RuPaul’s Drag Race essay collection wins oddest book title of the year award

A book about the teachable moments from RuPaul’s Drag Race has beaten titles about naked Canadians and a book of essays about clowns to win the Bookseller/Diagram prize for the oddest book title of the year.

RuPedagogies of Realness: Essays on Teaching and Learning with RuPaul’s Drag Race edited by Lindsay Bryde and Tommy Mayberry won 39% of the public vote for the prize, beating Mary-Ann Shantz’s What Nudism Exposes: An Unconventional History of Postwar Canada, which got 25% of the vote.

Third placed was Jane Austen and the Buddha: Teachers of Enlightenment by Kathryn Duncan, which links Austen’s writing with Buddhist philosophy.

Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller’s managing editor and coordinator of the prize, said: “From the off, I knew RuPedagogies of Realness had potential to excite … with its academic jargon and pop culture portmanteau, a combination we’ve not really seen since 2011’s classic winner, Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way.”

RuPedagogies of Realness, Jane Austen and the Buddha and another shortlisted book, The Many Lives of Scary Clowns: Essays on Pennywise, Twisty, the Joker, Krusty and More by Ron Riekki, are all published by North Carolina-based academic publisher McFarland & Co.

It is the second year in a row that a book from McFarland & Co has won the Diagram prize; 2021’s winner was Roy Schwartz’s Is Superman Circumcised?, a look at the Jewish influences on the superhero.

Tivnan said he was “blown away by McFarland’s colossal achievement of winning two Diagrams in a row, a feat which will echo down throughout the ages. McFarland has become the Hilary Mantel of odd title publishers”.

The other shortlisted books were Frankenstein Was a Vegetarian: Essays on Food Choice, Identity, and Symbolism by Michael Owen Jones, a cultural history of food and folkways, and Smuggling Jesus Back Into the Church by Andrew Fellows, about how secularism has taken over the church and how Christians can recentre and revive their faith.

There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, although the nominator of the winning book gets a “passable bottle of claret”. This year it goes to Graeme Innes-Johnstone, who previously won in 2020 when he nominated A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path: Animal Metaphors in an Eastern Indonesian Society by Gregory Forth.

The Diagram was conceived in 1978 by Trevor Bounford and Bruce Robertson, co-founders of publishing solutions firm The Diagram Group, to alleviate boredom at the annual Frankfurt book fair.