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Lavatory Libraries: The Very Best of Bathroom Reading

There is a strange taboo around discussing the calibre of another person's bathroom reading. You can hardly make use of a stranger's washroom without having a quick glance through their bathroom bibliography, we're only human after all. It's a venue for quiet judgement, as well as a relief from the boredom of day to day life.

Now, in an age in which most of us find ourselves with smartphone-related attention issues, the tottering tower of toilet tomes serves the even more necessary purpose of amusing us during that few minutes a day that threaten to be truly free of distraction. That said, there are precious few books that you'd ever buy yourself as bathroom reading. Instead, some of the books that find their way into your house simply migrate to your bathroom. 

As a good friend, all you can really do is make sure that you give people the kinds of books that serve as excellent bathroom reading. The kinds of books they'd never buy themselves, but which every house needs.

The time has come to say, "No more." Never again will you be forced to studiously avoid asking why a friend has a copy of The Da Vinci Code by the toilet. Never again will you be forced to tear the flyleaf from a copy of Ulysses in a moment of “digestive emergency.” Never again will you wonder why a friend has an illustrated Grey’s Anatomy by the throne...

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    What If?

    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.

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    The Groucho Letters

    THE GROUCHO LETTERS enjoys the very best of Groucho's correspondence with the greatest wits and minds of his day. Correspondents include James Thurber, T.S. Eliot, President Harry Truman, Edward R. Murrow, Jerry Lewis, Howard Hughes, Irving Berlin and of course, Chico, Harpo and Gummo. He writes to comics, corporations, children, presidents, and even his daughter's boyfriend. Here is Groucho swapping photos with T. S. Eliot ('I had no idea you were so handsome!'); advising his son on courting a rich dame ('Don't come out bluntly and say, "How much dough have you got?" That wouldn't be the Marxian way'); reacting with utmost composure when informed that he has been made into a verb by James Joyce ('There's no reason why I shouldn't appear in Finnegan's Wake . I'm certainly as bewildered about life as Joyce was'); and crisply declining membership in a Hollywood club ('I don't care to belong to any social organization that will accept me as a member'). No personage is too big, no nuance too small, no subject too far-out for Groucho's spontaneous, hilarious, and ferocious typewriter.

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Gray's Anatomy

    There's never a better time to brush up on your human anatomy. Moreover, knowing that this is in a bathroom also means knowing that every person who sits down in that bathroom has a high chance of being grossed out by their own body as they flip through its pages. There is no price too high for that knowledge.

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    A former military man, Rick would say that he specializes in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.