In 1982 Captain John Trimmer wrote a maritime operations guidebook called How to Avoid Huge Ships. The book was meant to guide captains of smaller sailing/pleasure vessels and yachts who will need to navigate busy shipping lanes of the ocean without bothering or getting into trouble with large shipping vessels. The book had a very small audience and was full of ostensibly useful information on the capabilities of large ships and best practices for how to guide your own smaller vessel when you are in the shipping lanes… obscure to say the least.
In 1992 the book won this small but well-publicized award for oddest book title of the year. It’s called the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year. This is the first time that a wider audience ever heard of the book.
Some twenty years after it was written – around 2000 – a few sarcastic readers found the title in Amazon.com and started posting fake book reviews. This is pretty funny stuff. For instance:
“I bought How to Avoid Huge Ships as a companion to Captain Trimmer’s other excellent titles: How to Avoid a Train, and How to Avoid the Empire State Building. These books are fast paced, well written and the hard won knowledge found in them is as inspirational as it is informational. After reading them I haven’t been hit by anything bigger than a diesel bus. Thanks captain!”
“I’ve always walked into ships when I took my morning jog, but with this book, I don’t have this problem anymore.”
“After reading this book, I realized exactly what I was doing wrong every time I was run over by barges on the mighty Mississippi. I always played dead and hoped the boats would go away, like I was taught by a book I read, How To Survive Bear Attacks. I guess I thought the lessons taught by that book applied to everything life, but it clearly meant just bears. Now I am surviving the waterways better than a BP oil rig.”
“I’m a little annoyed with the sarcastic “reviewers” of this book. You all seem to think it’s funny that some people would honestly like some expert advice on ways to avoid huge ships. What, you’ve never been traveling at a very, very slow speed straight toward something really, really big that you could see for miles and miles away, and wished you’d known what steps you could take to avoid crashing into it? Well, all I can say is “congratulations!” What’s it like to be so perfect? You haters just keep on enjoying your huge-ship-collision-free little fantasies. I for one am going to buy this book and learn something, because I live in the real world, where huge ships and the dangers they present to people like me are actually a serious issue.”
“When I moved to the coast a friend gave me this book as a gift. After reading it I became extremely constipated. My mistake, though. Good book–just make sure you read the title closely.”