Books

Canadian book in running 2020 Diagram Prize, which is given to the oddest book title of the year

University of Alberta professor Gregory Forth has made the shortlist for the book A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path.
A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path by Gregory Forth is a finalist for the Diagram Prize for oddest title of the year. (McGill Queen's University Press/University of Alberta)

University of Alberta professor Gregory Forth has made the 2020 Diagram Prize shortlist for his book titled A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path. 

The Diagram Prize, also known as the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year, is awarded annually to a book with an unusual title.

Forth is a professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

His book, A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path, explores animal metaphors in Eastern Indonesian society and critiques modern theoretical approaches in anthropology. The title is an idiom of the Nage people of Flores, which means someone who begins something but is easily distracted from it. It was published by McGill-Queen's University Press.

The other 2020 finalists are:

  • Introducing the Medieval Ass by Kathryn L. Smithies
  • Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music by K. F. B. Fletcher and Osman Umurhan
  • How to Make Love to a Despot by Stephen D. Krasner
  • Lawnmowers: An Illus­trated History by Brian Radam
  • The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways to Enhance Animal Welfare by Temple Grandin, edited by Michael Cockram

The humorous prize was founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson of the publishing firm the Diagram Group. It was established in 1978 "as a way to stave off boredom" at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Bookseller, a British magazine that reports on the publishing industry, coordinates the prize.

"That's why this is the purest literary prize going. We don't care about what's in the books. We just go for the title," Bookseller features editor Tom Tivnan told As It Happens.

"I think it's a classic year. We have a combination of scatological, which Diagram Prize voters really seem to like, and ... really strange and odd sort of academic titles."

The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title judges a book solely by its cover — or at least its title. Organizer Tim Tivnan says the contents of the book have no bearing on who brings home the award, which has been running since 1978. 6:31

Previous winners include The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories by Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan and Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way by Michael R. Young.

Last year, The Dirt Hole and its Variations by Charles L. Dobbins won the prize.

The winning title will be chosen by the public through an online vote. Voting is open until Friday Nov. 20, 2020.

The winner will be announced Friday Nov. 27, 2020. 

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