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What are Bathroom Books?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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There's no easy way to put this -- we all gotta go sometime. Fortunately the quest for knowledge does not have to stop, thanks to a genre of literature called bathroom books. Bathroom books, with a few notable exceptions, are not given that designation by the original author or publisher. Instead, certain books become popular reading material in the bathroom because of their brevity or self-contained chapters. Periodicals such as 'Reader's Digest' or the Guinness Book of World Records might be considered good bathroom books, while epics such as War and Peace or The Great Gatsby might not qualify under normal conditions.

Some publishing companies have openly embraced the 'bathroom books' niche market, releasing titles such as Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, which contains short, self-contained humor essays, general interest articles and trivia. Other intentional bathroom books may offer quick condensations of famous literary works or factoids about celebrities. These books are marketed specifically to those who seek something to read during their inevitable down time.

Some books may have started out with aspirations of greatness, but have since become the stuff of bathroom books legend. The World Almanac and the Guinness Book of World Records are perfect examples of tomes whose forms may have been usurped by function. Since few of us can anticipate how long we may be held incommunicado, bathroom books need to provide short bursts of information without much in the way of whiz-bang cliffhangers or elaborate character development. One must be able to easily walk away from most bathroom books.

In general, we know what to expect from so-called 'coffee table books'. There's the usual oversized photographs of cacti in the Southwestern deserts or the smiling oversized face of a famous celebrity. But most bathroom books do not rely on slick photography for their work-a-day appeal. Bathroom books are the Detective Joe Fridays of the literary world -- just the facts, ma'am.

Unless you know of a particularly progressive bookstore, look for most bathroom books in the humor or reference sections. The Uncle John series has proven especially popular, so variety should not be problematic. If you're serious about your water closet literature, you may also want to invest in a book or magazine rack to protect your investments from water damage. Be prepared to replace your collection periodically, either as society's mores and attitudes change or when the adventures of Archie and Jughead no longer seem as relevant as before.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By DinoLeash — On Mar 20, 2011

There is another one called "The Great American Bathroom Book". It is a great one to read. I have even had guests comment on the book!

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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