39 Weird Books That Really Exist

In 2014, the annual Diagram Prize for the oddest book title was awarded to How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers' Guide to Toilet Etiquette. The book defeated Are Trout South African? and The Origin of Feces. In 2015, Strangers Have the Best Candy took the honor. After you've picked those up, here are 39 other odd or oddly named books that would look great on your shelf.

1. FASHION CATS

This 160-page coffee table book compiles the masterpieces of Takako Iwasa, Japan’s #1 cat tailor, into a glossy collection of the finest feline fashion. Supermodel cats Prin and Koutaro don’t wear costumes (although a frog hat and bunny ears make appearances) so much as cat couture, from regal satin capes to striped newsboy caps and proper plaid ties. They even manage to wear Hello Kitty ears with dignity.

2. ANYBODY CAN BE COOL ... BUT AWESOME TAKES PRACTICE

Neither the title nor the cover make it immediately evident that Anybody Can Be Cool is a Christian devotional book for teens, which could be disappointing for unsuspecting readers hoping for a 12-step plan to awesome. The guy in the red-and-white knit sweater probably doesn’t need any tips, though.

3. BOMBPROOF YOUR HORSE

Although it’s true that horses spook easily, “bombproofing” sounds a bit drastic, doesn’t it? As if this book’s techniques aren’t enough for a worried horse owner, there’s a sequel entitled Better Than Bombproof: New Ways to Make Your Horse a Solid Citizen and Keep You Safe on the Ground, in the Arena, and on the Trail. If there’s ever a third book, it’ll have to contain no less than the secret to eternal equine life.

4. WHO CARES ABOUT ELDERLY PEOPLE?

Yep.

5. DOES GOD EVER SPEAK THROUGH CATS?

This is one of those pressing questions the Bible, the Torah, and the Qu’ran all neglected to answer.

6. HOW TO DISSAPPEAR COMPLETELY AND NEVER BE FOUND

This supposed handbook for those who really have something to hide features sections dedicated to procuring new identification papers, finding a job, “pseudocide,” and more, but it’s hard to take advice from an author who misspells “disappear” not once, but seven times. It’s also unfortunately almost 20 years out of date—avoiding paper trails are the least of a would-be disappearer’s worries these days.

7. SUN-BEAMS MAY BE EXTRACTED FROM CUCUMBERS, BUT THE PROCESS IS TEDIOUS

David Daggett’s 1799 Fourth of July oration is a Federalist response to Thomas Jefferson that presumably had little to do with cucumbers or sun-beams, which makes its extremely incongruous title all the more delightful.

8. HOW GREEN WERE THE NAZIS?: NATURE, ENVIRONMENT, AND NATION IN THE THIRD REICH 

Would Goebbels have driven a Prius? Did the Butcher of Lyon recycle his empty aluminum cans? Of all the adjectives one might associate with Hitler’s regime, “eco-friendly” is not one that immediately springs to mind.

9. HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK: DEFEND YOURSELF WHEN THE LAWN WARRIORS STRIKE (AND THEY WILL) 

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in garden gnomes. This is the book every survival-minded citizen needs to prepare for an apocalyptic vision more terrifying than zombies or aliens—because anything could be lurking behind those innocent expressions.

10. KNITTING WITH DOG HAIR: BETTER A SWEATER FROM A DOG YOU KNOW AND LOVE THAN FROM A SHEEP YOU'LL NEVER MEET

Come to think of it, scarves made of wool from some strange, anonymous sheep have always felt a bit impersonal.

11. HOW TO TEACH PHYSICS TO YOUR DOG

Therapy dogs can soothe survivors of traumatic events by their mere presence—an ability Chad Orzel seems to hope translates to teaching quantum mechanics to the non-physicists among us. Emmy, a German shepherd-mix who’s quick to catch on to abstract concepts, is an effective teaching tool for Orzel’s actual audience—humans—and she’s pretty cute to boot.

12. MANIFOLD DESTINY: THE ONE! THE ONLY! GUIDE TO COOKING ON YOUR CAR ENGINE!

We're not experts, but if your vintage car engine runs hot enough to cook a full-course meal, you might want to call a mechanic. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll agree to be paid in side dishes.

13. ROYAL KNITS

Forget trying to cop Duchess Kate Middleton’s style with store-bought items. Instead, knit your own outfits worthy of Buckingham Palace. The book includes patterns for a yarn replica of the St. Edward’s Crown as well as an original design for a pair of slippers that look like Corgis, in a nod to the reigning monarch’s preference for the Welsh herd dogs. A guardsman’s iconic bearskin hat, however, might be beyond the book’s scope.

14. DATING FOR UNDER A DOLLAR: 301 IDEAS 

Don’t be so quick to label buyers of this book a cheap date. Keep in mind that Dating for Under a Dollar was published over a decade ago in 1999; adjusting for inflation, a dollar then was equivalent to a whopping $1.34 today. That’s more than enough to buy a candy bar or a small order of fast food fries, which sounds like a nifty date! A single dollar isn’t quite equal to the selling price of Blair Tolman’s book, but the extra few dollars would probably be worth it for 299 better frugal dating ideas than mine.

15. THE BEST FENCES

As the old proverb (sort of) goes, the best fences make the best neighbors. Never settle for less.

16. HOW TO LAND A TOP-PAYING PIEROGI MAKERS JOB 

Unemployment rates are high for everyone right now, dumpling chefs included. With no recipes, this “complete guide to opportunities” is only good for seasoned pierogi professionals.

17. TEACH YOUR WIFE TO BE A WIDOW

It’s best to be prepared.

18. TREAT YOUR OWN NECK

In the days before hypochondriacs could be satisfied (or spurred on) by a quick WebMD search for symptoms like “stiff elbow” or “sore ankles,” Spinal Publications New Zealand Ltd. and physical therapist Robin McKenzie released a handy paperback guide to self-care for all neck-related problems. Reviews of the book range from “highly recommend!” to a warning that some of the exercises might be “quite harmful” to those with pre-existing arthritis. Exercise caution when reading. 

19. BODY BUILDERS IN TUTUS

This is, unfortunately, not an illustrated coffee table book, but a cleverly titled collection of marketing advice essays. Well done, Philipp Lomboy: you sold us.

20. WHOSE BOTTOM IS THIS?

This concept was apparently so good that two different publishers have used it. The illustrated Whose Bottom Is This? is a hardcover lift-the-flap guessing game for children ages 1 to 3. Those same children can then graduate a few years later to Wayne Lynch’s photographic series of books, which include the posed posteriors of “hippos, rhinos, bighorn sheep, pin-tailed ducks, and more.” It might be good preparation for a child’s first field trip to the zoo, so long as someone teaches them what animals look like from the front as well.

21. THE LULL BEFORE DORKING

There’s no readily available information on this reprinted 1871 collection of British pamphlets, but the titular “dorking” might either refer to a market town just south of London, or to a breed of five-toed English domestic fowl. Feel free to leave your speculation as to what The Lull Before Dorking could possibly mean in the comments below.

22. THE NEW RADIATION RECIPE BOOK

To clarify: “Radiation” was a brand of automated gas cooker.

23. LIBERACE: YOUR PERSONAL FASHION CONSULTANT

Finally, there exists a practical guide for the style-challenged masses. Who wouldn’t want to mix sequins and fringe, stars and argyle, or knee socks and short-shorts like the world’s highest-paid entertainer?

24. GOBLINPROOFING ONE'S CHICKEN COOP

The Associated Press described this 2012 book as a “supernaturally tinged barnyard manual.” In addition to goblins, the guide also offers practical advice for warding off dwarves, brownies, and flower fairies.

25. HOW TO AVOID HUGE SHIPS

Originally published under the full title, How to Avoid Huge Ships, or: I Never Met a Ship I Liked, Captain John W. Trimmer’s how-to guide delivers readers exactly what it promises. Though it was named “worst book ever” by Publisher’s Weekly, it’s garnered quite a fan base on Amazon. One reviewer wrote: “I was jogging around the block when all of a sudden I was almost struck by a huge ship! Thankfully I had read How to Avoid Huge Ships. I have lived to tell the tale and now I only hope future generations read this lifesaver.”

26.  HIGHLIGHTS IN THE HISTORY OF CONCRETE

In this book author C.C. Stanley looks back through concrete’s riveting 7600-year history. Unfortunately you’ll have to look elsewhere for a comprehensive account; here he only hits the highlights.

 27.  THE JOY OF CHICKENS

A must-have for any chicken enthusiast.

28. ORAL SADISM AND THE VEGETARIAN PERSONALITY 

This book is an anthology of readings from the “Journal of Polymorphous Perversity.” It includes such hard-hitting psychiatric observations as, “One hundred percent of all dead patients showed a marked reluctance to pay their bills,” and “When Ms. Cinderella left her glass slipper behind at the stroke of midnight, she was clearly acting in a state of rebellion against the dictatorial regimentation of the domineering fairy godmother.” Thankfully, it’s all parody.

29.  LIVING WITH CRAZY BUTTOCKS

Though it sounds like a self-help book, Living with Crazy Buttocks is actually collection of humor pieces by Australian cartoonist Kaz Cooke. People living with literal crazy buttocks will have to look elsewhere for coping advice.

30.  THE DO-IT-YOURSELF LOBOTOMY: OPEN YOUR MIND TO GREATER CREATIVE THINKING 

When thinking of ways to improve your creative problem-solving capabilities and get ahead in the workplace, a lobotomy doesn’t usually top the list. Apparently the team behind this book thought the concept of a “do-it-yourself” one would have copies flying off the shelves.

31. CROCHETING ADVENTURES WITH HYPERBOLIC PLANES 

 

If you’ve ever wished there could be more complex geometry in your crocheting adventures, then this book is for you. It includes 200 photographs of comfy, colorful hyperbolic models with instructions on how to craft them.

32. THE BOOK OF MARMALADE: ITS ANTECEDENTS, ITS HISTORY, AND ITS ROLE IN THE WORLD TODAY 

Here is the be-all and end-all of comprehensive marmalade guides. One review from the Bristol Evening Post reads, “(C. Anne) Wilson has found out just about everything anyone could ever have wanted to know about the splendid preserve.”

33.  THE MADAM AS ENTREPRENEUR: CAREER MANAGEMENT IN HOUSE PROSTITUTION

This account follows one member of the world’s oldest profession from getting her start as a teenage to stepping down as a house madam in her forties. It’s part sociological analysis part business guide.

34. MANAGING A DENTAL PRACTICE: THE GENGHIS KHAN WAY

Genghis Khan was a busy guy, and he was never able to find time to open a dental practice in between building an empire. This book still suggests that dentists should be taking a page from his book.

35.  THE STRAY SHOPPING CARTS OF EASTERN NORTH AMERICA: A GUIDE TO FIELD IDENTIFICATION

The book’s summary calls it, “A must-have for anyone with a passion for shopping carts and a love of the great outdoors.”

36. NATURAL BUST ENLARGEMENT WITH TOTAL POWER: HOW TO INCREASE THE OTHER 90% OF YOUR MIND TO INCREASE THE SIZE OF YOUR BREASTS

Instead of blowing thousands dollars on surgery, Dr. Donald L. Wilson suggests that increased breast size can be achieved through the power of mindful thinking.  The contents read more like soft-core erotic poetry than a self-help guide. One noteworthy line reads, "You look up at the sky, and you see a white cloud formation in the shape of your breasts which reminds you of how perfect your breasts can be."

37. COOKING WITH POO

The “Poo” in this title refers to world-renowned Thai chef Khun Poo.

38. PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW THEY'RE DEAD: HOW THEY ATTACH THEMSELVES TO UNSUSPECTING BYSTANDERS AND WAHT TO DO ABOUT IT

In this book, the author tells the story of his Uncle Wally and Aunt Ruth who counseled lost spirits that moved into bodies that didn’t belong to them. It’s full of practical information for both the living and the deceased.

39. STRANGERS HAVE THE BEST CANDY

Thankfully, this isn’t the title of a children’s book. Margaret Meps Schulte’s travelogue documents the interesting conversations she’s had with strangers over the years.

This story originally ran in March 2014.

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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iStock
Why a Readily Available Used Paperback Is Selling for Thousands of Dollars on Amazon
iStock
iStock

At first glance, getting ahold of a copy of One Snowy Knight, a historical romance novel by Deborah MacGillivray, isn't hard at all. You can get the book, which originally came out in 2009, for a few bucks on Amazon. And yet according to one seller, a used copy of the book is worth more than $2600. Why? As The New York Times reports, this price disparity has more to do with the marketing techniques of Amazon's third-party sellers than it does the market value of the book.

As of June 5, a copy of One Snowy Knight was listed by a third-party seller on Amazon for $2630.52. By the time the Times wrote about it on July 15, the price had jumped to $2800. That listing has since disappeared, but a seller called Supersonic Truck still has a used copy available for $1558.33 (plus shipping!). And it's not even a rare book—it was reprinted in July.

The Times found similar listings for secondhand books that cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than their market price. Those retailers might not even have the book on hand—but if someone is crazy enough to pay $1500 for a mass-market paperback that sells for only a few dollars elsewhere, that retailer can make a killing by simply snapping it up from somewhere else and passing it on to the chump who placed an order with them.

Not all the prices for used books on Amazon are so exorbitant, but many still defy conventional economic wisdom, offering used copies of books that are cheaper to buy new. You can get a new copy of the latest edition of One Snowy Knight for $16.99 from Amazon with Prime shipping, but there are third-party sellers asking $24 to $28 for used copies. If you're not careful, how much you pay can just depend on which listing you click first, thinking that there's not much difference in the price of used books. In the case of One Snowy Knight, there are different listings for different editions of the book, so you might not realize that there's a cheaper version available elsewhere on the site.

An Amazon product listing offers a mass-market paperback book for $1558.33.
Screenshot, Amazon

Even looking at reviews might not help you find the best listing for your money. People tend to buy products with the most reviews, rather than the best reviews, according to recent research, but the site is notorious for retailers gaming the system with fraudulent reviews to attract more buyers and make their way up the Amazon rankings. (There are now several services that will help you suss out whether the reviews on a product you're looking at are legitimate.)

For more on how Amazon's marketplace works—and why its listings can sometimes be misleading—we recommend listening to this episode of the podcast Reply All, which has a fascinating dive into the site's third-party seller system.

[h/t The New York Times]

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