Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2008 Issue

Nude Mice, Lesbian Horses, and Other Odd Book Titles

Some odd titles from Bookseller.com.


By Michael Stillman

England's The Bookseller has announced the winner of its contest for the oddest book title of the past 30 years. The Bookseller has been running competitions for 30 years, but instead of another annual prize, they opened up a competition among all past winners. The first choice was probably not the strangest, but, as we know, electoral democracy does not always select the best candidate. First prize went to a detailed study of certain postal routes in Greece, Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers.

The books nominated were not ones with intentionally strange titles. Most were serious books whose authors probably didn't even recognize their own humor. A few of the past winners were trashy novels, and a few had sexual connotations likely unnoticed by their writers. Most were just plain bizarre.

The folks who run The Bookseller's Diagram Prize expected the winner would be the book that won the very first prize back in 1978: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. However, this proved to be no Mickey Mouse award (though Mickey would undoubtedly have enjoyed that book, or at least the pictures). The Nude Mice didn't even make it to the top three. Runners up to Derek Willan's Greek Postmen were two titles that deal with serious problems we all must face in everyday life. Second in the voting was Gary Leon Hill's People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It. Ew! Third place went to John Trimmer's How to Avoid Huge Ships. Open your eyes and get out of their way.

The list of past winners offered many other worthy selections. National Velvet didn't make the list, but horse lovers had two titles to choose from: Bombproof Your Horse and The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories. I cannot imagine what either of those two is about. Perhaps those lesbian horses should read the Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual before doing whatever it is they do.

As long as we're on useful how-to manuals, how about How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art. Bears should read this. Maybe this is a problem for those Living With Crazy Buttocks. Perhaps the issue will be studied in some distant future edition of American Bottom Archaeology.

Here is a book for people who can find pleasure in just about anything: The Joy of Chickens. For those who can be entertained by even the most mundane of subjects, there is Highlights in the History of Concrete, or Weeds in a Changing World. If those aren't sufficiently dull, how about The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America? If this becomes a best seller, it could open a whole series of books, such as the Stray Shopping Carts of Western South America, Southern North America, and so on. I wonder what makes a shopping cart go astray, anyway? People more interested in practical treatises may instead want to read Reusing Old Graves or If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs. There are so many crude remarks that could be made about that last title I dare not make any.

Here's a business that may be expediting that need to reuse old graves: Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service. At least Butterworths is helping us deal with Population and Other Problems. Then there is the odd Versailles: The View From Sweden. You can't see Versailles from Sweden, or if you can, it looks very small. Finally, there is a classic of double entendre from Professional Engineer Publishing we must resist all temptation to comment upon: High Performance Stiffened Structures.

Rare Book Monthly

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