As a teen, I was intrigued by Robert M. Pirsig’ s 1974 philosophical novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, not because of any interest I held in metaphysics, but due to the strangeness of its title. Ever since, I have kept an eye out for books with unusual titles, and have seldom been disappointed. Dozens of books are published each year with odd appellations which catch the eye and stir the imagination.
Apparently, I am not alone in my intrigue for unusual monikers. Since 1978, the London-based Diagram Prize has been awarded annually to the book with the oddest title. The award, sponsored by The Bookseller, a British trade magazine for the publishing industry, is decided annually by a public vote on the magazine’s website. Below is a selection of some of the early winners, with brief descriptions of the works (I will deal with later winners in a future posting):
1978 Proceedings Of The Second International Workshop On Nude Mice, Various Authors. Description: Analysis of medical studies using laboratory mice with inhibited immune systems.
1979 The Madam As Entrepreneur: Career Management In House Prostitution, Barbara Sherman Heyl. Description: Management guide for the oldest profession.
1984 The Book Of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History, And Its Role In The World Today, Anne Wilson. Description: The title says it all.
1985 Natural Bust Enlargement With Total Power: How To Increase The Other 90% Of Your Mind To Increase The Size Of Your Breasts, Donald L. Wilson. Description: Bust enlargement through positive thinking.
1986 Oral Sadism And The Vegetarian Personality, Glenn C. Ellenbogen. Description: Collection of articles on psychiatry.
1988 Versailles: The View From Sweden, Elaine Dee and Guy Walton. Description: The influence of French Baroque and Classicism on contemporary Swedish design.
1992 How To Avoid Huge Ships, John W. Trimmer. Description: The dangers of shipping lanes.
1994 Highlights In The History Of Concrete, C. C. Stanley. Description: So many from which to choose.
1995 Reusing Old Graves: A Report On Popular British Attitudes, Douglas Davies and Alastair Shaw. Description: Taking recycling to a whole new level.
1996 Greek Rural Postmen And Their Cancellation Numbers, Derek Williams. Description: What more can I say?