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More odd than odd

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, The Bookseller is pleased to announce the "Diagram of Diagrams" – a public vote to find the oddest book title of the past 30 years.

The winner of the Diagram of Diagrams will be officially announced on Friday, 5th September, 2008 with anyone and everyone able to vote online at from Friday 8th August. The full list of titles is below.

To mark the occasion, Aurum Press will be releasing an illustrated collection of some of the winners and nominees of yesteryears, How to Avoid Huge Ships (£9.99, ISBN: 9781845133214). It features original jackets of 50 of the best-loved titles since the prize began, and an introduction from The Bookseller's former deputy-editor Joel Rickett.

Philip Stone, Charts Editor at The Bookseller said: "The Bookseller/Diagram Prize seems to be getting bigger each year. There's something joyfully fascinating about the public's own fascination for something unique and quirky, and our annual prize is just that. We received more votes for the award earlier this year than the recent "Booker of Booker" poll. I think that tells its own story."

Horace Bent, The Bookseller's legendary  diarist and custodian of the prize said: "It's overwhelming; incredibly emotional to dig through my substantial archive of press cuttings and public correspondences regarding the prize. To look over the last thirty years of the prize – has it really been that long? - I am reminded of so many of my personal favourites; both the winners and the nearly made-its, including our first ever winner, Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice.

"In fact, in 1993, I arranged a 15-year "Oddest of the Odd" prize, which was won by Nude Mice. Given Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children picked up another "Booker of Booker" prize, perhaps Nude Mice is the early favourite.

"The public will decide. Although, let it be known, I'm still not entirely convinced about opening up the prize up to the public. Their debased vulgarity has been responsible for electing many a nudge-winker a winner in recent years, most notably High Performance Stiffened Structures in 2000, and The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories in 2003."

The prestigious prize was first conceived by The Diagram Group's Bruce Robertson as a way to avoid boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Run by Horace Bent, the first ever winner was the aforementioned The University of Tokyo Press' Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, in 1978.

Earlier this year, the prize received extensive coverage in the media, both nationally and internationally, and after a close-run contest and 8,500 public votes cast, Cheese Problems Solved and I Was Tortured By A Pygmy Love Queen were beaten by If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs (by "Big Boom").

How to Avoid Huge Ships is published by Aurum Press on 8th September priced £9.99. For review copies or information on featuring this title please contact Liz Rowe on 0207 2847181 or email 

The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year: Winners 1978-2008

1978: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (University of Tokyo Press)
1979: The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution (Transaction Press)
1980: The Joy of Chickens (Prentice Hall)
1981: Last Chance at Love: Terminal Romances
1982: Population and Other Problems (China National Publications
1983: The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling (MIR)
1984: The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today (Constable)
1985: Natural Bust Enlargement with Total Power: How to Increase the Other 90% of Your Mind to Increase the Size of Your Breasts (Westwood Publishing Co)
1986: Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality (Brunner/Mazel)
1987: No Award
1988: Versailles: The View From Sweden (University of Chicago Press)
1989: How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art (Ten Speed Press)
1990: Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual (Lace Publications)
1991: No Award
1992: How to Avoid Huge Ships (Cornwell Maritime Press)
1993: American Bottom Archaeology (University of Illinois Press)
1994: Highlights in the History of Concrete (British Cement Association)
1995: Reusing Old Graves (Shaw & Son)
1996: Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (Hellenic Philatelic Society)
1997: The Joy of Sex: Pocket Edition (Mitchell Beazley)
1998: Development in Dairy Cow Breeding and Management: and New Opportunities to Widen the Uses of Straw (Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust)
1999: Weeds in a Changing World (British Crop Protection Council)
2000: High Performance Stiffened Structures (Professional Engineering Publishing)
2001: Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service (Butterworths)
2002: Living With Crazy Buttocks (Kaz Cooke – Penguin US/Australia)
2003: The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (Kensington Publishing)
2004: Bombproof Your Horse (J A Allen)
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)
2006: The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification (Harry N Abrams)
2007: If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs (Simon & Schuster US)

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Comments on this article

By Perdita

It's got to be 1993: American Bottom Archaeology (University of Illinois Press)

08 Aug 08 13:24


By A Greek Rural Postman

Why no award in 1991? I smell conspiracy!

12 Aug 08 15:02


By Rixart

How about "How To Abandon Ship", ?

13 Aug 08 01:13


By Horace

No award in 1991 or 1987. Some believe the reason to be a lack of nominations in those years, but I can now exclusively reveal that the principle reason behind a lack of an award in those years is because I was very, very drunk.

13 Aug 08 09:49


By clive

how to shit in the woods et.c deserves an irrelevancy award. This is not a lost art - believe me!

14 Aug 08 12:29


By Robert Crow

Although it preceded the first award of the Diagram Prize, The Evoked Vocal Response of the Bullfrog (Robert R. Capranica, MIT Press, 1965) seems very Diagrammatic

31 Mar 09 21:22


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