Sunday, November 03, 2013

How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books, compiled by Joel Rickett

The world's most sublime literary award, the Diagram Group Prize, has been given to the book with the oddest title for several decades, growing out of what must have been an alcohol-fueled long lunch at a Frankfurt Book Fair back in the late '70s.

The award has puttered along for more than thirty years -- this book was published in the UK, the home of the Prize (and its instigating publication The Bookseller) in 2008 to mark that thirtieth anniversary -- as its selection mechanism, like so many other British things, meandered from something mysterious done by unknown insiders to a basically democratic vote by everyone with an interest in the field.

That's all vaguely interesting, but what makes this book fun is that it collects a lot of winners and finalists, covers and all, each with a quick line to explain just what kind of book it was. From Versailles: the View from Sweden to Knitting with Dog Hair, from The Sexual Politics of Meat to Highlights in the History of Concrete, from How Green Were the Nazis? to the sublime Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, this slim book is chock-full of odd things that someone thought worth publishing.

So How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books is amusing for everyone and possibly a great pick-me-up for would-be authors; if these guys could make it, there's hope for everyone.

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