Witches, camels, nether regions and pavements are just some of the subjects covered by the shortlisted books on this year's Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year.
Making up the shortlist are Nature's Nether Regions by Menno Schilthuizen (Viking), a history of the evolution of genitals; and Advanced Pavement Research: Selected, Peer Reviewed Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Concrete Pavements Design, Construction, and Rehabilitation, December 2-3, 2013, Shanghai, China edited by Bo Tian (Trans Tech); academic papers from a two-day pavement symposium.
They are joined by The Madwoman in the the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones by Sandra Tsing-Loh (Norton), a memoir of the menopause, and Where do Camels Belong? By Ken Thompson (Profile), an investigation into native and invasive species.
Also on the shortlist are Divorcing a Real Witch: For Pagans and the People That Used to Love Them by Diana Rajchel (Moon Books), a practical guide for ending pagan relationships, an account of the author's experience of speaking to strangers and The Ugly Wife is Treasured at Home by Melissa Margaret Schneider (Potomac), an expose of love and sex under Maoist rule in China.
The prize was open to self-published authors for the first time in its 37-year history, and the self-published Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte (Choose Art) completes the shortlist.
Diagram voting on We Love This Book closes at midnight on Friday 20th March, with the winner announced on Friday 27th March. There is no prize for the winning title, but the person who nominated the book to the Diagram committee will receive the traditional "passable bottle of claret".
Diagram Prize coordinator and The Bookseller's features and insight editor Tom Tivnan said: "Britain’s, arguably the world’s, premier literary prize once again delivers the goods, with seven magnificent titles that are unparalleled in their oddity. With two of the last three winners sporting the word ‘poo’ in their title, 2014 was something of a return to the Diagram’s more hygienic roots. The past year has been a bumper one for the peculiar, especially in the areas of relationships and science. Nature’s Nether Regions is a long-overdue look at the genitals of the birds and bees (and everything in between), while Where Do Camels Belong? is the existential question that has plagued philosophers for centuries. Along with its real-life applications for those who have loved and lost in the Wiccan community, Divorcing a Real Witch could also serve as a guidebook for Harry Potter fan-fiction writers who are focusing on the statistically inevitable end of the marriage of Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. The Ugly Wife is a Treasure at Home, meanwhile, is a sentiment which will perhaps resonate with many readers—if they travelled back to the 1950s.”
The Bookseller's diarist Horace Bent said: "This is one of strongest years I have seen in more than three decades of administering the prize, which highlights the crème de la crème of unintentionally nonsensical, absurd and downright head-scratching titles. Ultimately, it is a stunning collection of books. Let other awards cheer the contents within, the Diagram will always continually judge the book by its cover (title).”
The Diagram Prize was first established by Diagram Group founders Trevor Bounford and Bruce Robertson in 1978 as a way of avoiding boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The inaugural winner was Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. Other winners 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) and last year’s winner, How to Poo at Work (2012). 1987 and 1991 had no award, due to a lack of odd titles.