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Prize dredges up a vintage shortlist of the year's oddest book titles
Mon 27 Feb 2012
A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel must dig deep to see off stiff competition from The Great Singapore Penis Panic

Some might have worried the publishers of Peter Gosson's A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel were scraping the bottom of the barrel with the issue of a second volume. But now it goes head to head with the intriguingly subtitled Mr Andoh's Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge, on the shortlist of the Diagram prize for the oddest book title of the year.

Gosson's exhaustively researched maritime history is already the favourite of judges at the prize's administrator, the Bookseller magazine, and some are already calling out for more on the subject. "I do feel there was a lot more information that could be covered, possibly requiring another volume," wrote a reader on Amazon.co.uk.

But it is the public who will decide the eventual winner of the award, a public which has shown a marked fondness in the past for the lewder titles in the running (High Performance Stiffened Structures, The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories and Living with Crazy Buttocks are all former winners). Koichi Andoh's account of his father's time training workers at a hatchery business in the art of determining the sex of one-day-old chicks – or as he puts it, his time as a Japanese Chicken Sexer – therefore looks like a strong contender, as does The Great Singapore Penis Panic: and the Future of American Mass Hysteria. "I'm reading it at the moment ... and it genuinely is a fascinating true-life tale, even if it does sound as though it may have been born of a Monty Python mind as a spoof," said the prize's administrator Philip Stone.

Cooking with Poo by Saiyuud Diwong ("Poo" is the Thai chef's nickname) will satisfy those in search of the scatological, while the Diagram prize's talent for delighting in the esoteric is revealed in its final three contenders: Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World, The Mushroom in Christian Art (a revelation of how Jesus "is a personification of the Holy Mushroom, Amanita muscaria") and A Taxonomy of Office Chairs. This collection of more than 400 drawings of chairs has already found enthusiastic readers. "As a self proclaimed office chair enthusiast (having used a Life, Think, Leap, Freedom, and currently own an Aeron) I eagerly placed my order with high expectations," wrote an Amazon reviewer. "After receiving and reading I can happily say my expectations have been more than met."


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The Guardian

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