First aired on As It Happens (24/2/12)
The Diagram Prize is an annual award that, in effect, judges a book by its cover: it goes to the title with the oddest title. The winner is chosen by the public through online voting, though the shortlist is put together by a group headed by Philip Stone, the administrator of the prize. In a recent interview, he talked to As It Happens about this year's batch of contenders.
One of the front-runners is Mr Andoh's Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge. "It's the story of a guy who travelled from Japan to the north of England in the 1930s to teach a hatchery firm how to tell the sex of chickens," Stone explained. Another is The Great Singapore Penis Panic and the Future of American Mass Hysteria by Scott D. Mendelson.
Although the title may sound bizarre, Stone pointed out that "it is actually a true, genuine history book about this psychiatric pandemic that hit the island of Singapore in 1967, and it's when hundreds and hundreds of men ran for the hospital convinced that a certain part of their anatomy was shrinking up into their body, and as a result they'd die."
A number of other titles in the mix are less colourful; indeed, their dullness is what distinguishes them. Stone cited A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel, Volume Two and Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World, the sequel to a book about Estonian mitten patterns around the world.
The titles are sometimes misleading. That's the case with the cookbook on the list, Cooking with Poo. Stone pointed out that "poo" is the Thai word for "crab" and it's also the nickname of the author.
People can vote for their favourite odd title by clicking on the link to the Diagram Prize at www.thebookseller.com. The winner will be announced on March 30.
What's the oddest book title you've come across in the past year? Let us know in the comments section below!