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Diagram Prize shortlist immediately renders all other awards irrelevant by dint of insanity

Disregard the Booker nominees. Forget the Nobel. The Pullitzer? Pfft. The shortlist has been announced for the only vaguely literary award that matters: the Diagram Prize for the year’s oddest book title.

Past winners leave some mighty big, weird shoes to fill. How can one hope to live up to the legend, for example, of such hallowed titles as The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais? Or the essential Bombproof Your Horse? Or, particularly in these frugal times, Reusing Old Graves: A Report on Popular British Attitudes (which, as Wikipedia dryly notes, is ‘about reusing old graves’).

This year’s nominees are giving it the old college try, regardless. Looking for something for the beach lover in your life? Why, they’re sure to love A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two, which is finally able to start paying off all that expository set-up done by Volume One, making it essentially The Dark Knight of books about Welsh sand.

Or for the gourmands, there’s always Cooking with Poo, which may not be the spin-off from The Help many were expecting but is exactly what it sounds like if you think it sounds like it comes from Thailand and know that Thailand is a place where ‘poo’ means ‘crab’. That’s just about everyone, right?

If you’ve ever spent the afternoon in Waterstones and thought ‘man, all this choice – you’d think there would be a few more books about Eurasian knitting as it is practiced globally’, then brother, your ship has come in, and it’s the HMS Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World. After all that excitement, you’ll need a nice sit down, and A Taxonomy of Office Chairs will be ready and waiting to give you some ideas on how best to accomplish that.

Those in the market for something Asian and sexy will no doubt be thrilled by not one, not three, but two titles nominated for the Diagram, which will almost certainly be among the first things that come to mind when you hear the words ‘Asian and sexy’: The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria and Mr Andoh’s Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge.

Finally, surely no introduction is needed for the wholly self-explanatory and in no way question-raising The Mushroom in Christian Art.

And people are worried about the health of the publishing industry. What a bunch of hypochondriacs, eh?


Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

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