Well, the best of those I see around me on the bookshelves in my study, anyway. And by “best” I don’t mean “most profound” or “most helpful in conveying the book’s contents.” I mean “funniest.” But I don’t mean funniest among the titles of books that are themselves intended to be funny. I mean funniest among the titles of “serious” books. The list is surprisingly short. Serious writers, it seems, just don’t give funny names to serious books. Go figure.
The first three aren’t really all that funny, but they’re clever enough -- for philosophy books, anyway:
Gregory McCulloch, The Game of the Name: Introducing Logic, Language, and Mind
Peter Ludlow, Yujin Nagasawa, and Daniel Stoljar, eds., There’s Something About Mary: Essays on Phenomenal Consciousness and Frank Jackson's Knowledge Argument
G. A. Cohen, If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich?
More amusing, in my view, are:
Paul Feyerabend, Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend
Richard Peddicord, O.P., The Sacred Monster of Thomism: The Life and Legacy of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
Robert Martin, There Are Two Errors in The The Title of This Book
If sheer bizarreness counts for something (and I think it does) then we cannot overlook:
And if mild vulgarity can be excused (and I think it can be) then we mustn’t forget Harlan Ellison. The title of his book of essays on television criticism, The Glass Teat (which I have here on the shelf) isn’t all that funny. But the title of the follow-up volume (which, alas, I don’t have) is funny: The Other Glass Teat. (Now you know why they call it the boob tube.)
While we’re on the subject of science-fiction, let’s not forget:
But for first place in the Best Book Title Ever competition, we’ve got a tie. Because together they say it all:
Leszek Kolakowski, My Correct Views on Everything [Bonus comedy points for this one given that in the picture on the cover, Kolakowksi appears -- inadvertently, I assume -- to be flipping us the bird.]
Frank Close, Nothing: A Very Short Introduction
Is the second error that there is no second error?ReplyDelete
Brian not quite. There are two "the"s in the title. So the first error is the two "the" the second is that the title is untrue, but as soon as the title is untrue, there are two errors. But then the title has two errors.ReplyDelete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
My Personal favourite:ReplyDelete
Sense and Sensibilia by Austin (JL)
You gotta love Fodor's book-length response to Pinker's book 'How The Mind Works.'ReplyDelete
Fodor titled his book, 'The Mind Doesn't Work That Way.'
Not odd or weird, but classic Fodor. Made me laugh when I saw it, anyway.
I like the title and front cover of Justice for Hedgehogs by Dworkin.ReplyDelete
Fr. J. Schall, SJ:ReplyDelete
"Another Sort of Learning"
"How to finally acquire an education while still in college or anywhere else: containing some belated advice about how to employ your leisure time when ultimate questions remain perplexing in spite of your highest earned academic degree, together with sundry book lists nowhere else in captivity to be found."
How about Ibn Rushd/Averroës's reply to al-Ghazali's The Incoherence of the Philosophers:ReplyDelete
The Incoherence of the Incoherence.
Perhaps not so much the book's title (although maybe even that), but certainly the chapter titles, "Why I Am So Clever," "Why I Write Such Excellent Books," and "Why I am So Wise," makes one smile. The last chapter's title, "Why I am a Fatality" brings one back to senses, though.ReplyDelete
One of the funniest i've come across is "God Is Dead, and I Don't Feel So Good Myself" by Andrew David & al.ReplyDelete
Working in a library I come across a lot of them. There is a Harold Bloom book called How to Read and Why. There is a book about the post-Cold War international situation called The World That Came In From the Cold, which I think brilliant. nate's contribution reminds me of something I read about: Hilaire Belloc wrote a reply to Hg Wells's Outline of History, to which Wells wrote a counter-reply called Mr. Belloc Objects. Belloc wrote a further book called Mr. Belloc Still Objects. Finally, I could swear I saw a book in the philosophy section called What Is a Thing?, which seems to me to be a perfect name for a book on metaphysics. I have been unable to find it since, though...ReplyDelete
"I could swear I saw a book in the philosophy section called What Is a Thing?"ReplyDelete
Isn't it by Heidegger?
The Only Investment Book You Will Ever Need, Revised and Updated.ReplyDelete
Lots of bizarre book titles here:ReplyDelete
For the sheer number of books with either bizarre titles or obscure subjects he authored, Berthold Lauffer of Chicago (1874-1934) is hard to match:ReplyDelete
Petroglyphs on the Amoor; The Bird Chariot; History of the Finger-Print system;The Application of the Tibetan Sexagenary Cycle; Arabic and Chinese trade in Walrus and Narwhal Ivory; The Eskimo Screw as a Culture-Historical problem; Asbestos and Salamander; Geophagy (earth eating); Insect Musicians; The Reindeer and its domestication; and many others. I was hoping to see "The role of the warhorse in the Chou dynasty of China and its effect on the psyche of the modern Mexican" but alas it was not there. Now Ed should know whom this response was posted by!!
Yes, that's a dead giveaway, "Anonymous." It's title alone merits publication of that "thesis" of yours. Or would do so, if only it existed.
In light of that "Chou dynasty" reference I wondered whether you'd made up Lauffer's oeuvre too, but via Google I see that it's real. I now think that The Eskimo Screw as a Culture-Historical Problem may be the best book title ever, though Matteo's example The Only Investment Book You Will Ever Need, Revised and Updated is definitely a contender.
Oh, Ed, how could you have doubted those book titles? But there are so many more: Premature Burial and How it may be Prevented by William Tebb and Edward Vollum; Sun-beams may be Extraced from Cucumbers but the Process is Tedious--An Oration Pronounced on the Fourth of July, 1799 at the Request of the Citizens of New-Haven by David Daggett; Is God Amoeboid? by John W. Doherty; Snoring as a Fine Art and Twelve other Essays by Albert Jay Nock; Romance of the Gas Industry by Oscar E. Norman; Wigan Free Public Library: Its Rise and Progress by Henry Tennyson Folkard; My Tablecloths by Ethel Brilliana Tweedie (I assume no relation to Roy Tweedie, a.k.a. Joshua Joseph-Abraham whom David Wainwright had the pleasure of baptizing about 30 years ago); and my favorite "1587. A Year of No Importance."ReplyDelete
I could go on for hours. How? My sister, Cherie, who delights in giving useless gifts such as the Latin translation of Winnie the Pooh, bought me a book entitled "Bizarre Books" which is simply a catalogue of books with bizarre titles.
Since I know you are begging for some more: You can make a Stradivarius Violin;Wife-Battering: A Systems Theory Approach; Tooth mutilations and dentistry in pre-Columbian Mexico;My Duodenal Ulcer and I; Explosive Spiders and how to make them; Skin Diseases for beginners; Illinois Roadkill Cookbook; The Urine Dance of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico; Lappish Bear graves in Northern Sweden; The Midnight Cry Or Signs in the Church of the Bridegroom's Second Coming; Holiday with a Hegelian; Teach yourself alcoholism; The little I saw of Cuba; and The Thermodynamics of Pizza.ReplyDelete
A colleague at a boarding school, where I taught a long time ago, sometimes ended his motley list of daily announcements to students with these words. "If you have trouble with what I just said, then send ten cents and a self-addressed envelope to me for my famous booklet, "Why this is not clear."ReplyDelete