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Those Incredibly Strange Book Titles Who Started Publishing And Became Mixed-Up Award Winners
March 9, 2007 9:04 AM   Subscribe

The Bookseller/Diagram Prize is a much sillier award than its name suggests. It is presented annually to the "Oddest Book Title of the Year". Past winners include (partial titles) "People Who Don't Know They're Dead", "Bombproof Your Horse", "The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories", and "Living with Crazy Buttocks" (a must-read for MetaFilter moderators). All past winners here. TheBookseller.com is currently polling readers for their favorites from this year's long-winded shortlist at the bottom of its frontpage. Current leader: "Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan" (not available on Amazon!), followed by "The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification","How Green Were the Nazis" and the obviously controversial "Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence".
Remember, books purchased through these Amazon links benefit MetaFilter, not me.
posted by wendell (43 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
'92 and '93 were banner tears, btinging us

How to Avoid Huge Ships and

American Bottom Archaeology

I think I already know how to avoid all but the hugest ships, but I am going to cross-reference my notes with this text.
posted by Mister_A at 9:10 AM on March 9, 2007


I gotta get me some meth before I make any more typos.
posted by Mister_A at 9:10 AM on March 9, 2007


Too many past winners are out of print, but not 1992's "How to Avoid Huge Ships" and 1989's "How to Shit in the Woods".
posted by wendell at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2007


The description of "Better Never To Have Been" reads like a Monty Python sketch.

Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence. Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:24 AM on March 9, 2007


1984: "The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today, Together With a Collection of Recipes for Marmalades and Marmalade Cookery"

And there actually has been a sequel written to 1986's "Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality".
posted by wendell at 9:26 AM on March 9, 2007


From the Amazon reader comments for How to Avoid Huge Ships:

"This book lacks criteria for discerning between huge ships and merely really big ships. Some well-designed lists, charts or colorful pop-up sections would have been nice for readers who were unsure what size of ship they were avoiding." 3/5 stars.

Gold.
posted by mosk at 9:26 AM on March 9, 2007


Was that last authored by Oolon Colluphid?
posted by stevis23 at 9:30 AM on March 9, 2007


However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence.

Finally, proof that all one's problems are entiely due to one's parents.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:32 AM on March 9, 2007


See? I meant to type "entirely", not "entiely"... good god.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2007


Bombproof horses are worth their weight in gold; laugh all you like.
posted by boo_radley at 9:43 AM on March 9, 2007


"The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification"

Damn. Apparently I waited too long to bash out a manuscript for my killer novelty book idea. Oh well.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:48 AM on March 9, 2007


"The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification"

I might buy that.

"Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence"

Whaaa!
posted by The Power Nap at 9:52 AM on March 9, 2007


I've read "How to shit in the woods" and it was informative and (as far as I know, being only a theorist when it comes to the wild) comprehensive.

At least you know exactly what you're getting with these titles.
posted by estherbester at 9:54 AM on March 9, 2007


"The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification"

Written by Bubbles, I assume?

What does he want me to do, go to EI and say hello there, i've been hauling shopping carts out of ponds for 18 years...give me a fuckin cheque please
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:54 AM on March 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


"How to shit in the woods"

Again, blindly without checking the links, I assume this is by the Pope, possibly with a chapter or two contributed by a bear?
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:56 AM on March 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


[i]The author then argues for the 'anti-natal' view---that it is always wrong to have children---and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about foetal moral status yield a 'pro-death' view about abortion (at the earlier stages of gestation). Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct.[/i]

Well, someone had to say it.
posted by Listener at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2007


I've written several books with interesting titles myself, including:

"Self-esteem for Dummies"

"Escape from the Island of Beautiful Women"

and

"19th Century French literature Criticism: A Kick in the Balzac"

Unfortunately, they are all currently out-of-print.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:07 AM on March 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


I've been an anti-natalist for years. Just look at the recorded statistics. 100% of murders, assaults and rapes are directly caused by people. Ban people now, for the good of society!
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:10 AM on March 9, 2007


From an Amazon review of How to Avoid Huge Ships:

"you know life is tough, but it is even tougher when your stupid"

I just thought I'd share that.
posted by lekvar at 10:15 AM on March 9, 2007


Semi-related: Items on Amazon.com that you cannot (or at least should not) buy.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:04 AM on March 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


No wonder the industry is going under. Look at all the crap they print. I'm ready to become the literary version of Mussolini.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 11:16 AM on March 9, 2007


"The Big Book of Jihad Humor."
posted by Dizzy at 11:18 AM on March 9, 2007


The Power Nap, don't buy that. The book was previously a really cool Web site and already covered here.
posted by BeReasonable at 11:32 AM on March 9, 2007


No mention of "How to Good-Bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?"?
posted by martinrebas at 11:47 AM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


A bookstore here does in fact carry "The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification" and when I saw it on the shelf, I admit I browsed through it. Nice pictures, but of no use to me here on the Left coast.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2007


'PETROL SHUTTLECOCK'
(mine....alll minnnNe)
posted by clavdivs at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2007


Hypergeometric Functions, My Love.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2007


Knitting with Dog Hair: Better a Sweater from a Dog You Know and Love than A Sheep You'll Never Meet
posted by jason's_planet at 12:02 PM on March 9, 2007


The author of "The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification" did a field study in Cleveland - I expect it's documented in his book.

I believe his stay here was as "artist in residence" or some similar title at our local Spaces Gallery, a really neat place a few blocks from where I work. I also believe he rode around town on an old 3-speed taking many of the pictures, but I might be remembering that wrong. Anyway, he had a great exhibit at the end of his stay taking up a whole room of the gallery.

btw Divine_Wino, iirc the artist was not prone to fits of wheezing. i'm unaware of how he feels about kitties.
posted by pinespree at 12:14 PM on March 9, 2007


...and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about foetal moral status yield a 'pro-death' view about abortion

For a brief, frightening moment I was wondering if this was going to be self-published by this crazy zine guy I met in Philadelphia in the mid-90s. But the name and location don't match and this fellow is altogether more lucid...although I'm sure Crazy Zine Guy would just LOVE this, even if the presentation is so much more tasteful than he's used to. (What, no badly-xeroxed crime scene photos of serial killer crime scenes? No naked baby dolls in hangman's nooses? Tsk tsk tsk, clearly no sense of drama...)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 12:56 PM on March 9, 2007


I think How Green Was My Nazi beat out Citizen Kane for the Best Picture Oscar, didn't it?
posted by jonp72 at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2007


Wow another mention of Philadelphia! It's like PhillyFilter up in this piece.

So anyway, I went to see if Smilla was in Phila, but turns out she is closer to Burhanistan.
posted by Mister_A at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2007


Moved away from Philly in the late 90s, sorry. Though I'm considering moving back to the area.

I think Crazy Zine Guy might have lived in West Philly; if you remember any brief, incredulous indy-paper mentions of a rather crazy exploitation zine with a four-letter title and occasional collaborations with equally extreme musical acts, well, that'd be the one.

Alas, my copy of the pro-death tract he was handing out at one point seems to have vanished a few moves ago, but it was defnitely...memorable.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 1:42 PM on March 9, 2007


See, the thing is, when I read the "inside the book" stuff from Harm, I realized that this is a work of philosophy (one of the headings is 'Misanthropy and Philosophy') that exactly reflects my own personal belief system. It makes congratulating new parents, erm, a tad awkward.
posted by mwhybark at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2007


"you know life is tough, but it is even tougher when your stupid"

I believe this is the short version of "you know life is tough, but it is even tougher when your stupid parents forgot to abort you."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:04 PM on March 9, 2007


Look for some of these titles on next year's list:

Lesbians with Crazy, Bombproof Buttocks

My Adventures with A Strange Elephant Penis

Classy Bridal Cats with Beards

Hydrating for Dummies; or How I Got Kicked in the Teeth When I Carried Around a Water Bottle Encrusted with Swarovski Crystals*

*Soon to be a major Motion Picture starring Jamie Foxx
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:20 PM on March 9, 2007


See, the thing is, when I read the "inside the book" stuff from Harm, I realized that this is a work of philosophy (one of the headings is 'Misanthropy and Philosophy') that exactly reflects my own personal belief system. It makes congratulating new parents, erm, a tad awkward.

Let's shake on it.
posted by Listener at 4:43 PM on March 9, 2007


"Escape from the Island of Beautiful Women" - ZenMasterThis

I think I read that! Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, wasn't it?
posted by Ritchie at 6:18 PM on March 9, 2007


It makes congratulating new parents, erm, a tad awkward.

"Why yes, that's certainly a BABY!"
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 7:05 PM on March 9, 2007


Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow is pretty damn odd. Although perhaps that's the point.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:21 PM on March 9, 2007


I have a book about the Rwandan genocide entitled We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families.

...I would think that'd at least be a runner-up.
posted by Target Practice at 3:09 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've actually had reason to use How Green Were the Nazis in the course of reference work. Of course, there are all sorts of odd titles in any specialized library. In our collection, there's Hitler: Neither Vegetarian nor Animal Lover, the tangentially-related Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust, and scores of others. The titles usually have nothing to do with the quality of the scholarship, of course, but there are some that really catch your eye as you browse the shelf.
posted by arco at 11:50 AM on March 10, 2007


True story. I work for a publisher that decided not to publish Better Never to Have Been after the reader's reports came back saying the manuscript was crap. Leave it to Oxford to bring that which shouldn't have been into existence. I swear they're just in it to kill trees these days.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:46 PM on March 10, 2007


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