What is the Bookseller/Diagram Prize?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year is a quirky award given to books whose names defy comprehension or logic. Since the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978, the prize has been awarded nearly annually, with only two years featuring no tomes strangely titled enough to receive merit. Winners of the Bookseller/Diagram Prize are chosen by Bookseller magazine, and receive international recognition for a bizarre title.

The first winner of the Bookseller/Diagram Prize went to the superbly named Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice written by various authors. The book set the tone for the unusual and occasionally eyebrow-raising titles chosen for the honor. Over the years, several titles have stood out as iconic examples of particular quirkiness, including the surely obvious 1993 winner How to Avoid Huge Ships and the odd though possibly useful Bombproof your Horse by Rick Pelicano and Lauren Tjaden.

The submission process for the Bookseller/Diagram prize is quite simple. Librarians, teachers and bookstore workers can all submit suggestions for the award, prior to a set deadline. A list of finalists is compiled by Bookseller magazine, and released for public voting. In addition to the acclaim and publicity of winning a Bookseller/Diagram prize, winners also receive a large bottle of champagne.


For 2008, which will be the 30th anniversary of the Bookseller/Diagram prize, several events are planned to honor the silly history of this competition. The award has plenty to celebrate, with 2008 bringing the highest number of public votes ever received by the competition. The 2008 winner If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs will compete against the winners of the past to win the coveted Diagram of Diagrams awards. Additionally, in September, a small book will be published that includes a history of the winning books and the contest’s finest moments, titled How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books.

Some may wonder why such a facetious competition exists in the first place. But the ability of serious literature lovers to poke fun at their own work and passion is an ancient and time-honored tradition. Besides, is it really possible to look at the titles People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead or The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling and not feel that the authors deserve some form of applause?


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