Cats, poo, trout, pies and God vie for votes in 'the Diagram Prize' - for the oddest book title of the year

A book about working class cats and 'Origin of Feces' are also up for the award

Arts Correspondent

A book about working-class cats will compete with a guide about toilet etiquette during a date for one of the most sought-after prizes in this year’s literary calendar.

As the shortlist of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year was unveiled, its organiser said 2014 was one of the strongest vintages in the award’s 35-year history.

Horace Bent, custodian of the prize and a diarist for The Bookseller, said: “It is a truly inspiring list celebrating the art of title-making that goes from the sublime to the fantastic.

"It runs the gamut from a book with a Darwinian pun and a very liberal sprinkling of the S-bomb within its pages, to a title that hints at the heretofore unreported class struggle amongst the moggies of the Big Apple.” 

Working Class Cats: The Bodega Cats of New York City by Chris Balsiger and Erin Canning will vie with another animal-based work entitled Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown.

There are two toilet-themed books on the shortlist, Origin Of Feces [sic] by David Walter-Toews and the even more eccentric How To Poo On A Date by Mats and Enzo, while fans of The Great British Bake Off will no doubt be enthralled by Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography by Jo Packham. The final work on the six-strong shortlist is Ian Punnett’s How To Pray When You’re Pissed At God.

The winner will be chosen by a public vote and announced on 21 March.

In the past, the award has been won by classics such as Greek Rural Postmen And Their Cancellation Numbers, How To Avoid Huge Ships and Living With Crazy Buttocks. The authors of the two faeces-based works nominated this year can also take heart from a previous winner of the award: Cooking With Poo .

Tom Tivnan, who co-ordinates the prize and is features and insight editor at The Bookseller, said that while other awards “ superficially judge books on the content between the covers”, the Diagram Prize “taps into the zeitgeist”.

The prize was conceived in 1978 by Bruce Robertson, the founder of the publishing services company Diagram Group. He saw it as a way to avoid boredom at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair.

The first award was handed to Proceedings Of The Second International Workshop On Nude Mice. Since then there have been only two years with no winner, owing to the lack of odd titles published. Last year it went to Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop.

The winning author may be disappointed to learn that nothing but notoriety – and possibly a modest increase in sales – comes with the first prize. A bottle of “fairly passable” claret is traditionally handed to the person who penned the victorious title.

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