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The British?  Eccentric?  How can you say that?  Well, perhaps it’s because the Bookseller runs the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year, undoubtedly one of the publishing industry’s most unusual prizes.

The prize is self-explanatory.  Entries are gathered during the year and once the shortlist is released – see below – there is a public vote which this year closes on 20 November, with the winning entry announced on Friday, 27 November.

The Bookseller has been custodian of the prize since 1982, running it on behalf of publishing solution’s firm the Diagram Group, whose execs Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson founded the prize in 1978 in order to provide some light relief during the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The inaugural Diagram Prize was awarded to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, while one of the best ever titles chosen came in 1996 with Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers.

Tom Tivnan, the Bookseller managing editor and prize co-ordinator, said: “Even in good times, the Diagram Prize brings a ray of sunshine into the lives of people all over the world. And in this, one of the most trying years in decades, I think we need a bit of odd-title joy more than ever.”

The shortlist this year is as follows:

A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path
Gregory Forth
McGill-Queen’s University Press

The title is misleading.   In fact, this is an academic book about animal metaphors in Eastern Indonesian society. The title refers to someone who begins something but is easily distracted from it.

Introducing the Medieval Ass
Kathryn L Smithies
University of Wales Press

This academic study is about reclaiming the ass from its traditional role of representing stupidity – a noble quest.

Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music
K F B Fletcher and Osman Umurhan
Bloomsbury Academic

Another academic title, this one sees US-based academics Fletcher and Umurhan explore the close connection between the ancient Greek and Roman world and heavy metal. Yes really.

How to Make Love to a Despot
Stephen D Krasner
W W Norton 

No, this is nothing to do with North Korea.  This is in fact a serious book which looks at how US foreign policy should deal with 21st-century dictators.

Lawnmowers: An Illustrated History
Brian Radam
Amberley Publishing

This is Nasher’s favourite title in the list – that someone should express such devotion to such an everyday subject!  

And finally, there is The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways to Enhance Animal Welfare
Temple Grandin, Michael Cockram

This is a serious study of a grim subject, which poses philosophical questions and sets them against commercial realities.

Come on Lawnmowers!  We know you can do it!