Schott's Quintessential Miscellany
The younger brother of the once better known Schott’s Almanac, Ben Schott’s Miscellany is an assemblage of strange trivia masquerading as a book. It stands head and shoulders above other factbooks, which generally have less success in managing to make learning quite so funny.
The Darwin Awards 4
Reading while sitting on the toilet is perhaps among humanity’s top five most undignified activities. That said, you can help take the depressing edge off that experience by reading about people who have managed to die doing even less dignified things. That might sound petty, but let’s face it, we’ll take all we can get.
Mod Lib Meditations
For those of you who’d like to maintain a little more dignity, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations offers a glimpse into the mind not only of a Roman man, but of an emperor too. Never intended for public dissemination, the Meditations let you pry inside the mind of one of history’s great generals, including his philosophies and his occasional doubts.
Randall Munroe once worked for NASA, but is better known as the brains behind webcomic xkcd. Munroe’s ability to approach complex and often ridiculous ideas, breaking them down logically and consistently. The style is every bit as funny and well-researched as Munroe’s work has led us to expect, but in this case the application is ideal for a few stolen minutes out of the world.
The Groucho Letters
Groucho Marx was of that rare breed of casual comic genius that even his correspondence with other individuals was often laugh out loud funny. The letters give an insight into the kind of man Groucho was off stage, as well as how he interacted with the people he cared about. Moreover, the letter is such an unusual format for comedy, and its audience so specific, that seeing Groucho work in it is a real pleasure.
The Essential Calvin and Hobbes
Waterson has an incredible gift for recognizing the counter-intuitive features of everyday life that we all take for granted. Through Calvin and his interactions with Hobbes, we’re made to question assumptions we make about our day to day values in a way that could too easily feel cynical, but always seems heartwarming instead. One of the few great bathroom books to appeal to children as much as adults.
The Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990-1990
The book tells the morose tale of Edward the Hamster, short-lived and filled with existential quandary. It’s a fundamentally bleak read, charting a life lived in captivity. It’s also uproariously funny and sometimes just a little too close to home.
The Essential Spike Milligan
While books like Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall are excellent, Spike Milligan really excelled in short formats, where he could seize an idea and execute as quickly as possible. His off-kilter worldview is excellent for short-burst reading, and his poetry is strangely touching. While it’s beginning to show its age in some places, it’s still an excellent read overall.
William Carlos Williams: Selected Poems
Occasionally, you’ll need something to up your literary street cred. William Carlos Williams remains perhaps the best writer of very short form, digestible poems. His style is simple and direct, his use of language precise. In some ways, this is a bathroom book only because it’s an every-room book. There are few rooms in few homes that wouldn’t be improved by a collection of Williams’ poetry.