Every year, British magazine The Bookseller runs a competition for the oddest book title. The winner for 2008 is “The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais”. It costs $795 on Amazon.
I was wondering how there could possibly be a market for a book like this, or why anyone would write it? The answer can be found on Horace Bent’s blog at The Bookseller — the author didn’t really write it:
…[T]he listed author (Professor Philip M Parker) is no expert in the field of dairy product packaging. What he is, is a genius. Or a monster, depending on your point of view. For he has invented “a method and apparatus for automated authoring and marketing”. i.e. a machine that dispenses with those inconsequential things knows [sic] as authors. According to the New York Times, he plans to use it to produce romance novels. …
And why did he choose to invent such a machine? Well, according to his submission to the United States Patent and Trademark Office: “There is a need for an automated system that eliminates, or substantially reduces the costs associated with human labour, such as authors, editors…” However, given that fromage frais comes in 60-gram containers (NOT milli-gram), a copy editor would have been quite useful when it came to the text, one observes.
The New York Times notes that Philip M Parker has written 200,000 books in this way.
“Baboon Metaphysics” came second, followed by “Curbside Consultation of the Colon” in third place. Fourth place went to “Strip and Knit with Style“, followed by “The Large Sieve and its Applications” (sounds like it’s a mathematical sieve, not a real one) and “Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring“.
Actually (and I’m really serious here) that Baboon Metaphysics looks pretty interesting. It’s a study of the self-awareness of baboons, recounting the behaviour of a clan of baboons in Botswana. The social relations of those baboons have all the elements of a great soap opera (or a work of literature).
Past awards have found some truly bizarre titles:
- If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs (2007 winner)
- Reusing Old Graves (1994 winner)
- Highlights in the History of Concrete (1995 winner)
- High Performance Stiffened Structures (2000 winner)
- Living with Crazy Buttocks (2002 winner – I actually have this book)
- I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen (2007 contender)
- Cheese Problems Solved (2007 contender)
- Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers
(1996 winner and winner of oddest title for past 30 years)
- People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead (2005 winner)
- How to Avoid Huge Ships (1992 winner)
- Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (winner of the first award in 1978)
- Bombproof Your Horse (2004 winner)
- The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003 winner – are the horses lesbians? or are the horse riders lesbians??)
- What do Socks do? (1982 contender)
- Japanese Chins (1993 contender)
- Egg Banjos from Around the World (1996 contender)
Hmm, if I ever publish my PhD thesis, I should think up a really strange title in an effort to get onto this list…
I just couldn’t help finding out what an “egg banjo” was – apparently it’s an egg sandwich, not a musical instrument.