Hosted by The Bookseller, the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is exactly what it sounds like.
The idea was originally proposed by Bruce Robinson and Trevor Bounford of the Diagram Group in order to provide entertainment during the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978.
There have been various rule changes since its incarnation in Frankfurt. At the outset, it was only books at the Frankfurt Book Fair that could be nominated.
In 1982, administration of the the prize was taken over by Horace Bent, of The Bookseller, who is still the guardian and gatekeeper of the prize to this day! Following several years of no award being presented due to a lack of suitable contenders, in 1987 and 1991, the nominations process was opened up to readers of the magazine.
This process was again modernised in 2009, with nominations being accepted via Twitter as well as the usual channels. This change led to a whopping 90 nominations in the year, up from 32 nominations in 2008.
The most recent rule revision has been that, since 2014, nominations of self published works have been accepted, marking the rise of independent publishing as we know it. Importantly, self published titles are acceptable, but self nominations are not!
But this is the bit that you’ve really come here for, which amazing titles have won this most prestigious of literary prizes? What makes a title odd enough to win?
There are, of course, some fine examples of toilet humour among the greats with 2011 winner Cooking with Poo and 2013 winner How to Poo on a Date joining titles that stretch back to the 1989 winner How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art.
Some titles are excessive in their length, such as 2005’s People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It, whereas other titles achieve the perfect title while maintaining their brevity including the 1980 winner (and out favourite) The Joy of Chickens.
The Full List of Winners
1978 Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice
1979 The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution
1980 The Joy of Chickens
1981 Last Chance at Love – Terminal Romances
1982 Population and Other Problems: Family Planning, Housing 1,000 Million, Labour Employment
1983 Unsolved Problems of Modern Theory of Lengthwise Rolling
1984 The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today
1985 Natural Bust Enlargement with Total Power: How to Increase the Other 90% of Your Mind to Increase the Size of Your Breasts
1986 Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality
1987 No Award
1988 Versailles: The View from Sweden
1989 How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art
1990 Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual
1991 No award
1992 How to Avoid Huge Ships
1993 American Bottom Archaeology
1994 Highlights in the History of Concrete
1995 Reusing Old Graves: A Report on Popular British Attitudes
1996 Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers
1997 The Joy of Sex: Pocket Edition
1998 Developments in Dairy Cow Breeding: New Opportunities to Widen the Use of Straw
1999 Weeds in a Changing World: British Crop Protection Council Symposium Proceedings No. 64
2000 Designing High Performance Stiffened Structures
2001 Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service
2002 Living with Crazy Buttocks
2003 The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories
2004 Bombproof Your Horse
2005 People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It
2006 The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification
2007 If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs
2008 The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais
2009 Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes
2010 Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way
2011 Cooking with Poo
2012 Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop
2013 How to Poo on a Date
2014 Strangers Have the Best Candy
2015 Too Naked For the Nazis
2016 The Commuter Pig Keeper: A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Pigs when Time is your Most Precious Commodity
2018 The Joy of Waterboiling
You can find out more about the prize by visiting The Bookseller. There is a paywall for non-subscribers, but you can read the first few articles for free.
Make sure that you follow the man himself, Horace Bent, on Twitter for irregular updates and the chance to nominate titles yourself.