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Pigeons, tea, manhood, pencils and immortality

Staff writer |
What's the connection between nude mice and a book award? The answer is The Diagram Prize, 35 years old prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year.

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The story about the Diagram Prize began at Frankfurt Book Fair back in 1978 when Diagram Group founder Bruce Robertson awarded Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. Year after year, the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year was discovering titles for which you can't always say are they a serious work or just too much free time converted to book.

This year six titles have been chosen for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year and they are really intriguing.

Hans-Joachim Neumann and Henrik Eberle, a historian and professor of medicine, are contemplating whether Hitler was fully responsible for his crime. They put their findings on the pages of "Was Hitler Ill?" and it was enough for the finale of The Diagram Prize.

"Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts" by Jerry Gagne, a professional guide to pigeon housing, also made a shortlist. While it may be interesting to pigeon fans, it maybe went too far. Maybe it will go up to the top and win this year's award.

Our absolute favorite is "How to Sharpen Pencils" by David Rees. Chinese have the art of war, Hindus have Kama Sutra - the art of making love, and David Rees took pencil sharpening to another artistic level. The art of achieving the perfect point can be interesting to... well, we don't know, maybe just to The Diagram Prize founders and us following weird things.

Tom Hickman put all his efforts into "God's Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis". That's an analysis of the strange relationship between man and his manhood. We admit the subject may be of interest for some shrink congress but to put God, doodle and penis in the same title, well, you need creativity for that. A strange sort of creativity.

"Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop" by Reginald Bakeley is one of the titles that can be decrypted only if you are working in The Department of Homeland Security with all the newest data-crunching computers but we are not 100% sure about that. It would probably cause the blue screen of death in the biggest data center.

Loani Prior wrote "How Tea Cosies Changed the World". Hello?! Tea cosies changed the world?! This is our favorite No2. With all due respect to tea lovers, but this is too much. If someone convinces me that I'm wrong I'll write "Hitler's guide to pencil sharpening with penis in tea."

Horace Bent, The Bookseller's diarist and the custodian of the prize, said: "Neatly, the six-strong shortlist can be grouped into three pairs. We have two avian epics regarding pigeons and chickens; two titles relating to the unappreciated crafts of pencil sharpening and tea cosy creating; and two titles about pricks - God's Doodle and Was Hitler Ill?"

Philip Stone, the Diagram Prize's co-coordinator, said: "Publishers and booksellers know only too well that a title can make all the difference to the sales of a book. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian has sold almost a million copies to date, while books such as Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared perhaps all owe some of their success to their unusual monikers."

You can vote for the oddest book title here and the winner will be announced on March 22.


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