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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 It’s also unfortunately almost 20 years out of date—avoiding paper trails are the least of a would-be disappearer’s worries these days.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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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
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Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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12 Smart Book Ideas for Everyone in Your Life
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Books make the perfect gift: they're durable, transportable, and they promise some (hopefully) quality alone time. But what do you get the aunt who loves mystery novels if you're not familiar with the genre? Or the nephew who devours travelogues and goes backpacking around the world? Look no further—we've got them covered, plus 10 other very specific categories.

1. FOR THE VINTAGE COOKBOOK LOVER: LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES: THE LIFE, ART, AND COOKBOOK OF CIPE PINELES, EDITED BY SARAH RICH,‎ WENDY MACNAUGHTON, DEBBIE MILLMAN, AND MARIA POPOVA; $27

Book cover for Leave Me Alone With the Recipes
Amazon

Author Sarah Rich and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton fell in love with the work of Cipe Pineles, the first female art director at Condé Nast, after discovering her recipes at a San Francisco antiquarian book fair. Filled with vibrantly colored illustrations, Leave Me Alone With the Recipes shows the joyful spirit and homespun flair that made Pineles’s work so influential. Alongside the recipes, the book includes contributions from luminaries in the worlds of food and illustration, including artist Maira Kalman and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings renown.

Find It: Amazon

2. FOR ANYONE HAVING SURGERY THIS YEAR: THE BUTCHERING ART: JOSEPH LISTER’S QUEST TO TRANSFORM THE GRISLY WORLD OF VICTORIAN MEDICINE BY LINDSEY FITZHARRIS; $27

Cover of The Butchering Art
Amazon

Back in the bad old days of medicine, a consistently blood-soaked apron was a sign of pride. Surgeons rarely washed them—or their hands, or their operating tools. Joseph Lister, the somewhat reluctant hero of Lindsey Fitzharris's new book The Butchering Art, was the genius who convinced the medical world that germs were not only real but a major cause of mortality in their hospitals. With an eye for vivid details and the colorful characters of 19th century medicine, Fitzharris has crafted a book that will make you thank Lister for his foresight—and make you glad you weren't alive back then.

Find It: Amazon

3. FOR THE GENEALOGY OBSESSIVE: IT’S ALL RELATIVE: ADVENTURES UP AND DOWN THE WORLD’S FAMILY TREE BY A.J. JACOBS; $27

Cover of Its All Relative
Simon & Schuster

What constitutes a "family"? In his latest book, A.J. Jacobs (famed for lifestyle experiments like trying to live an entire year in accordance with the Bible) delves into the world of genetics and genealogy to try and orchestrate the world's largest family reunion. With his trademark humor and insight, he ends up exploring the interconnectedness of all of humankind.

Find It: Amazon

4. FOR THE SOCIALLY AWARE YOUNG ADULT: THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS; $18

Cover of The Hate U Give
Amazon

Already caught between the conflicting worlds of the poor neighborhood where she lives and her fancy prep school, 16-year-old Starr Carter finds herself in the middle of a tragedy when her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer. As his death becomes a national flashpoint, it becomes clear that she may be the only person alive who can explain what really happened that night. Angie Thomas's writing has earned praise for being gut-wrenching, searing, and deftly crafted; Publishers Weekly called the book "heartbreakingly topical."

Find It: Amazon

5. FOR FANS OF PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY THAT READS LIKE A NOVEL: THE WARS OF THE ROOSEVELTS: THE RUTHLESS RISE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST POLITICAL FAMILY BY WILLIAM J. MANN; $35

You might think you know the Roosevelts, but historian William J. Mann looks beyond the well-worn stories to expose the bitter rivalries that drove its most famous members' quest for power. Along the way, he examines the Roosevelts who were kept away from the limelight, and the secrets they hold—all told in dramatic style.

Find It: Amazon

6. FOR THE INTREPID TRAVELER: ATLAS OBSCURA: AN EXPLORER'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD'S HIDDEN WONDERS, BY JOSHIA FOER, DYLAN THURAS, AND ELLA MORTON; $35

The book cover for Atlas Obscura's book
Amazon.com

An amusement park in a salt mine? Check. A tree so big it has its own pub? Check. A giant hole that's been spouting flames for 40 years? Check. This guidebook is a compendium of the world's strangest and most wonderful places, and it's guaranteed to inspire some serious wanderlust, especially in more adventurous travelers. For the complete experience, you can also get an awesome wall calendar featuring destinations from the book designed as vintage travel posters; there's a page-a-day desk calendar and explorers' journal too.

Find it: Amazon

7. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES WEIRD HISTORY: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW SELECTED ESSAYS; $20

The Public Domain Review is one of the premier online destination for fans of curious history. If you know someone who enjoys stories about weird medieval medicine treaties, ancient automata, deranged 18th century scientists, and other odd subjects well off the beaten historical path, look no further than this book of essays (the site's fourth).

Find It: The Public Domain Review

8. FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY: THE BIG BOOK OF ROGUES AND VILLAINS, EDITED BY OTTO PENZLER; $25

Cover of the Big Book of Rogues and Villains
Amazon

At the heart of every good mystery is a (usually dastardly) perpetrator, whether it's a Count Dracula or a Jimmy Valentine. With this anthology, Edgar Award winner Otto Penzler has combed through 150 years of literary history to find 72 stories featuring the most famous and entertaining antiheroes authors have ever been able to dream up.

Find It: Amazon

9. FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE BORSCHT BELT IS: JEWISH COMEDY: A SERIOUS HISTORY BY JEREMY DAUBER; $28.95

Jews and humor go together like challah and Manischewitz (after all, as my bubbie says, if you don't laugh, you'll cry). In this "serious history," Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber considers the origins of Jewish humor in Biblical times through its life on Twitter today; how it's reflected—and even influenced—Jewish history; the production of major archetypes like the Jewish mother; and the prominence of Jewish comedians like Sarah Silverman and Larry David. You don't have to be Jewish to love it, but it may help you understand the in-jokes.

Find It: Amazon

10. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES DARK SHORT STORIES: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES, BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO; $16

Book cover for Her Body and Other Parties
Amazon

A story told in the form of Law & Order episode summaries. A strange plague that makes girls go invisible, as narrated by a mall worker. A recollection of romantic encounters with the last of humanity’s survivors. In this collection, Carmen Maria Machado fuses urban legends, dystopian tropes, and heavy helpings of sexuality to create a new kind of magical realism strangely appropriate to our era. The images will haunt you long after you put the book down, if you let them.

Find It: Amazon

11. FOR THE PERSON WHO LOVES BIG-DEAL LITERARY NOVELS AND ALSO ABRAHAM LINCOLN: LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, BY GEORGE SAUNDERS; $18

A meditation on sorrow and the Civil War populated by a rag-tag group of ghosts, Lincoln in the Bardo starts with the real-life death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, Abraham's son. In the book, Willie has entered the Bardo—a Tibetan Buddhist term for a transitional limbo—where there's a fierce struggle underway for his soul.

Find It: Amazon

12. FOR THE GENERALIST: A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION; $45 FOR THREE MONTHS

A book of the month club subscription box with gift trappings nearby
Book of the Month Club

Can’t decide what to get, but feeling generous? Give your friend who loves to read a new hardcover book of their choice every month. Literary fans who are short on time will love having someone else do the legwork to find the best new novels; plus, there’s early access to new releases. Prices vary depending on the length of the subscription, and there’s a deal right now where you can get a month free when you give a subscription as a gift.

Find It: Book of the Month

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