LONDON (Reuters) - A guide to sharpening pencils and a craft manual about how tea cozies changed the world are among a shortlist of books released on Friday that are competing for the Oddest Book Title of the Year award.
The shortlist in the 35th annual Diagram Prize also includes a study of Adolf Hitler’s health by Henrik Eberle and Hans-Joachim Neumann titled “Was Hitler Ill?” and “Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts” by Jerry Gagne.
These are up against “How to Sharpen Pencils” by David Rees, “God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis” by Tom Hickman, “Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop” by Reginald Bakeley and “How Tea Cosies Changed the World” by Loani Prior.
Philip Stone, coordinator of the prize run by industry publication the Bookseller, said the award might seem flippant but publishers and booksellers are well aware of the fact that a title can make all the difference to the sales of a book.
“Publishers realize that if a book has an unusual title, particularly a novel, it can help make them more attractive to the public,” Stone told Reuters.
“People think it looks interesting and will pick it up and read the synopsis and that makes them more likely to buy it.”
As examples he cited “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” that has sold almost a million copies and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” that has sold more than two million copies and was adapted for the theatre.
“There is a cliché that you can’t judge a book by its cover but I think people do, the cover and the title,” said Stone.
The winner, chosen by an online public vote, will be announced on March 22.
The Diagram Prize was founded at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978 and first awarded to “Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice”.
Last year’s winner was “Cooking with Poo”, a Thai cookbook by Bangkok resident Saiyuud Diwong whose nickname is Poo.
(This story has been refiled to fix a typo in the headline)
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato