kyle Books, 9780857836151
Beckett outlines the rise of teetotalism and the health benefits of including alcohol-free days as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Noah Gets Naked: Bible Stories They Didn’t Teach You at Sunday School
Xanna Eve Chown
“Curious” tales from the Old Testament, including “Noah and His Hangover”, “David and His Hairy Son” and “Samson and the Fox Arsonist”.
Viking Encounters: Proceedings of the 18th Viking Congress
Anne Pedersen (ed), Søren M Sindbaek (ed)
Aarhus University Press, 9788771842654
Major volume presents the proceedings from the 18th Viking Congress held in Denmark—and presumably Valhalla—in 2017.