I’ve reviewed a lot of books over the last 25+ years and many of those have featured formulaic, rehashed, and predictable storylines, premises, and ideas. When it comes to traditionally published titles, I get it—publishers need to make money and they only publish what books that they think are going to sell well. The majority of these titles tend to be more conventional, more mainstream.
And that’s exactly why I love indie publishing. As Forrest Gump once famously said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” That statement perfectly describes my experience with self-published releases.
Over the decades, I’ve run across some truly unique self-published releases—and while I haven’t read all of the titles listed below, their mere existence has given me unmeasurable joy, happiness, and, oftentimes, laughter.
1. Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea (2005)
A group of established writers set out to write a truly unpublishable novel under the pseudonym Travis Tea (get it?) to see if PublishAmerica—a publisher that claimed to be a “traditional publisher” at the time—would actually print it. After the book was accepted and the hoax revealed, the company withdrew the offer—but the book was self-published anyway and has become a cult classic of sorts. This book is so bad, it’s entertaining!
2. New York, Phew York: A Scratch-N-Sniff Adventure by Amber C. Jones (2012)
Yes, this book exists and has several positive reviews. The story, told through the perspective of a child on a family vacation, contains a plethora of iconic New York City smells, including popcorn, fresh bagels, hotdogs, and garbage and sewer steam.
3. Dating for Under a Dollar: 301 Ideas by Blair Tolman (1999)
Although this relationship guide was published back in 1999, I can’t believe one dollar bought that much back then either…
4. GolfErotica: A Collection of Short Stories That Will Make Your Putter Flutter and Your Balls Oscillate by T. J. Bayronet (2006)
No comment needed here. The subtitle says it all.
5. The Little Booger Book by Julie Janese (2009)
The best part of this children’s book is the overview: “Did you ever wonder about boogers? There are so many different kinds, and they are always around! Well take a trip over to Bo’s Booger Shop, and meet the whole crew. You’ll make some new friends, and catch up with those you’ve already met before! After reading this book, you definitely will never look at a booger the same way again!”
This book is my pick of the week. (Sorry, that was too easy.)
6. Eludoran by Jonathan Goh (2015)
This shelf-bending epic verse—which holds the record for being the longest fantasy poem ever written in Singapore—is almost 900 pages of rhyming couplets about a heroic female fox and her epic journey of self-discovery. Additionally, it’s an homage of sorts to Tolkien and his Middle-earth history.
7. Sausage Sandwiches, Massage, Sex and the Credit Crunch: Observations from Some People I Know by Norman Desmond Ploome (2008)
I love this title—although I’m not sure if this is a cookbook, a relationship manual, a business guide, or all of the above!
8. Satisfied by a Stegosaurus by Richard Bacula (2018)
Yes, dinosaur erotica has been a thing since Christie Sims’ Taken by the T-Rex was released in 2013. And, if this Bacula release is any indication, the trend is far from extinct.
9. The Nothing Book (1974)
As far as I can figure, this hardcover book—which is filled with blank pages—was self-published back in the ‘70s and eventually acquired by Crown. When I managed bookstores back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, this book was a core title in the humor section and actually sold consistently.
10. Natural Bust Enlargement with Total Mind Power by Donald L. Wilson (1979)
Sadly, this book is out of print, so I can’t satisfy my curiosity about its contents—how exactly did he manage to fill 140 pages?
Paul Goat Allen has been reviewing books for more than 25 years. In addition to BlueInk Review, his work has appeared with BarnesandNoble.com, The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and more. He also teaches in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate writing program. Readers of this blog are offered a $50 discount on a BlueInk review by using the “key code” Allen. (This in no way guarantees a review by Allen.)