One of the more interesting literary awards is the annual prize for The Oddest Book Title. This year’s winner is Dr. Daina Taimina for her delightful, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes. Doesn’t this title just want to make you rush to buy?
When I read about it, I rather thought the author must be a made-up person as well. I mean, Daina Taimina? But in fact, Dr. Taimina is a serious mathematician who teaches at Cornell University. A Hyperbolic plane is a connected Riemannian manifold with negative Gaussian curvature. (As if you didn’t know that.)
Dr. Taimina is obviously blessed with an editor who has a sense of wit and an ear for resonance. We should all be so lucky. You will recall that in one of my previous blogs Bad Moon Rising: The Vexed Question of the Title I have moaned to you about the fact that authors rarely get to keep the titles they choose for their books.
But back to The Oddest Title. Over the years there have been some great choices. 2002 saw Living with Crazy Buttocks carry the honours. How Green were the Nazis made the 2006 shortlist along with Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan. My own favourite is still The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today (1984). I would love to meet the person who wrote this.
It used to be the prerogative of Horace Bent, the diarist for The Bookseller Magazine, and a panel of judges to choose the entries and the winner. In 2000, however, the contest was thrown open to the public. Mr. Bent, aghast, threatened to resign when told of this populist storming of the bastions. (He has since reconsidered.) So next year, if you feel like it, you can nominate a title as well if you go to the Bookseller’s Twitter account. Just keep in mind that it has to be a genuine title of an actually published book. It doesn’t matter if the content of the book isn’t odd -- only the title needs to be eccentric. I can’t help thinking, though, that the two must go hand in hand. Consider a previous winner such as Bombproof your Horse. Or how about -- Reusing Old Graves: A Report on Popular British Attitudes. What’s contained in those pages must surely be as rivetingly bonkers as the titles themselves are peculiar.
So have you guys come across titles weird and wonderful? If you have, let’s hear ‘em. And let me know what is more important to you – an interesting title or a lovely book jacket? Do you remember titles? Or do you remember the names of authors? I rue the day the I decided to use my married name as my nom de plume. It gets mangled constantly (Mustard, Messer and my personal favourite –Monster.) I’m sure I’m losing sales on Amazon because readers have problems remembering how to spell it and can’t find me.
And then, finally: On Tuesday, I will be doing a live online interview on the paranormal book site bittenbybooks.com. The idea is that anyone can post questions on the site for me in real time and I will be at my desk to respond almost immediately.
The event opens at 12pm Central (6pm London) and will continue until I fall asleep at my keyboard. I took a peek at a past interview with Justin Somper, another UK author and he was still up and answering questions at 2am in the morning. Methinks I do not quite have Mr. Somper’s amazing energy. But I’ll try to stay up as late as I can.
Here’s how to participate: Go to bittenbybooks.com.
On the day of the event (Tuesday 30 March), the event will be on the front page at the top of the site.
Click on the text where it says >Join Author Natasha Mostert Interview, Chat and Contest Today!
The link will take you to a page where you can read an interview with me by the Bitten by Books Editor. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find a comments form where you can type in your question.
I look forward to seeing you there!