Thursday, June 08, 2006

BOOKS: What's in Your Loo-brary?

When I was a little kid, my grandmother, who was also a book fiend, had a joke book she kept in her bathroom. Entitled Jokes for the John, this book was, in my considered opinion, the finest collection of humour writing of all time. Not only the jokes, but also the concept that there could be a book especially designed for reading while on the toilet... well, it cracked my nine-year-old shit up.

These days, I no longer find the idea of books in bathrooms laugh-out-loud funny, and my toilet is home to a precarious stack of books and magazines that threatens to spill over and scare the bejeebus out of anyone who jostles it disrespectfully during a nocturnal visit to the can.

With the idea that you can tell a lot about people not just by looking at their shelves where they keep books neatly arranged for public digestion, but by assessing the more intimate collections they keep in places like their bedside table or their car or, of course, their bathroom, I offer my loo-brary for your inspection:

Beyond the Far Side
I know that Far Side comics are probably passé and all you youngfolk out there are saying to yourselves, "Gary who?" but every bathroom needs to have at least one collection of dated comics, and this is mine. So there.

Visual Power: Sex
Every bathroom also needs to have one book that's full of just plain weird, freaky-deaky arty words and pictures that you don't quite understand. I find this Eurotrashy collection of faux-philosophical writing paired with disturbing semi-pornographic imagery both compelling and repellent, depending which page I'm on. I can't tell if the publishers are poseurs or parodists, which is probably a sign of brilliance. This book fulfills the requirement of any decent loo-brary to house at least one book that makes you go, "What the fuck?"

Just Give'r: A Handguide by Terry & Dean
Every toilet worth its salt houses at least one book you wouldn't be caught reading outside the bathroom. In our house, this shame read is Terry and Dean's (of Fubar fame) illustrated guide to givin' 'er, a surprisingly handy little manual with instructions on everything from having sex in a canoe ("one of the hardest things a man can do") to giving presentations in school ("you're allowed to suck if you go first") to surviving a sandstorm ("try and locate a camel"). If you haven't seen
Fubar (yet, because you're going to rent it tonight), you can still enjoy this book, but it won't be the same.

A hallmark of any premiere bathroom literature is its ability to yield new riches with each perusal, no matter how many months or years it has graced its porcelain shelf. This is what separates the timeless classics from the passing fads. This is
Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from around the World. Based on the website and zine of the same name, this collection is the best of the best of Found's... er... findings. We've had it for a year and a half, and just when I think I've exhausted its possibilities, it shows me something new. It's a bathroom miracle.

The Onion: Ad Nauseum
See above re:
Found. You just can't go wrong with an Onion anthology, though for my money a better bet is Our Dumb Century. We don't own that one, so I have to go to Rizzo and the Baco-Vegetarian's bathroom to enjoy it. That's okay. It gets me out of the house.

So there you have it. My most private (or... are they? Bwahaha!) reading habits. You were expecting the collected letters of John Cheever, perhaps? Now 'fess up. What's in your loo-brary?


Anonymous said...

I live with my parents (I'm sooooo cool!) and we're not allowed books in the bathroom. Which is so, so sad. I was terribly rebellious when I was younger and hid books in the airing cupboard etc. And one morning, I was reading the Famous Five on the toilet, and then I heard my mom coming so I hid the book down the back of the radiator and on my way out I went to get it out of the radiator so I didn't leave it there all day and have it set on fire and burn the house down, and then I slipped and cut my eye on the side of the radiator and had to have stitches. To conclude: I talk a lot. Also, books in the toilet are still verboten.

But! Sometimes I have to stand there studying my bookshelf until I find the perfect bathroom book.

Paul said...

A stack of Spanish language Reader's Digests. Trying to translate and understand a simple story can take a weeks! (Not all at once, of course)

And, a copy of How things Work.

Anonymous said...

I usually have catalogs and magazines in there (stored in a nifty turquoise and black ceramic-clad stewpot I found in an antique store).

In tangentally related news, someone stored a copy of Life & Style magazine in the toilet seat cover dispenser in one of the stalls in the ladies room at work today.

kdmacken said...

Personally, I like the mini-books for the bathroom, Shamballah Pocket Books for example. So I have things like Teachings of the Buddha and Poetry of Emily Dickinson, but I never read them. The one I usually read is the bite-sized thought-a-day book called "How to Lead a Charmed Life", because I'm such a graceless fool that I learn shit like, "Prevent predictable annoyances. Install a key rack inside every door, sew on buttons as soon as they fall off, and put the cap back on the toothpaste. Oh, and meditate."
or something like that... :-) :-)

Likalia said...

I always seem to have Cosmo in my bathroom, it is always good for a laugh.

Beyond that it is usually whatever book I happen to be reading. No matter where I start reading them they always end up in there, I think I have elves. :)

Anonymous said...

We're so classy, we had a magazine rack installed right beside the toilet. Currently, it holds copies of Harper's, The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, Wired, Computer Gaming World, Vanity Fair, and many, many Peoples. They stack up!

Ali said...

I have a stack of Wizard magazines that I read in the bath and on the toilet. Cause I would never take comics in there. But a magazine about comics? Perfect.

landismom said...

Well, that's actually my newspaper reading area (it makes me feel all Leopold Bloom-ish). The kids, however, have started littering our upstairs bathroom with all manner of picture books.

Cataclysm said...

Oi! I remember seeing your 'Visual Power: Sex' in your bathroom and I thought, "wow, I wish I had more time in here!" and "I wish I could pee standing up" as you have the most amazing view from the top of your toilet ever!

I'm a total believer in loo-reading - I used to even customize the loo reading depending on the company. When living in the UK and with a dedicated magazine rack near the loo, my Mom visiting from Canada would love to catch up on the Royals so 'Hello' was a necessity! But I didn't want my Mom to think we were just pandering to her soft-side so I would plant an 'Economist' there too - choices are nice, though no-one ever read that Economist I'm sure! And the 'Hello' had to go as soon as my Mom left just in case we had more refined comany!

And thanks doppleganager, I didn't even think about a comic anthology book - I'll move a "Calvin and Hobbes" upstairs right now!!
Yea!! Kris

Tammy said...

Heheh, Kris. I sometimes forget about that view. Isn't that crazy? (For everyone else, my upstairs bathroom has the best view in the entire house. You can see the Coast Mountains, including the well-known Lions peak, which look so big they almost appear to be located just a few miles away. In the winter, you can watch the sunset and see the pinky-orange light hit the snowcaps, and then watch the lights come up on the ski run on Grouse Mountain. It's pretty spectacular... and I totally take it for granted. Bad Doppelganger.)

And Kris, your comment also reminded me about the magazines we also keep on the toilet. There are the ones I read (Dwell, Vice) and the ones that are just there to make us look smart (Scientific American, Harpers, The Walrus). It's funny, up till now it'd never occurred to me that anyone who sees a copy of the Fubar book on my toilet probably isn't buying the fact that I read scientific American. Rats.

Anne-Marie said...

Man, I gotta come over and get me some Fubar. I have to admit, growing up my parents NEVER had any reading material in the bathroom so when N & I first got together and he would bring a book in...there... it really grossed me out.

But, I'm now hooked and unfortunately, our bathroom is too small for a magazine rack but have to admit to having some comic books in there. And whatever we can grab along the way. However, all reading material needs to come out of the bathroom after unless you'd like it tossed into the bathtub (Sam's favorite new game).

Alice said...

I just moved into a place with garden, so I needed to learn to garden. Obviously, the best way to do this is to buy a book. I bought "The Complete How to Be a Gardener" by Alan Titchmarsh and for months it's been the only book in my bathroom. Because there's nothing else to read, I've pretty much made my way through the whole thing. I theoretically know how to rejuvenate an old shrub now!

I figured that by removing the options, I'd actually read it and it's working. Normally though I would have a few books of essays and definitely a comic anthology (Calvin or Far Side, most likely).

Lisa said...

Oh thank goodness, I'm not the only one! I seriously thought I was weird for reading in the bathroom. My parents never kept reading material in there, and I've rarely seen it at others' houses. But I keep a stack of magazines next to the toilet---mostly gossip stuff (People, US Weekly, etc.), as well as Entertainment Weekly. I take them out when I have company coming over, though!

Em said...

I have an old radiator in my bathroom, which works well as some kind of shelving system when the heat's turned off.
The book I won't read outside of the bathroom is Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife.
Also have The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge in there. I just...really like that book.
The Canterbury Tales because when else am I going to make time to scan it?
And a Reader's Digest from 1978 that I just flip through to laugh at the ads for the posturpedic matresses of the day and Kraft Dinner...with egg noodles? Because a "quick" lunch means a casserole involving beets, salad, two kinds of juice AND hand-decorated pudding for desert.

Kaijsa said...

A friend of mine who keeps a lovely home, always has the new issue Sunset or Living laid out on a rattan ottoman in her guest bathroom.

I'm not so classy, so my personal bathroom has Entertainment Weekly and Lucky, while my upstairs powder room sports fancy catalogs I can't afford to buy from. All my bathroom reading ends up in the recycle bin; I don't like to bring books in there for some reason.

Rgscarter said...

I loved this post and the responses. For me, bathroom reading is a vital part of life but my partner just doesn't get it. "What takes you so long in there that it requires a book?" she asks. Perhaps, now that I think about it, I have been conditioned to take my time. I am glad to see I am far from alone in this.

I don't have room for a magazine rack but i still have a fairly diverse collection of reading material stored for all occassion. My loo-brary consists mostly of aging newspapers and magazines (which are still vitally important and which cannot be disposed of, even if they are over a year old as I will get around to them eventually), particularly arts and books sections which I feel are rather timeless.

I love going over to other people's places and inspecting their collections. Esp. my mom's to read Readers Digests and Time or my friends who have a rack filled with Bitch and Wired reflecting their respective interests.

Anonymous said...

Upstairs, I have DeLillo's Underworld (I figured it was the only way I'd ever tackle it; so far it's working) and whatever dated comics my spouse is currently perusing.

Main floor, we have: John Irving, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed; The Portable Machiavelli; Jon Muth's AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME Zen Shorts; a book of pop psychology/lit crit that has Hamlet in the title, but I forget the exact title and the author (I read it 2 or 3 years ago); a volume of Time Life's Man on the Moon; 2 or 3 other books; a giant stack of National Geographics; a smaller stack of Natural History; some gaming magazines; and a newspaper.

If any of our friends ever get stuck in the main bathroom, they should be okay for reading material for about a week.