Sure, awards are supposed to honor the best. And then there are the awards that spring up in reaction, the ones that hand out citations to mark the ignominy of the worst.
But leave it to the British to celebrate the eccentric.
The publishing site Bookseller.com has announced the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. It goes to Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way by Michael R. Young.
As odd as the title may be, it’s completely accurate. The book is, in fact, aimed at teaching dentists how to use techniques of the famous Mongolian warlord to build their businesses. Bookseller.com calls it the “go-to guide” for those interested in dental empire building.
According to the website, Dr. Young’s book won an online poll with 58% of the vote, beating out The 8th International Friction Stir Welding Symposium Proceedings (24%), What Color Is Your Dog? (8%), The Italian’s One-night Love-child (4%), Myth of the Social Volcano (3%) and The Generosity of the Dead (3%). If the criterion is oddness, those last two, as far as I’m concerned, didn’t have a chance – and The Generosity of the Dead sounds downright intriguing – it could have been a spy thriller, though it is in reality a study of debates about organ donation.
“In the end, it wasn’t even close,” said the award’s custodian, Horace Bent, of the online competition. “Much like the tyrant himself, Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way ruthlessly slaughtered the opposition, and scored twice as many votes as the runner-up.”
This year’s competition seemed untouched by controversy, which has sometimes surrounded the award over its three-decade history. 1987 and 1991 were judged not to have produced any titles of sufficient oddness, so no winners were named for those two years.
Custodian Bent himself has suggested he doesn’t necessarily agree with Internet voting, which was started in 2000. “The public: you just can’t trust them,” he said in 2007, when the prize was won by If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs. Yet one of Bent’s colleagues praised the choice, saying, “So effective is the title that you don’t even need to read the book itself.”
Two years ago, the prize went to an author who described himself as “the most published author in the history of the planet” because he invented a computer program that creates books by culling information from the Internet and databases. Through the computer program, he claimed, he had created more than 200,000 books. His winning title? The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais.
“I think it’s slightly controversial as it was written by a computer,” one of the awards administrators told The Guardian, “but given the number of celebrity memoirs out there that are ghostwritten, I don’t think it’s too strange.”
Some of the other odd title winners over the years: People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It (2005), Living with Crazy Buttocks (2002), The Joy of Sex: Pocket Edition (1997), Highlights in the History of Concrete (1994), How to Avoid Huge Ships and (1992), and Versailles: The View From Sweden (1988).