What are Bathroom Books?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Some books are written with the bathroom reader in mind.
Some books are written with the bathroom reader in mind.

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.

Bathroom books are often humorous and light-hearted, unlike long novels.
Bathroom books are often humorous and light-hearted, unlike long novels.

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.

Bookstores typically place bathroom books in the humor section.
Bookstores typically place bathroom books in the humor section.

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.

Valuable books shouldn't be stored in the bathroom, as they may become water damaged.
Valuable books shouldn't be stored in the bathroom, as they may become water damaged.

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.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular LanguageHumanities contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular LanguageHumanities contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

DinoLeash

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!

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    • Some books are written with the bathroom reader in mind.
      By: david hughes
      Some books are written with the bathroom reader in mind.
    • Bathroom books are often humorous and light-hearted, unlike long novels.
      By: Markus Mainka
      Bathroom books are often humorous and light-hearted, unlike long novels.
    • Bookstores typically place bathroom books in the humor section.
      By: ele
      Bookstores typically place bathroom books in the humor section.
    • Valuable books shouldn't be stored in the bathroom, as they may become water damaged.
      By: mitev
      Valuable books shouldn't be stored in the bathroom, as they may become water damaged.