Celebrating Publishing's Oddest Titles
SUSAN STAMBERG, host:
Friday, in Britain, The Bookseller magazine announced the winner of its annual award for the oddest book title of the year. This the 28th year of the award. Readers, booksellers and librarians from around the world submit titles that catch their eye. The Bookseller magazine compiles a list and the winner is then chosen by a public vote at thebookseller.com. Last year's winner was Bombproof Your Horse. In 1992 the winner was How to Avoid Huge Ships.
Joel Rickett is deputy editor of The Bookseller. He's on the phone from his office in London.
Hi, Mr. Rickett.
Mr. JOEL RICKETT (Deputy Editor, The Bookseller Magazine): Hello.
STAMBERG: Was there a pretty hefty competition this year?
Mr. RICKETT: We had an amazing number of entries. We have 50 entries.
STAMBERG: What made the short list?
Mr. RICKETT: We had Rhino Horn Stockpile Management, and that's got the subtitle, Men on Standards and Best Practices from Eastern Southern Africa. We had Soil Nailing: Best Practice Guidance, which is obviously a practical handbook on how to nail soil.
Mr. RICKETT: Bullying and Sexual Harassment: a Practical Handbook, which might not intend to sound like it does. And then we had a very bizarre book called Nessus Snort and Ethereal Power Tools.
Mr. RICKETT: Yes.
STAMBERG: As in heavenly?
Mr. RICKETT: Yes. I'm not sure what heavenly power tools are.
STAMBERG: I don't either. And I don't want to know.
Okay, here we go. The winner of The Bookseller magazine's 28th annual award now, please. And first, let me give you a little drum roll. Brrrrrrup.
Mr. RICKETT: The winner is People Who Don't Know They're Dead, How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It.
STAMBERG: And the author, please.
Mr. RICKETT: Gary Leon Hill, who I believe is a very well known American playwright.
STAMBERG: Oh, now you're blaming it on America. What can you tell us about this book?
Mr. RICKETT: Well, it's actually a fairly serious book. I think it's a narrative of Gary Leon Hill's, actually his aunt and uncle, who were sort of immersed in the world of the paranormal and used to actually advice people on dealing with spiritual issues, occult issues. And it's kind of, I suppose, a mixture of biography of them, and also a sort of practical guide to dealing with the undead.
STAMBERG: Was this book reviewed?
Mr. RICKETT: It's been reviewed quite extensively. If you look at the description of the book on Amazon, it's fantastic. It's, When people die by accident in violence, or may be they're drunk, stoned or angry, they get freeze-framed. Even if they die naturally but have no clue what to expect, they might not notice they're dead. It's frustrating to see and not be seen. It's frustrating to not know what you're supposed to do next. It's especially frustrating to be in someone else's body and think it's your own. That's if you're dead. If you're alive and that spirit has attached itself to you, well, that's a whole other set of frustrations.
STAMBERG: It's probably another book, too.
Mr. RICKETT: There's definitely a sequel.
STAMBERG: Now, I've looked over some of the earlier winning titles, and I must say I've not heard of a single one of them. Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality? Never heard of it. Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual. And this one, Buttersworth's Corporate Manslaughter Service. I'm assuming these are all non-fiction books, right? That's probably why I haven't heard of them.
Mr. RICKETT: They are. There is a sort of mixture between the knowingly odd titled books and the ones that don't know they're so odd.
STAMBERG: Well, have you ever, Mr. Rickett, heard from authors who have won?
Mr. RICKETT: The authors tend to rest in obscurity. I think they enjoy that.
STAMBERG: Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller, speaking from his office in London.
Mr. RICKETT: Thank you.
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