Judging a book by its title

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First aired on As It Happens (25/03/13)

We've all been told not to judge a book by its cover, but what about judging a book by its title?

That's the concern of the idiosyncratic Diagram Prize, which is awarded every year by the British trade magazine The Bookseller. But with winners like Proceedings of the Second International Workshop of Nude Mice and The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling, the award isn't for best or worst title: It's for oddest book title.

For 35 years the Diagram Prize has been celebrating the strange and specific, giving props to otherwise niche books like The Joy of Chickens, Living with Crazy Buttocks, or People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke to the prize's organizer Philip Stone about this year's shortlist and winner, which was awarded (by public vote) last week. "We had How Tea Cozies Changed the World...that one proved quite popular on the shortlist," he said. "We also have God's Doodle which is about, ah, men and their manhood, I think is the safest way to describe it."


The competition was stiff (no pun intended) this year. "We had over 1,200 votes, which is good," said Stone. "[The public] elected the winner as a book by Reginald Bakeley called Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop, which offers practical advice in the campaign against the fairy kingdom. It's a guide to dealing with bothersome members of the fairy realm, specifically goblins, invading one's chicken coop."

Stone was able to get in touch with the book's editor, Clint Marsh, to congratulate him, and he was honoured. "We always like it when an author is happy to receive our odd title prize," said Stone. "In the past few years we've been able to get in touch with all the authors and tell them the good news, and they've been very happy to be nominated and win this prestigious literary award."

Off quoted Marsh's response, which was appropriately tongue-in-cheek: "Reginald and I take this as a clear sign that people have had enough of goblins in their chicken coops."