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Bad Titles and Binge Reading

Nominees for the little-known but totally inspired Diagram Prize (an award dreamed up by some publishing professionals to forestall boredom at a Frankfurt Book Fair) have just been announced.   The Diagram honors the “oddest book titles of the year.”

“The first winner of the prize was Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. Other winners throughout the years have included How to Avoid Huge Ships, Cooking with Poo, and last year’s Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop.”

You can find the 2014 nominees here. I’m partial to Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography, which combines two of my favorite things.

I looked around on my own bookshelves in search of overlooked competitors, and aside from some academic books (which seem unfair to single out, since awfulness in titles is a skill that scholars are required cultivate) the oddest I came up with Neil McFarquhar’s book, The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday. 

I’m sure you can do me one better.

Another article I spotted—this piece by Julie Bosman— prompted some debate on whether binge watching TV has changed the way we engage with books.  I grant that publishers are keen to publish commercial fiction more quickly, but otherwise, I’m not yet convinced.  On the contrary, it seems to me that TV has finally caught up with books in allowing its viewers to do what any self-respecting bibliophile has long done—stay up impossibly late, shirk all other responsibilities and go on a bleary-eyed bender till the final bittersweet page. And beyond.  The truly intemperate can move on to an author’s entire oeuvre. Well before I was downing Downton Abbey in greedy gulps (I came to the show very late) I’d gone on an Evelyn Waugh tear.  Just reading his books can damage your liver.

In any case, what do you think? Is binge reading books a byproduct of Netflix-ation  and Amazon’s single click culture, or does it have a longer and more storied history?

3 Responses to Bad Titles and Binge Reading

  1. Melissa says:

    Binge-watching TV has been around as long as the VCR. When Sony, etc. began releasing seasons/series for sale, the practice took off. Netflix just moved the process from tape/disk to download.

  2. jeffo says:

    As a kid I could binge-read things like the Hardy Boys. While I can binge-watch TV shows, I find binge reading doesn’t work for me–I get sick of the author’s voice or something if I overdo it.

  3. Lynn says:

    The only title I have that comes somewhat close to yours is, The Woman Who Spilled Words All Over Herself – Writing And Living The Zona Rosa Way. The title might not have been good, but the book was.

    As far as binge reading goes, I’m with Jeffo. I get tired of the voice if I keep reading books by the same author. I even get tired of a genre, so I diversify. I’ll read a non-fiction in English, then go on to a literary novel in French, then I’ll read a classic, and after that jump to a book on Physics, etc.

    I did a binge TV series just last week. Broadchurch came on television here in France for the first time a week ago. I watched the first episode and loved it. It was dubbed in French, but I thought, “Hey, this is a British series that came out last year….” Yep, I went online and watched the entire season in two days! Great show! I hear they’re doing a remake of it for the American audience. They plan on calling it Gracepoint. I don’t understand why they can’t just broadcast the show as it is in the US.

    Why does everything have to be Americanized? There have been several French films that were great and rather than show them dubbed in English or with English subtitles – no they had to do a remake for the American audience. Okay, so some people don’t want to read subtitles and the American film industry is the worst at dubbing, but come on! Broadchurch takes place in England just like Downton Abbey.

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