Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #177: Baboon Metaphysics and Other Implausibly Titled Books

So far in this run of Book-A-Day, I've avoided what I think of as Emergency Books: the ones I can "read" in almost no time and write something equally quickly, just to keep the streak going. Previously for Book-A-Day stints, I'd have a shelf of books like that -- collections of single-panel cartoons, one-quote-to-a-page books, and similar counter-next-to-the-cash-register book product.

And, frankly, I do have a small clump of books like that ready for emergencies this time, since it's important to be prepared for various possibilities when running a big project. But I've gotten ahead, and generally managed the reading day-to-day, so I've stayed ahead and been able to pull in multi-book series as I go on.

(Yes, most of what I'm hitting this year is comics, of one kind of another. I like reading those books, and I had a lot of them waiting to be read, and they do read more quickly than pure prose. Win-win-win.)

But today's book looks a lot like an Emergency Book. And I did, in fact, read it the day I did because I was going more slowly through Jaime Hernandez's Maggie the Mechanic than I expected, and I didn't want to rush through a hundred pages of that at the end of a night.

But Baboon Metaphysics and Other Implausibly Titled Books is so much more than an Emergency Book. It's the second compendium to come out of the best book award ever, the Diagram Group Prize for Odd Titles, which is also the only literary prize to come into existence because of alcohol-fueled lunches and boredom. I've written about the Diagram Group Prize here off and on over the years, and covered the first collection of winners, How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books.

Baboon Metaphysics followed in 2009, though, unlike How to Avoid Huge Ships, this one didn't bother to list an editor, compiler, or other human being responsible for it. It contains the covers and basic details for forty-seven books with very odd titles, of all kinds: academic texts, self-help, very specialized history or medicine or cookery books, humor, children's' books, animal husbandry, odd novels, and the unclassifiable remnant.

Every single one of those books makes sense, to the right person with the right experience -- some are very narrow in interest, and some seem to be fiction from an alien world, but somebody thought they were worth writing, and somebody (possibly even a different person) thought they were worth publishing.

I don't work in book publishing anymore, but I miss it, and this is why: it's a big, weird field, full of little corners and nooks, populated by oddballs and cranks, devoted to knowledge and stories and the written word. That's why the Diagram Group Prize is the best book award out there; that's why this book is so wonderful.

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