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From AbeBooks: Tales from the Weird Book Room

Eating-people-is-wrongIn February of this year, the UK's Bookseller Magazine awarded the 2016 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year to Too Naked for the Nazis by Alan Stafford. On the lookout for weird and odd book titles since 1978, the Diagram Prize has picked some real beauties including the one that started it all, Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice and the 1994 winner, Highlights in the History of Concrete by C.C. Stanley.

AbeBooks has always been interested in weird and wacky book titles. The first book that piqued our interest was Cooking on Your Car Engine – Manifold Destiny by Chris Maynard. We thought it was a strange title but when we interviewed the author, we learned that cooking on your engine is a sensible thing when you're a long haul driver. This slim volume of automotive cuisine is deliberately tongue-in-cheek. What other cookbook offers cooking times in miles rather than minutes?

The world of bizarre books is endlessly entertaining and there's much interest in collecting the wackiest of book titles. Books with double entendre titles (deliberate and accidental) are often irresistible, including Still Stripping After All These Years by Eleanor Burns – a book for quilters (and an AbeBooks favorite) - Scouts in Bondage by Geoffrey Prout, and 1954's Memorable Balls by James Laver.

There are books where time has made the title weird/outdated, including Electricity in Gynecology by May Cushman Rice (1912), How to Get More Fun Out of Smoking by Sidney P. Ram (1941,) and How to Be Happy Though Married by Rev. Edward J. Hardy (1885). There are those books that fall under the weird book category due to their extreme niche content like How You Can Bowl Better Using Self-Hypnosis by Jack Heise (1985), Practical Muskrat Raising by E.J. Dailey (1927), Land Snails and Slugs of Russia and Adjacent Countries by Alexander Sysoev and Anatoly Schileyko (2009), and Jewish Chess Masters on Stamps by Felix Berkovich (2000). And then there's the books that tackle weird/funny subject matter, just because. How to be Danish, How to Sharpen Pencils and Catflexing: The Catlover's Guide to Weight Training, Aerobics and Stretching all fall into this category.

What are my personal favorite weird books? Be Bold with Bananas, published by the Banana Control Board in 1974 and Cluck! The True Story of Chickens in the Cinema by Jon Stephen Fink (1981).

We're always looking for suggestions for AbeBooks' Weird Book Room. Tell us your favorite weird book in the comments below.

--Julie Oreskovich, Editor

A Selection of the Best Weird & Wonderful Books:

Barbs prongs points prickersBarbs, Prongs, Points, Prickers and Stickers: A Complete and Illustrated Catalogue of Antique Barbed Wire by Robert T. Clifton (1970)
This book was designed to provide a well-organized identifying, classifying, and cataloging system for the many designs and variations of barbed wire. Nearly one thousand drawings and three indexes to patents, inventors, and manufacturers provide an immediate means of identification. 


English smocksEnglish Smocks by Alice Armes (1930)
Black and white photographs and line drawings, showing various regional styles of traditional smocks, with all 13 smock patterns inserted into front and back folds.



Great pantyhose crafts bookThe Great Pantyhose Crafts Book by Ed & Stevie Baldwin (1982)
Recycle pantyhose and odds and ends of fabric to create 40 delightful projects. Over 400 easy to follow color illustrations.


Face lifting by exerciseFace Lifting by Exercise by Santa Maria Runge (1974)
Includes over 100 photographs and step by step instructions on how to lift your face naturally through isometric exercises.



Do-it-yourself-coffinsDo-it-Yourself Coffins: For Pets and People by Dale Power (2007)
Here is one project you will not want to put off until tomorrow. All of the tools and techniques needed to produce strong and beautiful coffins are presented here in clear, concise language.


History-thimblesA History of Thimbles by Edwin E. Holmes (1985)
A most authoritative and comprehensive survey and history of thimbles. German, England, America, France, porcelain, enamel, gold, mother of pearl, ivory, bone, horn, glass, stone, brass, iron and steel.


How-to-train-goldfishHow to Train Goldfish Using Dolphin Training Techniques by C. Scott Johnson (1995)
This book outlines strategies on how to motivate your goldfish to swim through hoops, fetch sunken items, and other neat tricks.


How-to-goodbye-depressionHow to Good-bye Depression by Hiroyuki Nishigaki (2000)
The synopsis for this book states that "constricting anus 100 times and denting navel 100 times in succession every day is effective to good-bye depression and take back youth." Lost in translation perhaps?



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