When I go out to eat, I am immediately attracted by the strangest thing on the menu. If the restaurant is brave enough to offer the weirdest thing, it must be something special. When I first walked in to 11, at 11 West Front Street in Trenton, New Jersey, for example, I knew I had to try the breaded spaghetti with meat sauce, raisins and broccoli. It was great!
A friend of mine, Didi Goldmark, was a “connoisseur” of literature the way I am a “connoisseur” of food. The stranger the title, the more she wanted it. In her memory, I have collected the top 10 oddest books I have seen. For purposes of this list, this can’t be books that are intentionally funny or ironic (like the Pop-Up Book of Phobias). We also eliminated printing errors, like my cousin Mike’s Zen philosophy primer that was given the cover for Nietzche for Beginners.
For Didi, I present the Top Ten Oddest books:
#10. How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer.
This book is dedicated to educating boaters on how not to get run over by freighters.
#9. What’s your poo telling you? By Anish Sheth.
My friend Alexis says, “the book explains all different kinds of poo and why it happens (like your diet, stress, etc). Pretty amazing!!!” Several of my friends recommended me include this book, including my friend, Jan, who has it in a one-a-day calendar, and my cousin Mike who describes it as “near mystical.”
#8. Sun-Beams May Be Extracted from Cucumbers, But the Process Is Tedious: an Oration, Pronounced on the Fourth of July, 1799.
Though the contents are a non-odd criticism of Thomas Jefferson, the title is supposedly taken from a letter from Jefferson to a neighbor. And it makes me smile every time I see it.
#7. Over their Dead Bodies.
Though the title is consciously funny, the book is a commemoration of epitaphs from the 19th century.
#6. The Clowns of Death by Keith Breese
It is a 209 pg hardcover history of the band Oingo Boingo.
#5. Keeping Poison Frogs
#4. Herd Registry for New Jersey 1908
Very useful in day the days before computers, this is a thick leatherbound volume listing the names, parents and birthdates (drop dates) of every cow in New Jersey. Drop into Classics to see this!
#3. All About Scabs by Amanda Mayer Stinchecum and Genichiro Yagyu
If you thought scabs were worth only a paragraph in a larger book on health, think again!
#2. How to Start your own Blood Bank
One of the greatest books in Didi’s collection. I laugh out loud every time I think of it. Who bought this book? Goth vampire wanna-bes? Or did somebody in Iowa actually open up a blood bank in their basement?
The #1 Oddest Book
How to Live Through a Famine
I love the cover art with the dying stick figures in front of a pretty flower from the 1970’s.
My friend Mary’s favorite paragraph in the book is
“For an individual who has no alternatives, he should scatter what food he has, wherever he can. If one has a sack of flour… He should deposit the flour in whatever containers he can find- pop bottles, shoe boxes, coat pockets, anything suitable.”
Mary pictures people walking around with coat pockets full of flour. Can that be a good container? Why not keep it in the sack?