Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year
The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year, originally known as the Diagram Group Prize for the Oddest Title at the Frankfurt Book Fair, commonly known as the Diagram Prize for short, is a humorous literary award that is given annually to a book with an unusual title. The prize is named after the Diagram Group, an information and graphics company based in London, and The Bookseller, a British trade magazine for the publishing industry. Originally organised to provide entertainment during the 1978 Frankfurt Book Fair, the prize has since been awarded every year by The Bookseller and is now organised by the magazine's diarist Horace Bent.The winner was initially decided by a panel of judges, but since 2000 the winner has been decided by a public vote on The Bookseller's website.
|Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year|
|Awarded for||Oddest book title|
|Currently held by||The Dirt Hole and its Variations by Charles L Dobbins|
Controversy has arisen since the creation of the awards; there have been two occasions when no award was given because no titles were judged to be odd enough, Bent has complained about some of the winners chosen by the public, and the 2008 winner, The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais, proved controversial because rather than being written by its listed author, Philip M. Parker, it was instead written by a machine of Parker's invention. The most recent winner, in November 2019, was The Dirt Hole and its Variations by Charles L Dobbins.
Although the award was created by The Bookseller, the idea of an award celebrating books with odd titles was proposed by Bruce Robinson and Trevor Bounford of the Diagram Group in order to provide entertainment during the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978. Originally known as the Diagram Group Prize for the Oddest Title at the Frankfurt Book Fair, any book that was at the fair could be nominated, but other books outside of the fair were also included. In 1982, Horace Bent, diarist for The Bookseller, took over administrative duties. Following two occasions in 1987 and 1991 when no prize was given due to a lack of odd titles, The Bookseller opened suggestions to the readers of the magazine. In 2000, the winner was voted for by the public instead of being decided by Bent. In 2009, online submissions sent on Twitter were accepted. This resulted in the highest number of submissions for the prize in its history, with 90 books being submitted (50 from Twitter), almost three times the number from the previous year (32). However, Bent also expressed his annoyance at people who gave submissions that broke the rules, with some of the books mentioned being published as far back as 1880. The 2014 prize allowed nominations from self-published works, the first book being Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte, which won the prize.
The Diagram Prize receives considerable press coverage every year. In 2008, more people voted for the Diagram Prize (8,500 votes) than The Best of Booker Prize (7,800). The prize is either a magnum of champagne or a bottle of claret for the person who nominates the winning title, and increased publicity for both the book and its author. In 2014, the nominator was Brian Payne, who works as the deputy chief sub-editor of The Bookseller. Due to his position he decided to reject the bottle of claret that he won saying it, "would remain in the cellar." In 2018, all the nominations came from staff at The Bookseller, so the claret will be awarded to a random voter who votes for the eventual winner.
Nominees were originally limited to just books at the Frankfurt Book Fair, but this was extended to submissions sent in by The Bookseller magazine's traditional readership of librarians, publishers, and booksellers in order to decrease the risk of no award being given. In 2009, submissions could be sent to either Bent's or The Bookseller's Twitter accounts. People cannot nominate their own works, nor can they select books they publish themselves. Titles that are deliberately created to be funny are normally rejected. Also, nominators, judges and voters are actively discouraged from reading any of the nominations, "for fear that becoming too close to the work may cloud their judgement in declaring the text's title 'odd'. Especially considering the prize champions 'odd titles' and not 'odd books' (see the Man Booker for the latter)". The winner was originally voted for by a panel of judges, but since 2000 the winner has been voted for by members of the public via the Internet. Bent resisted this move and threatened to resign, but he later reconsidered and now creates the short list of finalists. Also, the title of the book must be in English, although the language in the book can be any language.
Books about the prize
In September 2008, a book about the Diagram Prize was published by Aurum Press entitled How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books. With an introduction written by Joel Rickett, the book was released to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the prize. It featured a collection of book covers from winners and runners-up from previous years. A follow-up book was released in October 2009, entitled Baboon Metaphysics And More Implausibly Titled Books, including an introduction by Bent.
So far, there have been two occasions in which no award has been presented. Bent did not offer a prize in 1987 and 1991, as he felt there was no title that was odd enough to deserve the prize. The prize has become noteworthy enough that, in 2004, The Bookseller castigated publishers for choosing titles with a view to winning it, saying, "There were too many self-consciously titled entries – presumably in a bid to emulate the 2003 champion, Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories". Bent has also expressed his dislike of people voting for ruder titles, stating that he himself would not have voted for the 2007 winner If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs.
In 2009, the choice of The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais as winner of the 2008 award was controversial, as Parker did not write the book himself, but used an automated authoring machine which produces thousands of titles on the basis of Internet and database searches. Philip Stone, charts editor and awards administrator at The Bookseller, commented by saying: "I think it's slightly controversial as it was written by a computer, but given the number of celebrity memoirs out there that are ghostwritten, I don't think it's too strange."
In 2018, one of the nominations, Joy of Waterboiling, was controversial because the book was written mostly in German, but the rules of the prize state that only the title needs to be in English in order to qualify for nomination.
Diagram of Diagrams
Two special anniversary awards known as the "Diagram of Diagrams" (the name reflects the "Booker of Bookers") have been presented to honour both the 15th and the 30th anniversaries of the Diagram Prize. The nominations of the prizes were all of the previous winners up to that point in time. In 1993, the winner of the 15th anniversary award was Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, the winner of the first Diagram Prize. The second "Diagram of Diagrams", announced on 5 September 2008, was Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, the 1996 winner.
|1978||Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice||Various authors||University of Tokyo Press||Medical studies done using laboratory mice with inhibited immune systems|
|1979||The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution||Barbara Sherman Heyl||Transaction Press||About working in prostitution|
|1980||The Joy of Chickens||Dennis Nolan||Prentice Hall||About breeds of chicken|
|1981||Last Chance at Love – Terminal Romances||Various authors||Pinnacle Press|
|1982||Population and Other Problems: Family Planning, Housing 1,000 Million, Labour Employment||Various authors||China National Publications||About the demographics of the People's Republic of China|
|1983||Unsolved Problems of Modern Theory of Lengthwise Rolling||A. I. Tselikov, G. S. Nikitin and S. E. Rokotyan||Mir Publishers||About rolling as a metalworking technique|
|1984||The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today||Anne Wilson||Constable||About the history of marmalade|
|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||Westwood Publishing Company||About bust enlargement through positive thinking|
|1986||Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality||Glenn C. Ellenbogen||Brunner/Mazel||Humorous and parody articles about psychiatry.|
|1988||Versailles: The View from Sweden||Elaine Dee and Guy Walton||University of Chicago Press||Catalogue of an exhibition at the Cooper–Hewitt Museum on the influence of French Baroque and Classicism on design in contemporary Sweden.|
|1989||How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art||Kathleen Meyer||Ten Speed Press||About responsible treatment of one's human waste in wilderness areas|
|1990||Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual||Pat Califia||Lace Publications||A guide to BDSM and safe sex.|
|1992||How to Avoid Huge Ships||John W. Trimmer||Cornwell Maritime Press||Advice to pleasure boat sailors on the dangers of shipping lanes|
|1993||American Bottom Archaeology||Charles J. Bareis and James W. Porter||University of Illinois Press||Full title American Bottom Archaeology: A Summary of the FAI-270 Project Contribution to the Culture History of the Mississippi River Valley|
|1994||Highlights in the History of Concrete||C. C. Stanley||British Cement Association||About the history of concrete|
|1995||Reusing Old Graves: A Report on Popular British Attitudes||Douglas Davies and Alastair Shaw||Shaw & Son||About reusing old graves|
|1996||Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers||Derek Willan||Hellenic Philatelic Society of Great Britain||Cancellation numbers in the Hellenic Post|
|1997||The Joy of Sex: Pocket Edition||Alex Comfort||Mitchell Beazley||Pocket edition of The Joy of Sex|
|1998||Developments in Dairy Cow Breeding: New Opportunities to Widen the Use of Straw||Gareth Williams||Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust|
|1999||Weeds in a Changing World: British Crop Protection Council Symposium Proceedings No. 64||Charles H. Stirton||British Crop Protection Council||Another title, Male Genitalia of Butterflies of the Balkan Peninsula, with a Checklist, was originally a favourite, but it was later rejected for being deliberately odd.|
|2000||Designing High Performance Stiffened Structures||IMechE (Institution of Mechanical Engineers)||Professional Engineering Publishing||About stiffness in engineering|
|2001||Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service||Gerard Forlin||Butterworths||About corporate manslaughter, i.e. corporate liability for manslaughter|
|2002||Living with Crazy Buttocks||Kaz Cooke||Penguin US/Australia||Humorous essays on contemporary culture, including female body image and other topics.|
|2003||The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories||Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan||Kensington Publishing||Eight stories in a pastiche of dime novel styles from different decades, each involving lesbian romance and horses.|
|2004||Bombproof Your Horse||Rick Pelicano and Lauren Tjaden||J A Allen||Full title Bombproof Your Horse: Teach Your Horse to Be Confident, Obedient, and Safe, No Matter What You Encounter|
|2005||People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It||Gary Leon Hill||Red Wheel/Weiser Books||About dead spirits who took up residence in bodies that did not belong to them|
|2006||The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification||Julian Montague||Harry N. Abrams||About how to identify abandoned shopping carts|
|2007||If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs||Big Boom||Simon & Schuster US||A self-help book written by a man for the benefit of women.|
|2008||The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais||Philip M. Parker||Icon Group International||Computer-generated combination of boilerplate text and public-domain data related to fromage frais, a type of cheese|
|2009||Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes||Daina Taimina||A K Peters, Ltd.||Mathematical book featuring crocheted hyperbolic planes.|
|2010||Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way||Michael R. Young||Radcliffe||How-to guide on managing a dental practice.|
|2011||Cooking with Poo||Saiyuud Diwong||Urban Neighbours of Hope||Thai cookbook – "Poo" ("ปู") is Saiyuud Diwong's nickname|
|2012||Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop||Reginald Bakeley||Conari Press||Guide to banishing fairies from your home.|
|2013||How to Poo on a Date||Mats & Enzo||Prion Press||"The Lovers' Guide to Toilet Etiquette".|
|2014||Strangers Have the Best Candy||Margaret Meps Schulte||Choose Art||Self-published travelogue.|
|2015||Too Naked For the Nazis||Alan Stafford||Fantom Films||Biography of Wilson, Keppel and Betty published by Fantom Films.|
|2016||The Commuter Pig Keeper: A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Pigs when Time is your Most Precious Commodity||Michaela Giles||Old Pond Publishing||Practical guide to looking after a small herd of pigs.|
|2018||The Joy of Waterboiling||Thomas Götz von Aust||Achse Verlag||First non-English language book to win (published in German with English title).|
|2019||The Dirt Hole and its Variations||Charles L Dobbins||Self-published||First posthumous author to win.|
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- Ezard, John (27 November 1999). "Weeds oust insects' genitalia to win title". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
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