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Best titles ever!

[UPDATE 3/6/2014: We have moved “Best titles ever!” Please check out our best.titles.ever tumblr (besttitlesever.tumblr.com) and as always, you can send us additions to the list at http://besttitlesever.tumblr.com/submit]

Below are some government document titles that are interesting/strange/intriguing. We set this up after several emails on govdoc-l.

Click on any cover for a larger image. All images hosted by Flickr.

We’ve created a WorldCat List for the titles below when we could find records. Some of them aren’t in WorldCat or GPO’s Catalog of Monthly Publications.

Please send your suggestions for this list to admin AT freegovinfo DOT info.

If you want to explore the possible future barriers to the enjoyment of titles like these, please explore our issues page.

  • M16A1 rifle : operation and preventive maintenance. DA Pam 750-30. While the title is not particularly funny, the fact that this is a comic book (and a heavily mysogynistic one at that) distributed to all US military personnel in Viet Nam makes this a good title to highlight here.Find in a library
  • After the Cold War: Living with Lower Defense Spending. (1992) Office of Technology Assessment. [Y 3. T 22/2:2 C 67/SUMM. This one seems funny in retrospect!
  • ALONE: Facts about Mental Health and Mental Illness was revised to:YOU ARE NOT ALONE: Facts about Mental Health and Mental Illness[HE 20.8102:Al7/985]

    “One of my favorite titles is from the National Institute of Mental Health, 1985. The document had a printing error in the title and was ordered destroyed by the Superintendent of Documents. “This error seriously detracts from the point that the publisher was trying to make.”

    Find “Alone” in a library
    Find “You are not alone” in a library

  • An Annotated list of Literature references on carpets and rugs 1940 to 1963 [A77.17:C22]. (June 1965, Department of Agriculture) An Excerpt: There is no magic instrument endowed with a power to give its bearer a complete single factual answer to many of the questions asked by consumers today on the selection and care of carpets and rugs (so the Ag Department needs to tell us, obviously)Find in a library
  • Bat Bombers. By C.V. Glines. Air Force magazine, October 1990 Vol. 73, No. 10. “After the bats set fire to a hangar and a general’s car, the Army Air Forces had seen enough of the experiment.”
  • The Bear Essentials (Irregular) [HE 20.3057:]
  • Child Maltreatment: A “What to Do” Guide for Professionals Who Work With Children – Published by Canada’s National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Contributed by Amy West.
    Find in a library
  • Citizenship and the Strawberry Jam: FDA’s Life Protection Series (1967, for FDA and US dept of health, education and welfare)
  • Cooking up solutions: cleaning up with lasagna [EP 1.2:C77] Find in a library
  • Dante Home Reading Course. [I 16.12: 18] – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • Design of Clean Rooms – A Classified List of Selected References 1955-1964
  • Distinguishing Bolts from Screws. US Customs and Border Protection, March 2006.
  • Disposition of Useless Papers in American Consular Offices August 22, 1921. US Serial Set 67th Congress 1st Session Senate Report no 271 [Y 1.1/2:Serial].This title was found and tweeted about by Ezra Klein and Aaron Swartz on 1/3/2011.Find in a depository library
  • Do you know oatmeal? [A 1.26:6] – Photo contributed by Christine Gray
  • Don’t be a “sugar daddy” to moonshiners! The True story of moonshine. [T 22. 2: M77]. Find in a library.
  • The Doubtful Identity of Fungus No.517, by C. Audrey Richard, Pathologist. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, [no date]; Published in Proceedings of the American Wood Preservers’ Association, 1937.
    Find in a library
  • Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation : are we doing enough? [Y 4.J 89/2:S.HRG.108-445] Find in a library
  • Employment of homosexuals and other sex perverts in government (1950)
  • Epic of Gilgamesh: Clinical Practice Guidelines for Post-Deployment Health Evaluation and Management (Flash movie). Department of Veterans Affairs / US Department of Defense. Originally posted on FGI blog. (Added 12/30/06)
  • Everything you always wanted to know about shipping high-level nuclear wastes [E 1.16: 0003] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • Fakability of the air force preference inventoryFind in a library
  • Familiarity and recognition of nonsense shapes
  • Fastener Quality Act : report of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on S. 795. Find in a library.
  • Fatalgrams. U.S. Dept of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration. [L 38.15:] Find in a library / Get the T-Shirt (Not affilated with FGI) – Photo contributed by Christine Gray. As were photos for:
  • Fertilizers in a national emergency [A 1.6: 966] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray
  • The golden age of bathing. [I 29.2: B32/4] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • Gobbledygook has gotta go. Bureau of Land Management [I 53.2: G53] Find in a Library.
  • Government versus homosexuals.
    by United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Naval Affairs. (1975)Find in a library
  • Health effects of pesticide use on children [Y 4.L 11/4:S.hrg.101-569]
  • Hills Bros. coffee can chronology : field guide
    by Steve Lanford; Robin Mills; Chuck Adkins; United States. Bureau of Land Management. Fairbanks District Office.
  • Identifying sheep killed by bears [A 13.79:INT-313]. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1981. – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.B says:

    It is an oldie, but still brings a chuckle when I think of it. In 1981, I began as a
    clerk in the Gov Pubs unit at ******** University. On my first day, I was to open a new box of materials and process it all the way through to get some sense of the work flow. “Identifying Sheep Killed by Bears” was the very first publication I pulled from the box. It kind of set the tone for my time in the department.

    Find in a library

  • The impact of computer aliens along the Mexican and Canadian borders. [Y 3.W 52:2 C 73/PT.2]. This is the cover title of part 2 of this 3 part set of hearings, published in 1968-69.David says:

    This is my favorite typographical error on a Federal publication. The publication deals with the impact of nonresident alien workers who travel daily to jobs in U.S. border cities.

  • Impregnation of concrete pipe. [Prepared] for the Water Quality Office, Environmental Protection Agency., [EP 2.10:11024 EQE 06/71]. Find in a library. James S. says:

    The title alone is pretty funny in a puerile kind of way, but the cover picture is downright creepy in a Freud kind of way.
    Regardless, we should thank the brave young servicemen who were willing to sacrifice themselves for love of science and love of country.

  • Index of blank forms, [D 101.22:310-2/]. Amy says:

    It has been discontinued, although not for the reason you might think: “Merged with: Index of administrative publications; Index of blank forms; Index of doctrinal training organizational publications; Index of technical publications; Index of supply catalogs and supply manuals, excluding types 7, 8, and 9, to form: Consolidated index of army publications and blank forms.”

    Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.

  • It’s always been dumb–now it’s illegal too! anabolic steroids pose serious health risks to users (Poster). Washington, D.C. : Demand Reduction Section, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, [1991?] Find in a library (WorldCat)
  • Kill or get killed : riot control techniques, manhandling, and close combat, for police and the military. U.S. Marine Corps [D 214.9/6:12-80] with illustrations! Find in a library(James notes that it was such a hot title that someone actually published it privately — in the same year! Check out the OCLC records: 25298518 (US doc) 3328029 (paladin press). It looks like they were published at the same time, or at least in the same year.Daniel was able to obtain a PDF copy of a 1991 reprint of the Marines publication (Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication (FMFRP) 12-80, Kill or Get Killed,) and found it bore this note:

    Copyright 1976 Paladin Press.
    Reprinted with permission by
    Paladin Press, P.O. Box 1307,
    Boulder, CO 80306.
    Web site: http://www paladin-press .com

    In addition the author is listed as a retired officer, so it looks like the private pub came first!)

    – Cover photo provided by Kathy Amen.

  • Know your 8-inch Howitzer. Dept. of the Army, Headquarters, US Army Armament, Munitions and Chemical Command], 1984- [D 101.22/12:750-6] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • Methods of reduction of psychological stress due to radiation, AFPTRC-TN (series) [D301.36/7: 57-19].
  • Lawn Mowers: Noise and Cost of Abatement (EPA 1974)
  • Let potatoes fight. [Y3.F73/2: WGC/ w49]
  • Let’s use TV! [ED 1.302: T23] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • L.U.S.T.LINE Subtitle is: A report on Federal and state programs to control leaking underground storage tanks. A publication of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, funded with support from EPA’s Office of Underground Storage Tanks.Link to the publication’s online archives and indexDavid says: My favorite article title from L.U.S.TLINE (from #41, June 2002): “Looking for Leaks in All the Wrong Places: A Short Story With an Epiphany,” by Marcel Moreau
  • Manual for Medical Examination of Aliens. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service. [FS 2.6:Al 4/956]. Find in a library
  • Meat is ammunition, play fair with it! [PR 32.5002:M 46/2] Monthly catalog, 1945, p. 648.A wartime exhortation to U.S. consumers to adhere to meat rationing limits.
  • Methods of reduction of psychological stress due to radiation
  • National community fallout shelter design competition (1965)
  • National Money Laundering Strategy [T 1.67/2:]. I’ve heard there’s corruption in government, but this is ridiculous!
  • Out of the vapors: a social and architectural history of bathhouse row [I 29.2:B 32/3 ] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • PMS Blue Book. HE 20.4001/2: PMS in this case stands for Program Management System. Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • Patents in space. [Y4.J89/1:99-16] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • Plane Clothes: Lack of Anonymity at the Federal Air Marshal Service Compromises Aviation and National Security. What a painful pun!Here’s the PDF from fas.org because the link to text at gpoaccess didn’t work (as of Aug 8, 2006)! Please contact us if you click the link and it works. (11/24/08 update: link to text STILL doesn’t work but there’s a PDF available of the committee print).
  • Preservative treatment of poles (USDA 1911)
  • Psychological Aspects of Equipment Design (1949). (USAF document. Attached is a page from the document “knobshapes.” Photo contributed by Sarae Montgomery.
  • Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Seventh Congress, second session on H.R. 5519, October 10, 2002 [Y 4.J 89/1:107/109]. James says: wikipedia points out the ironic acronym of the title, “RAVE act”! Who ways our representatives aren’t hip to the groove?!Find in a library
  • Relation of Barium to the Loco-weed disease
  • Some effects of modification of information about a previous response upon the acquisition of two lever positioning habits. USAF
  • Space handbook : a war fighter’s guide to space / prepared by Michael J. Muolo ; compiled by Richard A. Hand ; edited by Richard A. Hand, Bonnie Houchen, Lou Larson. [D 301.26/6-8:SP 1/2]. Find in an FDLP library. Document also available online and as a PDF from FGI.
  • “Sprocket Man” (PDF). U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (AKA CPSC Comics!)Find in a library
  • Status Report of U.S. Treasury-Owned Gold [T 63.131:] The person who submitted this says:

    this one has a perfectly boring title but I have nicknamed it “Gold-hoards of the T-men”, which sounds much more exciting!

  • State-of-the-art dummy selection. U.S. Dept. of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. TD 8.2:D 89/5/v.1 Find in a library. Janette says:

    I guess the other volumes were classified “top secret”.

    Photo contributed by Christine Gray.

  • Step into action! A guidebook for the above-knee amputee. US Dept of Health, Education and Welfare. [FS 2.6/2:ST 4/964] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray
  • This is Ann … she drinks blood! prepared and distributed by Army Orientation Course, Special Service Division Army Service Forces, War Dept. Unattributed illustrations by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). Find in a library (WorldCat).This is Ann . . .  she drinks blood!
  • Publisher:
    Washington, D.C. : Special Service Division, Army Service Forces, War Dept. : U.S. G.P.O., 1943.
  • Trends in Money Laundering [T 1.67:] and National Money Laundering Strategy [T 1.67/2:] – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • The use of a sentence completion test in measuring attitudes toward superiors and subordinates
  • Virtual Cement and Concrete Testing Laboratory Consortium, Annual Report. [C 13.58/4:]. Lori says: “Virtual cement and concrete? A virtual testing laboratory? A virtual consortium? Who knows?
    Find in a library
  • Vitamin A in war and peace. [A 1.59:2] – Photo contributed by Christine Gray
  • Wake up America: a national sleep alert. [Y3.2: SL2/SL2] Find in a library
  • A winning combination: wild horses and prison inmates. [I 53.2: H78/10] Find in a library – Photo contributed by Christine Gray.
  • WRA: A Story of Human Conservation. (Hosted at the Internet Archive!) U.S. Dept. of the Interior, War Relocation Authority, 1946. (I 59.2:W 19/3:). Jim says:

    This is the final report of the agency which oversaw the World War II internment camps for US citizens of Japanese and other suspect descents. The title is the very definition of Orwellian, and I often use it to help drive home the point that government documents are mirrors of their time.

    Find in a library

  • (Canadian govt document) “Who Are the Zombie Masters and What Do They Want?” (PDF). A 1994 discussion paper prepared for the Premier’s Council on Health, Well-Being and Social Justice. Find in a library
  • Young scientists look at drugs (1968 for FDA/HEW)
  • Your personal affairs
    Your personal affairs / Armed Forces Information and Education, Department of Defense. [D 2.14:PA-6] 1963

Now that you’ve had a taste of the kinds of information your government produces, why not explore the issues that may prevent full access to government information in the future?a href= the ironic acronym of the title, http://www.flickr.com/photos/10325651@N00/198050294/ahttp://static.flickr.com/64/198463301_7de3b72beb_s.jpgimg src=img src=http://www.flickr.com/photos/alaskanlibrarian/209582945/in/pool-besttitlesever/

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


  1. DANTE (all caps) was the abbreviation of the publisher, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education, which became DANTES, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support. http://www.dantes.doded.mil/. From the layout and font, I suspect “Home Reading Course” dates back to the Korean War era. Still funny, though.

  2. Hey K. We’re primarily focused on US federal documents on this site but put that Canadian document on there because it was submitted to the govdoc-l list. If you’re thinking of starting an intl list, we’d be happy to link to it from this page. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Is this the correct title? Can’t seem to locate it anywhere, either by title, keyword, subject or gov doc #. Just wondering what the standards are for “best” if is so difficult to locate?

  4. Great list! I’m thinking of starting a similar page for our library, in hopes of grabbing the interest and attention of students. Have you thought about going international with your list? I noticed only one lonely Canadian document but undoubtedly there are others!

  5. This was the title and SuDoc number contributed by the library that owns this item. Unfortunately, many government documents prior to 1976 were not cataloged electronically, so they do not show up in OCLC or in the government’s own post 1976 catalog at http://catalog.gpo.gov. A record for such a document would show up in two places, the printed GPO Monthly Catalog when the item was issued, and in the paper shelf list of the depositories that hold that item.

    As far as standards for “best” documents, you’ve stumbled upon documents humor. This page was started when a librarian on govdoc-l ran across a title she thought was really funny and shared that with the list. That was followed by other librarians who came across titles that struck as funny or weird. Then we got into the act as just one more way of sharing government documents.

    If you’re interested in knowing what we government documents librarians regard as “best” or “great” documents, try this Library Journal article or google the phrase “notable government documents.”

    “And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them.” — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the original quote.

  6. “A winning combination: wild horses and prison inmates.”

    Brings to mind The Angola Prison Rodeo and Craft Fair:

    It’s been a winning combination for them!

    But yes, great list! Thanks for the morning laughs.

  7. Sorry, Ted. The Dante they had in mind here was the Italian dude who died in 1321. Notice the call number is I for Interior Department, which is where the Bureau of Education was located in 1922 when this publication came out. And yes, the government was spending my grandpa’s tax dollars to join the “National Dante Committee” in urging him to read the Divine Comedy (the Charles Eliot Norton transpation preferred).

  8. Ha–looks like they’re still at it: Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Resource Directory 2008 is just out. [J 1.89/3:]

  9. This poster is hilarious. It is 4 body builders in a circle injecting each other with steroids.

    It’s always been dumb — now it’s illegal too! [picture] : anabolic steroids pose serious health risks to users.

    J 24.11:D 67

  10. Hi Katie. thanks for your submission. Do you happen to have a good image of the poster? I looked a bit but couldn’t find one.

  11. Thanks Kathy. We’ve added these to the list. The Dr Seuss one is actually titled “This is Ann … she drinks blood!”

  12. I was weeding and just came across “Spells of Job Search and Layoff…and Their Outcomes.” (C 3.186:P-70/2/no.16-RD-2) I bet the ones that use eye of newt work the best. 🙂

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