Thursday, October 14, 2010

Contest! Find the Most Boring Book Title Ever!

Yes, academic tomes are prone to dry and boring titles, and, true, those titles are well-suited for the dense and rigorous academic arguments aimed at their target audience of libraries and 3 other scholars worldwide. But why does it have to be that way? I appreciate the value of study in the humanities but will anyone else if our standard product has titles like The Exchange of Goods and Services in Pre-Sargonic Lagash? Sounds like a real page-turner, doesn't it? I bet they'll just fly off the shelves once Eisenbrauns gets them in stock.

So, the rules of my contest are simple. Find a book (it has to be a real book) with a title that is even more dry and boring than the example above.  Leave a comment with the title and publisher or a link where I can verify it's a real book. The winner will be determined by a panel of judges (yet to be named) and will receive a copy of whatever book in my library has the worst, most boring title . . . unless I can think of something more exciting . . . or if I can find a sponsor . . . a $50.00 gift certificate from Eisenbrauns!! (Thanks to Eisenbrauns for sponsoring!)

My widely read friends in the biblioblogosphere must be bursting with ideas at this point, but just in case, I'll tag Scott, Jim, Nick, TC, Joel, Mark, James, Mark, Doug, Chris, John, Chris, John, Jim, and Brooke and encourage them to participate (or at least pass on the news of this exciting boring title contest).

Now, to track down a better prize . . .

Update to Contest Rules:
1. Enter as many titles as you like.
2. Entries not biblical studies or ancient history related will be tolerated.
3. Entries must be received by 10:00 AM CDT on Saturday, 10/16 to receive consideration.
4. Comments are moderated on this blog. If your entry does not appear immediately, do not repost.


  1. Doug,

    sounds like a great idea!


  2. Geography Made Easy : Being An Abridgement Of The American Universal Geography, Containing Astronomical Geography, Discovery And General Description Of America, General View Of The United States, Particular Accounts Of The United States Of America, And Of All The Kingdoms, States And Republics In The Known World, In Regard To Their Boundaries, Extent, Rivers, Lakes, Mountains, Productions, Population, Character, Government, Trade, Manufactures, Curiosities, History, &c. : To Which Is Added, An Improved Chronological Table Of Remarkable Events, From The Creation To The Present Time, Illustrated With Maps Of The Countries Described : Calculated Particularly For The Use And Improvement Of Schools And Academies In The United States Of America

  3. Anything that has this at the bottom of the cover: by Jim West.


  4. Phonetic feature definitions: Their integration into phonology and their relation to speech: a case study of the feature NASAL by Pieter Th. van Reenen.


  5. Joel: That title is far from boring! I'm thinking about picking that book up since it sounds so darned interesting!

    Doug: I'm on it. I'll post my link in a little while.

  6. Justification by NT Wright

  7. Thanks, Nick. I haven't been impressed by the submissions so far, either. There has to be a more boring title out there somewhere!

  8. I think I have a contender, but I want to ask first whether we can submit more than one entry. I'd be sorry if I submitted it and then found an even more boring title later on! :)

  9. I see I should tighten up my contest rules. You aren't limited to a single entry since as you say, James, you might come across an even more boring title later!

    I suppose I should also announce an official end for the contest.

  10. OK, well then here is my first entry. For the title of the most boring title in the history of bookdom, I nominate (drumroll please):

    The Book.

    Let's see anyone beat that! :)

  11. And taking a more literalistic approach, it is arguable that this one is by definition the most boring book title ever:

    boring boring boring boring boring boring boring

    Yes, it really is the title of a book, believe it or not!

  12. Alright, my official entry is here. Drink a Red Bull before you read it though.

  13. The worst title on my own shelves is the Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project (Compte rendu prelininaire et provisoire sur le travail d' analyse textuelle de l'Ancien Testament hebru) Volume 3. Is is published by the United Bible Society in 1979.

    Although, Justification and Variegated Nomism: Complexities in 2nd Temple Judaism is a close runner up.

  14. I've got a tie on Nick's color book: Studies in Greek colour terminology (Mnemosyne, bibliotheca classica Batava. Supplementum) -- yeah, that's right, MULTIPLE studies.

    I have a friend whose dissertation is a cross-linguistic study of color terminology...alas, its not completed and I don't think he plans on publishing it.

  15. Nick, those are exciting titles and just reading them, gives me the energy of 120 cups of coffee

  16. Here's an entry I received by email:

    Well, here's my submission for "most boring title":

    Ernst Jenni, Die Hebräischen Präpositionen. Vol 1: Die Präposition Bet. Vol 2: Die Präposition Kaf. Vol 3: Die Präposition Lamed (Kohlhammer: Stuttgart, 1992; 1994; 2000).

    They are in fact great works of scholarship. But still--why couldn't the publisher call them "Our friend the Lamed"? Or "Fun with the Bet"? Or "The Wonderful World of Prepositions"?

    Michael A. Lyons, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Old Testament
    Simpson University

  17. Doug,

    Would you kindly remove my comment above? Something messed up with the links I guess. Or if you can see them on your end and tidy them up so that they work (I don't know what happened). Thanks!


  18. Jason, awkward comment with missing links now removed.

  19. Hebrew-Ugaritic Index to the Writings of Mitchell J. Dahood, Vols 1-2.

    Another entry.

  20. The Greek Particles by J. D. Denniston.

    If the title doesn't get you, the content sure will ;-)

  21. Are texts from other disciplines eligible? (I'm a Poli Sci adjunct). Here goes just in case...

    The Institutionalist Approach to Public Utility Regulation

    this is why i am often compelled to read outside my discipline

  22. justin, all boring titles are fair game. I'm tolerant of other disciplines.

  23. Egyptology can be boring, too. (Apologies to the author - I haven't read the book so I can't comment on whether the content lives up (down?) to the title): Conjunction, Contiguity, Contingency: On Relationships Between Events in the Egyptian and Coptic Verbal Systems (Oxford)

  24. In 1953, the International Organization of Old Testament Scholars held their first congress, a meeting in Copenhagen of 150 Old Testament scholars (including wives). The fruit of their labor was a book, the first in the Supplements to Vetus Testamentum series. The title, both short and nondescript, is among the more boring titles to have been ever been conceived: Congress Volume.

  25. The Meaning of the Word "is" in Plato's Republic

  26. Well, seeing that I have arrived late and most of the titles have been taken I decided to limit my choice to my own bookshelf and seeing that I am at home and not work the choice is even easier.

    Jesus by Eduard Schweizer

    Now I am not saying it is the most boring book but the title is unimaginative and boring!

  27. Some wee gems:

    Our new West; records of travel between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean…with details of the wonderful natural scenery, agriculture, mines, business, social life, progress and prospects of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, including a full description of the Pacific railroad and of the life of the Mormons, Indians and Chinese
    (by Samuel Bowles, 1869)

    Aborigines Protection Society, London.
    The Bechuanas, the Cape Colony, and the Transvaal. Proceedings of the public meeting held at the Mansion House, London.
    (London, 1884)

    Adams, William Bridges.
    Practical remarks on railways and permanent way; as adapted to the various requirements of transit.
    (London, 1854)

    Samuelson, James.
    Labour-saving machinery an essay on the effect of mechanical appliances in the displacement of manual labour
    (London, 1893)

    Scott, Francis.
    Colonial inquiry: Speech of the Honorable Francis Scott, M.P., on moving the appointment of a select committee
    (London, 1849)

    I'll stop there - for now.

  28. Here are some of my favorites:

    Jacqulyn Anderson, 200 (Religion) Class: Reprinted from Edition 19 Unabridged Dewey Decimal Classification by Melvil Dewey (Nashville: Broadman, 1980).

    D. A. Carson, Greek Accents: A Student's Manual (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995).

    Pierce Furlong, Aspects of Ancient Near Eastern Chronology (c. 1600–700 BC) (Piscataway NJ: Gorgias, 2010).

    Philomen Probert, Ancient Greek Accentuation: Synchronic Patterns, Frequency Effects, and Prehistory (New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2006).

  29. I really think the title should be limited to biblical studies, or at least the field of religion (including, as your example does, archaeology, etc.). But to pull from economics and other disciplines (that are clearly far more boring than ours!) is no fun.

    Either way, just looking at my own collection, here are a few:

    Scott, A Simplified Guide to BHS
    Williams, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline
    Beall, et. al., Old Testament Parsing Guide (c'mon, that HAS to win!).
    Blount, Cultural Interpretation
    SBL Handbook of Style (that's a sure winner too!)

  30. I am pretty disappointed that the fourth book of the Bible ended up being known by the incredibly boring title "Numbers" when it was originally much more compelling: "In The Wilderness." I'm sure more people would read it if it were labeled this way.

  31. Hawkes and Hjerting, The Potatoes of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay: A Biosystematic Study. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1969.

  32. I guess what bores some might interest another: however there is this which is not only boring but cheap: Affordable Tedium.
    Alternatively, I would find On the Enclitic ne in Early Latin just as boring

  33. The cover is amazing, but the title is the worst I can imagine (maybe because I hate the subject?) Here it is: Basic Mathmatics.

  34. The most boring book title (that I own) is probably Goshen-Gottstein's Syriac Manuscripts in the Harvard Library: A Catalogue

    -John Quant

  35. I'm surprised that Mike Aubrey didn't propose this one: The Noun Phrase in Ancient Greek: A Functional Analysis of the Order and Articulation of NP Constituent in Herodotus.

    But I think different things interest different people. I don't think that a catalogue of Syriac Manuscripts sounds boring at all, but I've been searching those sorts of volumes for Mandaic manuscripts (which have often been micategorized as or intentionally lumped together with Syriac ones.

    Anyway, unless Mike Aubrey wants to claim the one I just proposed, I'll gladly have it count as one of my entries.

  36. I may have found the definitive one:

    Modifiers : a unique, compendious collection of more than 16,000 English adjectives relating to more than 4,000 common and technical English nouns, the whole arranged in alphabetical order by noun, with a complete index of adjectives by Laurence Urdang.

    Or if that doesn't win this competition, there's always this one right next to it in my search results on WorldCat: Living on the Boott : historical archaeology at the Boott Mills Boardinghouses, Lowell, Massachusetts.

    Or how about A compendious history of the cotton manufacture by Richard Guest?

    It seems like there are far too many to choose from! Presumably anything that has the word compendious or treatise in the title would have a shot at the prize... :)

  37. Frankly, everyone of these titles, except for mine, makes me just exited to read them. I've may or may not have added them to my wishlist for Christmas and will be soliciting donations to buy them. I mean, everyone one of these titles, except mine, just makes my heart go pitter patter. Wow. It's like drinking a dozen cups of Community Coffee every time I read these titles. I am so wide awake.

    And then, when I cannot sleep, I go and read my title and just fall over.

  38. I have photocopies of pages in this one...

    Walton, Brian. Biblia sacra polyglotta, complectentia textus originales, Hebraicum cum Pentateuch Samaritano, Chaldaicum, Graecum, versionumque antiquarum, Samaritanae, Graecae LXXII interpretum, Chaldaicae, Syriacae, Arabicae, Aethiopicae, Persicae, Vulgatae Latinae. 1657. Facsimile: Graz, Austria: Druck, 1964.

  39. This one is on my bookshelves:

    Edmonds, George, 1788-1868. The philosophic alphabet: with an explanation of its principles, and a variety of extracts, illustrating its adaptation to the sounds of the English language.. to which is added, a philosophic system of punctuation. London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1832.

  40. Here's another entree -- useful book, in the right circumstances, but the title is soporific.

    Capelli, Adriano. Manuali Hoepli Lexicon Abbreviaturum Dizionario di Abbreviature Latine ed Italiane: usate nelle carte e codica specialmente del Medio-Evo riprodotte con oltre 14000 segni incisi. com l'aggiunta di uno studio sulla brachigrafia medioevale, un prontuario di Sigle Epigrafiche, l'antica numerazione romana ed arabica ed i segni indicanti monete, pesi, misure, etc. 6th Ed. Milano: Hoepli, 1967.

  41. My first suggestion would be:
    Document Preparation for Classical Languages.

    I also second John's comments above, that is, I thought the contest was related to the larger study of humanities, but specifically biblical studies. I have found numerous soporific titles in other areas. Maybe if the contest keeps the broader suggestions as some above, I will start to adduce these titles to my cause. :-)

  42. All entries have been received and the committee will commence selection of the winner. I'm not entirely convinced that anyone has topped mine - the exchange of goods and services in pre-sargonic lagash - but a winner will be selected nonetheless.

  43. James, Cappelli is relevant to Biblical and so is Edmonds and his philosophical alphabet.

  44. I know this is too late, but I am surprised no one nominated Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics. Both church and dogma are boring. Put them together on a cover and the book almost pushes people away literally.

  45. The panel of 5 judges plus myself has by nearly unanimous consensus determined the winning title to be:

    Approximation and Weak Convergence Methods for Random Processes with Applications to Stochastic Systems Theory: Signal Processing, Optimization, and Control

    Congratulations, Jason!

    The sheer inscrutability of the title put it over the top.

    Thanks for contributing, everyone.

  46. I can't beat Jason's entry, or Alan Lenzi's for that matter, but when the question came to Facebook, I commented that, on "academic" titles, I like to trot out Mark Smith's The Origins and Development of the Waw-Consecutive: Northwest Semitic Evidence from Ugarit to Qumran.

    And I always point out that it turns out to be a real page-turner!