Diagram Prize – a celebration of odd book titles

Although the Diagram Prize has apparently been running for more than 30 years, I have only recently come across it. It’s an annual prize awarded by The Bookseller magazine to the book with the oddest title, as voted by the public.

Although many of the entries seem to come from the world of academia, there are also plenty of self-help titles and even children’s books.

The shortlist for books published in 2009 prize was announced last month and includes six glorious titles:

  • The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Collectable Spoons of the Third Reich
  • Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes
  • Governing Lethal Behaviour in Autonomous Robots
  • What Kind of Bean is this Chihuahua?
  • Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter.

The Bookseller’s own wonderfully named diarist Horace Bent – who runs the prize – sifted through more than 90 nominations, many of them sent in via Twitter, before settling on the chosen shortlist. 

The first ever prize was awarded in 1978 to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice.

Last year, to celebrate 30 years of oddity, a special ‘Diagram of Diagrams’ prize was run to find the most odd title of all the winners. Some 8,500 people voted and the overall winner was 2007’s fantastically titled If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs.

Some of my favourite winning titles of previous years are:

1986’s Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality 
1989’s How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art 

1996’s Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers
2003′ The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories
2006’s The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification

If you go to the Bookseller’s website you can vote for the title you think deserves the 2009 prize – the winner will be announced on 26 March. My money is Collectable Spoons of the Third Reich – a title Spike Milligan would have been proud of.

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