There's nothing stranger than non-fiction

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The Independent Culture

They are not the kind of titles that are likely to top the books bestseller charts. But half a dozen bizarre tomes including a guide to stray shopping trolleys and a history of a Coventry ice-cream business may win their 15 minutes of fame as contenders for the Oddest Book Title of the Year.

The competition, which has been run by The Bookseller magazine since 1978, invites publishers, booksellers and libraries to submit their choices of the strange and odd.

Last year's winner was People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It by Gary Leon Hill.

And the shortlist for the prize in 2006 provides an equally curious insight into the publishing world. The candidates start with How Green Were the Nazis, edited by Franz-Josef Bruggemeier, Mark Cioc and Thomas Zeller, which claims to be the first study of the Third Reich's environmental policies. It offers "an in-depth exploration of the intersections between brown ideologies and green practices".

Next up is D Di Mascio's Delicious Ice Cream: D Di Mascio of Coventry - An Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans by Roger de Boer, a history of the city's ice-cream makers.

The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Julian Montague is described thus by its publishers: "Despite the ubiquity of stray shopping carts, little effort has been made to comprehend the complex relationship between cart and landscape. This is, in no small part, due to the fact that we have until now lacked a formalised language to describe these wayward carts in systematic detail."

The next contender is Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan by Robert Chenciner, Gabib Ismailov, Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov and Alex Binnie, an illustrated book on the vanishing art of the tattoos found on women in the Islamic Russian republic. It also examines the designs of domestic spoonboxes.

Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium has a list of editors almost too long to mention but is part of a series stretching back 50 years, covering all things seaweed including applied seaweed science and management. The publishers insist it "will be referred to for many years to come".

And the final nomination is Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence by David Benatar. In it, he argues that one suffers "quite serious harms" by coming into existence that "could not have befallen one had one not come into existence".

Members of the public are invited to vote for The Bookseller/ Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. Votes should be cast at www.thebookseller.com on the book title alone, not on content.

Previous winners

* Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (1978)

* Natural Bust Enlargement with Total Power: How to Increase the other 90 per cent of your Mind to Increase the Size of your Breasts (1985)

* Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality (1986)

* Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual (1990)

* Living with Crazy Buttocks (2002)

* Bombproof your Horse (2004)

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