In the mid-18th century, Lord Chesterfield wrote that he knew “a gentleman who was so good a manager of his time that he would not even lose that small portion of it which the call of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets, in those moments.” ... Most scholars contend that bathroom reading is largely a modern pursuit: the chamber pots and outhouses in use prior to the 1920’s and 30’s were not ideal for perusing texts. Yet Roman baths contained libraries wherein one could pore over scrolls, and “The Life of St. Gregory” (1296-1359) recommends the isolated retreat of the medieval fortress toilet — located high up in towers, close to heaven, so as to offset the perceived baseness of the act being committed — as a place for uninterrupted reading. “The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” whose pages were often ripped out by people in outhouses and put to practical use, has always come with a hole in its upper left-hand corner for easy hanging. A collection of summaries of literary works published in 1991 as “Compact Classics” fared poorly in the marketplace until it was renamed “The Great American Bathroom Book,” whereupon its first volume sold a million copies. Indeed, so profitable is this publishing niche that you can now buy waterproof books and books shaped like toilets. And, as George Costanza said on “Seinfeld” when he was forced to buy a book he had taken into a bookstore bathroom, “I got news for you — if it wasn’t for the toilet, there would be no books.”Alford says that when he redecorated his bathroom recently, he put 42 books on top of the toilet tank ... for aesthetic purposes.
I admire those folks, unfortunately few and far between, who have a library in their loo. I loved staying with my friends Jean and Barry in Plymouth because every room was full of books - including the smallest rooms which were equipped with bookshelves and magazine racks. The his and hers bathroom had a slightly different selection, and I think I enjoyed all the puzzle and crossword books in his best.
I'm a bathroom reader, but generally have only magazines in there. (Colour supplements from the British Sunday papers are best. I've asked my sister to bring me a stack even though I can read the same stuff online.) Sometimes poetry or short short fiction.
So now it's your turn. What's your bathroom reading material?
(Above right, a booklovers dream loo. Or should we call it a bibliobog?)