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39 Weird Books That Really Exist

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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 It’s also unfortunately almost 20 years out of date—avoiding paper trails are the least of a would-be disappearer’s worries these days.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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P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England
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You don’t get more British than Jeeves and Wooster. The P.G. Wodehouse characters are practically synonymous with elevenses and Pimm’s. But in 1947, their creator left England for the U.S. and never looked back.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, better known as P.G., was living in northern France and working on his latest Jeeves and Wooster novel, Joy in the Morning, when the Nazis came knocking. They occupied his estate for a period of time before shipping him off to an internment camp in Germany, which he later said he found pretty pleasant:

“Everybody seems to think a German internment camp must be a sort of torture chamber. It was really perfectly normal and ordinary. The camp had an extraordinarily nice commander, and we did all sorts of things, you know. We played cricket, that sort of thing. Of course, I was writing all the time.”

Wodehouse was there for 11 months before being suddenly released to a hotel in Berlin where a man from the German foreign office named Werner Plack was waiting to meet him. Wodehouse was somewhat acquainted with Plack from a stint in Hollywood, so finding him waiting didn't seem out of the ordinary. Plack advised Wodehouse to use his time in the internment camp to his advantage, and suggested writing a radio series about his experiences to be broadcast in America.

As Plack probably suspected, Wodehouse’s natural writing style meant that his broadcasts were light-hearted affairs about playing cricket and writing novels, This didn’t sit too well with the British, who believed Wodehouse was trying to downplay the horrors of the war. The writer was shocked when MI5 subjected him to questioning about the “propaganda” he wrote for the Germans. "I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions," he told them in 1944. "I would like to conclude by saying that I never had any intention of assisting the enemy and that I have suffered a great deal of mental pain as the result of my action."

Wodehouse's contemporary George Orwell came to his aid, penning a 1945 an essay called “In Defense of P.G. Wodehouse." Sadly, it didn’t do much to sway public opinion. Though MI5 ultimately decided not to prosecute, it seemed that British citizens had already made up their minds, with some bookstores and libraries even removing all Wodehouse material from their shelves. Seeing the writing on the wall, the author and his wife packed up all of their belongings and moved to New York in 1947. They never went back to England.

But that’s not to say Wodehouse didn’t want to. In 1973, at the age of 91, he expressed interest in returning. “I’d certainly like to, but at my age it’s awfully difficult to get a move on. But I’d like to go back for a visit in the spring. They all seem to want me to go back. The trouble is that I’ve never flown. I suppose that would solve everything."

Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before he could make the trip. But the author bore no ill will toward his native country. When The Paris Review interviewed Wodehouse in 1973, they asked if he resented the way he was treated by the English. “Oh, no, no, no. Nothing of that sort. The whole thing seems to have blown over now,” he said.  He was right—the Queen bestowed Wodehouse with a knighthood two months before his death, showing that all was forgiven.

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The Internet Archive is Making 62 Obscure, Out-of-Print Books Available Online
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Dozens of of obscure, out-of-print books are about to become much more accessible thanks to the Internet Archive, the digital archive of public domain media. But to do it, they’ll have to exploit a loophole in a controversial copyright law, as Ars Technica reports.

The Internet Archive is releasing the Sonny Bono Memorial Collection, a group of books from the 1920s and 1930s that are out of print, but still technically under copyright—meaning they’re extremely difficult to get a hold of.

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act was a copyright extension law passed in 1998 to extend copyright protections to works published after 1923 (which would otherwise have already entered the public domain) by 20 years. Unfortunately, while Disney may be happy that Mickey Mouse still falls under copyright protections, that also means that less-famous books that are now out of print can’t be made available to the public. But a provision of the law provides for public access for research, allowing nonprofit libraries to distribute the works if they cannot be found elsewhere for a reasonable price.

A screenshot of an online collection of books from the Internet Archive
Screenshot, Internet Archive

The Internet Archive explains:

We believe the works in this collection are eligible for free public access under 17 U.S.C. Section 108(h) which allows for non-profit libraries and archives to reproduce, distribute, display, and publicly perform a work if it meets the criteria of: a published work in the last 20 years of copyright, and after conducting a reasonable investigation, no commercial exploitation or copy at a reasonable price could be found.

Libraries don’t tend to take advantage of the law because it takes considerable resources to track down which works are eligible. However, the Internet Archive collaborated with Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a Tulane copyright expert, and a pair of interns to find books that could be scanned and uploaded online legally. Gard has released guidelines for libraries based on this work to help other archives do the same.

The Internet Archive is starting out with 62 books published between 1923 and 1941 (meaning they’re within 20 years of their copyright expiring) and plan to release up to 10,000 more in the near future to be downloaded and read by online users. And the collection will grow each January as more books enter that 20-year window.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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