A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.

Samuel Johnson

I had it in mind to write a serious post about a work-related issue that I’ve heard about this week, but it can wait. I know someone who needs cheering up, and since that person probably represents my entire readership, silliness it is.

Some time ago I was at a parish jumble sale over in Littleham when I came upon a strange little volume called Bizarre Books. It’s a collection of titles belonging to actual publications that are peculiar, concerned with extremely obscure or odd subjects, given to humorous misinterpretation, or just plain bonkers. Here are some examples.

Allin, Russell V., The Resistance of Piles to Penetration (Spon, 1935)

Watson, John L., The Big Book of Busts (San Francisco, CA: Hypermodern Press, 1994) – it’s about chess.

Wynne, May, Girls of the Pansy Patrol (Aldine Publishing Company, 1931)

Frolov, Yury Petrovich, Fish Who Answer the Telephone (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1937)

Makula, Alex, Thirty Years of Bananas (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1993)

Carlson, Bruce, Illinois Roadkill Cookbook (Farmingdale, NY: Quixote Press Publications, 1990)

Cobb, Ivo Geikie, The Glands of Destiny (William Heinemann, 1927)

Floyer, Sir John, The History of Cold Bathing (S. Smith & B. Walford, 1706)

Baldwin, Ed and Stevie, The Great Pantyhose Crafts Book (New York: Western Publishing Co., Inc., 1982)

Charles, Edouard, The Man with the Iron Eyebrows (Royal Magazine, 1902)

Hogan, William J., The Complete Book of Bacon (Northwood Books, 1978)

Morowitz, Harold J., The Thermodynamics of Pizza (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991)

Farr, Adams, The Fangs of Suet Pudding (Gerald D. Swann, 1944)

Chase, Mary Ellen, The Girl from the Big Horn Country (George G. Harrap, 1937)

Handy, Etta J., Ice Cream for Small Plants (Chicago, Ill.: Hotel Monthly Press, 1937)

That’s probably quite enough to give you an idea of how entertaining this book can be. It does, however, present difficulties for someone like me, who likes to make things up to confuse and annoy people. I could recommend, for example, that someone read Bicycling in Neolithic Brazil, only to find that somewhere between these unassuming brown covers is a work with precisely that title, published by Trubshawe and Pratley in 1897. Nevertheless, I refuse to be daunted by such dark and forbidding prospects. Here are some titles that I have invented (the one about bicycling doesn’t exist either as far as I know).

Friblet’s Concordance to the 1927 Manchester Telephone Directory

Baines-Frusset, Col. Septimus Q., Badgers Across Arabia (Timbuktu: Oddfellows’ Press, 1921)

Crupper, Millicent, Great Works in Custard (Soligorsk: Ivan Ivanovich, 1904)

Steinkopf, Wilhelm J., Eels at Eighteen Feet (Hamburg: Keinmal, 1876)

Thicke, Ignatius Balham, Duplicated Hapax Legomena in Palaeolithic Literature (Minehead: Station Road University Press, 1988)

Squeek-Lytely, Irving, Cooking with Pumice (London: Nosuch, 1974)

Well, now that I’ve wasted your time and mine with that childish tomfoolery I’m off to do something more worthwhile – like throw half-cooked pasta out of my bathroom window or design a more aerodynamic daffodil. I suppose the moral of this story is that no matter how ridiculous your subject of interest seems, there’s probably someone out there who will publish what you have to say about it. I leave you with my random quotation for today.

If Mr. Selwyn calls again, shew him up: if I am alive I shall be delighted to see him; and if I am dead he would like to see me.

Henry Fox, First Lord Holland, 1705-74