A biography of a musical hall act has beaten an academic treatise on the human posterior in the closest race ever for The Bookseller’s Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.
Alan Stafford’s Too Naked for the Nazis (Fantom Films)—a title looking into the career of vaudevillian troupe Wilson, Keppel & Betty—garnered 24.8% of the public vote, while Dr Jonathan Allan’s Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus (Zed Books) took home 24.3%. Too Naked for the Nazis’ margin of victory is by far the narrowest since the annual Diagram Prize judging switched to public voting via The Bookseller’s website in 2000.
Coming in a strong third place was Mark Kirwan-Hayhoe’s Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space: A Consideration of Cult Film (MKH) with 20.7% of the vote. Christopher Herwig’s Soviet Bus Stops (Fuel) came in fourth at 14.9%.
The Bookseller diarist Horace Bent, administrator of the Diagram since 1982, said: “When future historians write about 2016, they will inevitably look at two seismic events: the closest Diagram Prize race of all time, and the election of President Trump which led to the downfall of Western civilisation. Until that dire time, we can celebrate a worthy winner from one of the strongest Diagram shortlists in recent memory.”
Bent added: “Too Naked for the Nazis is arguably the perfect Diagram winner, as if concocted by a team of crack Diagramologists—our voters penchant for nudity goes back to the very first winner, 1978’s Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, while the Third Reich has been represented by titles such as How Green were the Nazis (2007). Mr Stafford has brought these two strands together in one irresistible package.”
For the second consecutive year, the winning title has been nominated by its author. Therefore, Stafford will receive the traditional “passable bottle of claret” given to whoever nominates the winning Diagram entry.
Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller features and insight editor and co-ordinator of the Diagram Prize, said author-nominated titles were “an interesting trend, as is the writers going out and actively campaigning for the prize”.
Tivnan added: “Mr Stafford’s Twitter electioneering for his book bordered on an Ahabian monomania. And why not? I think writers have recognised that winning the Diagram could mean a boost in sale of tens, maybe even as much as a hundred copies. High stakes indeed. Although more likely, they are probably after the free bottle of plonk we give to the nominator.”
The 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 Bookseller and its diarist Horace Bent have been administering the prize since 1982.
Two very dark years—1987 and 1991—had no award owing to the lack of odd titles published. Previous winners include: How to Avoid Huge Ships (1992), Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (1996), The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003) and Cooking with Poo (2012).
The 2016 voting in full:
Too Naked for the Nazis
A biography of the musical hall troupe that was “the inspiration for the Chuckle Brothers”.
Nominated by: Alan Stafford
Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus
In this book, his publisher says, author Allan will “ask us to admit that the anus seems caught up in a grand narrative”.
Nominated by: Alison Finch
Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space: A Consideration of Cult Film
The first e-book-only title to be nominated for the Diagram Prize looks at cult film.
Nominated by: John Dale
Soviet Bus Stops
A coffee table photography book on the beauty, glamour and “unexpected treasures of modern art” that are the bus stops of the former USSR.
Nominated by: Dr James Hinkman
Reading the Liver: Papyrological Texts on Ancient Greek Extispicy
William Furley and Victor Gysembergh
Academic study on sacrificial sheep and how their organs were used to determine divine will in the Classical world.
Nominated by: Anna James
Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers
Mark Avery and Keith Betton
The book that seeks to determine what makes A-list twitchers tick.
Nominated by: Matthew Flynn
Paper Folding with Children
Alice Hornecke (trans: Anna Cardwell)
A translated craft book that seems to assume children are extremely flexible.
Nominated by: Sarah Lamb