Most times when you go to the bookstore to browse the titles, things are pretty vanilla and mainstream: The Girl on the Train, The Fault in our Stars, The Sound and the Fury, The Joy of Cooking. These are safe, familiar and accessible titles. They confer a universal appeal.
Other titles go out on a limb. They are niche—really, really niche. Like, who knew that field identification of stray shopping carts or extreme ironing as an adrenaline sport were a thing? Have you ever wondered how to talk to your cat about gun safety?
Let’s have a look at this list of 15 strange and ridiculous book titles which make us want to read or hear more about whatever advice or peculiar tales they hold within their pages.
15 A different kind of AA
The early '60s were still a conservative time in much of the First World. The strait-laced mom’s apple pie attitudes of the buttoned-up '50s didn’t give way until flower children started blooming in San Francisco around the later 1960s, and anyone not seeking a traditional nuclear family lifestyle of husband, wife and two or more children was generally considered offbeat. This book published in 1964 was intended to address that counter-cultural audience who didn’t necessarily want to pursue so-called “traditional lives.” The book Abnormals Anonymous was a fictional account of the friendships, rivalries, trials and tribulations of such a group of society’s so-called misfits, as they “banded together” in a safe place where they could meet, mingle and indulge in fictional dramas.
14 My son the ape
This book is based on the true story of Boris, currently the oldest living chimp at the Chester Zoo (UK). Boris had a non-traditional upbringing for a chimp, being found as a baby orphan tucked away in the back of a pet store circa 1966 by the book’s author, Hester Mundis, who bought him for $1,000, took him home and raised him as her own in her New York apartment. As Boris grew, climbing Hester’s living room curtains like they were vines and swinging from lamps, it became clear that he needed to be in a place more suited for a chimpanzee than a cramped two-bedroom NYC walk-up, and so a new home was found at the Chester Zoo where Boris still resides, having turned 50 in 2016.
13 A cookbook for road warriors
How about some home cookin’ courtesy of the heat from your car’s internal combustion engine? Who needs ovens and cooktops? This cookbook’s authors were inspired by hard working truckers heating cans of soup using their vehicle’s engine blocks between stops and created this wealth of recipes for a more sophisticated palate of both regional and ethnic dishes—so no long haul trucker ever has to settle for a mere heated tin of soup for sustenance again. This book even thoughtfully includes adaptations allowing for certain vehicles’ abilities to cook foods over others (maybe a Ford’s engine gets hotter than a Toyota’s, for example, and will sear those spicy peanut satays faster), with cooking times provided in distance, not time (i.e., roasted potatoes ready in 55 miles).
12 For when kitty's packing heat
Here’s a manual for those times when your cat has to roam the mean streets after dark and case those nightmare back alleys alone—where she needs solid protection against other territorial felines and hordes of un-neutered tomcats. Fluffy isn’t a shoot-first-and-ask-questions later type kitty, though. She’s not too trigger happy unless birds or mice are involved. So long as the safety latch is engaged, her paws probably won’t fumble and she’ll live to see another day and take in the morning sun, belly up, once again by your kitchen window, or stalk chirping birds through the patio door.
For deeper intellectual discourse with Fluffball, this manual also covers further talking points of “abstinence, drugs, Satanism and other dangers that threaten their nine lives.”
11 Is God speaking through your cat?
Some say that sometimes the voices of higher powers come to us in unexplained ways and from unexpected places. Sometimes, somewhere in the world, statues of the Virgin Mary weep; someone finds a gorilla-shaped Cheeto; someone sees Jesus’s face in their morning toast. Then, we see that Jesus toast posted on Instagram and the Cheeto founder selling poor Harambe’s puffed cheesy likeness on eBay and we all wonder…what could this Cheeto be telling us? What’s Jesus got to say before we spread peanut butter and agave nectar all over his face and chow down?
This book’s about a stray cat named Mehitabel who entered this author’s (David Evans) life to lead him through a spiritual journey more valuable, apparently, than both Cheetos and Jesus-on-toast combined.
10 Extreme ironing: for daredevils who favor crisp collars!
Extreme ironing is actually a thing—a sport with world champions and record-keeping and so on. It first emerged circa 1997 and is geared toward adrenaline junkies who enjoy partaking in derring-do such as rock climbing, mountain climbing, scuba diving, surfing and canoeing with the extra challenge of having an ironing board strapped to their backs and an iron stuffed in their backpack. The idea is to return to work Monday morning wearing the shirt you pressed on whatever mountaintop you climbed over the weekend; or ironed while riding the waves balanced on a surfboard (where saltwater air provides a uniquely starched steaming effect to linens).
This book, written by the sport's founder, serves as a guide to equipment and other particulars for extreme ironing enthusiasts.
9 Why isn't this book on the bestseller list?
With the divorce rate being what it is, it’s surprising that this book never hit the bestseller list and stayed there. Even if you don’t live with an idiot—based on the title—don’t you want to read it? This is actually a self-help book which was first published in 2004 and has sparse though positive reviews on Amazon (and currently has a 3.5 star average on Goodreads). It’s a guide on how to live with the idiot in all of us (and in everyone all around us) and the few reviews available comment that this book is surprisingly enlightening and insightful, providing generally helpful tips in negotiating relationships with advice on staying focused on the positive in ourselves and others, rather than focusing on negative weaknesses.
8 Shopping cart lady not included
This book is most likely a parody of a naturalist’s meticulously researched thesis, but if a serious work, than it’s unintentionally very funny because most Goodreads and Amazon reviewers comment on its abundant deadpan humor. It’s also supposedly beautifully photographed throughout.
The author charted and documented stray shopping carts found exclusively throughout Eastern North America and absurdly gives life and personality to each cart, generating sympathy from the reader while tracing the cart’s potential history—if there’s any evidence as to which Walmart parking lot it came from and what circumstances may have led to its being abandoned in a gorge or overgrown field, eternally empty of groceries and never again to experience the covert thrill of hitting up the express lane carrying one too many items.
7 Dating for cheapskates
Calculating for inflation and judging by the '80s feel of the cover, this book today might be called “Dating for Under $3.15” as that is approximately what a US dollar from around the 1980s is worth today. That said, what could you do on a date for less than $3.15? Hit up Goodwill and buy a gently used candle to sit around for romantic ambiance? Buy two-thirds of a hot dog from the cheapest hot dog cart you can find in the park? You could probably get a can of soda each for that price. It’s unbelievable that this author came up with 301 ideas where we can barely think of three. If you saw this on your OkCupid hookup’s bookshelf, would you spring for a second date?
6 Do you see dead people?
If you happen to see dead people like that kid from The Sixth Sense, then this book’s for you! This author’s philosophy is that people who die suddenly and unexpectedly (such as in an accident) become “freeze-framed,” and being freeze-framed essentially means there are people who don’t realize they’re dead and so they invade the bodies of the living and carry on doing whatever it is that they do. So if you’re possessed by pesky spirits of the clueless dead who take over your life like uninvited guests—ordering lattes made with dairy milk instead of soy and changing your toilet paper roll to over instead of under, for example—this book will help you exorcise them without the assistance of holy water or priests!
5 Are you there God? It's me, What's-her-face. What's my locker combination?
Talking to God doesn’t necessarily mean you only ask important questions. Since God oversees everything in our lives (He being the all-seeing and all-knowing) then doesn’t it necessarily follow that if you forget something simple and everyday—like your banking password or your debit card PIN—you could channel his divinity? God would then ask for your mother’s maiden name or the name of your first pet, and only when you answered his security question correctly would he apprise you of the right digits to complete your banking withdrawal.
So, if this teenager can’t get their locker open and God’s giving them the silent treatment and not sharing their combination so they can’t get the chemistry textbook they need for next class—does that mean God doesn’t love them anymore?
4 Should you endeavor to knit tea cozies for your fellow ranch hands
Nothing wrong with a man knitting—not a thing. Some he-men rugged types, however, might feel a little shy and self-conscious about the sweater they’re crocheting for their sweetie. They won’t tell their rodeo bros about it—they pretend they’re buying something expensive and shiny for that upcoming anniversary. Some men may hide their knitting books under their mattresses along with their old, vintage issues of Penthouse.
It’s important to note that this book’s title points out that knitting’s a “manly” art. Very important for a cowboy to feel manly, of course. He who tames beasts and lives off the land is no wuss and so knitting, too, must be a manly pursuit—just like riding bulls and roping calves.
3 This book answers a question you've probably never asked
Have you ever wondered whether the Third Reich was environmentally friendly? Well, you might have never asked that question—very few people in the history of creation have probably ever asked that question—but these researchers and scholars definitely wanted to research the history of conservation in Nazi Germany since historically the Nazis were, indeed, interested in preserving forestry and the environment. As part of their political agenda early on, in fact, the Nazi government even planned to institute "green" policies throughout Germany to preserve its ecology for future generations of Hitler’s proposed master race to enjoy; but, of course, when the time came for funding, the lesser issue of preserving Germany’s greenery took a backseat to bankrolling Hitler’s quest for world domination.
2 Black widow in training?
This was a manual published for married couples back in 1953—a time when husbands were the sole heads of household and wives had no say in financial matters, investments, insurances, bank accounts and whatnot—dear husband handled all that. DH took charge of most decisions while wives stayed barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Wives were evidently so clueless back in those post-war days that hubby had to school them in the ways of the world via this book just in case he got bumped off prematurely.
If you read the reviews for this title on Amazon, you’ll see a bunch of hubbies faux-nervously posting that they just discovered their wives had ordered this book and should they be worried? Ha. Ha.
1 Great balls of fire!
How’d you like this guy as your neighbor? Actually, this is supposed to be a really fun and cool book that demonstrates some spectacular backyard fire tricks step by step for you and the kids to try at home—and as well emphasizes the importance of fire safety. It was published in 2011 and is authored by a regular contributor to Popular Mechanics, a well-respected publication—so this William Gurstelle fire-starter guy knows whereof he speaks.
Gurstelle also provides a history of pyrotechnics and touches on the backgrounds of certain better-known pyromaniacs from days of yore. Some of the tricks he includes here are: “the practical backpacker’s stove” and “an incredible tornado of fire.” Okay—so no tips in this book for lighting farts?
sources: amazon.com, hestermundis.com, ohioswallow.com