When you’re taking part in your daily constitutional, you’ve got a few minutes to yourself where you’re sitting there not doing anything.
To while away the time, a lot of people bust out their smartphones and scroll through social media.
But using your phone while you’re on the pot is kind of gross. And do you really want to let your digital distractor bleed into every conceivable nook and cranny of your life?
Instead, make like your dad did in 1985 and establish a dedicated collection of magazines and books for the bathroom.
Since a visit to the toilet should be short (sitting on the pot too long will give you hemorrhoids), I like to have a book handy that provides quick hits of interesting information. I’m talking literature that will allow me to get something out of it within a three-minute stretch. Consequently, most of my go-to toilet books consist of collections of quotes, factoids, illustrations, and trivia.
Below I share my top ten favorite toilet books that have provided me bite-sized entertainment while taking care of business. Stack a few by your porcelain throne.
I love a good reference book, and my favorite by far is the Pocket Ref by Thomas J. Glover. This little book is crammed with just about every piece of information a man might want to know. Want to know about different lumber types? How about how to tie the fifty most common knots? Need the formula for determining the area of an oblique triangle? It’s all there in the Pocket Ref and much, much more.
The Official Rules: 5,427 Laws, Principles, and Axioms to Help You Cope with Crises, Deadlines, Bad Luck, Rude Behavior, Red Tape, and Attacks by Inanimate Objects
The rules contained in this hefty tome are the kind of simple sayings that reveal truths that seem obvious once they’re spelled out, but you hadn’t previously been able to put into words. They’re the kind of quotes grandparents hang up on their refrigerators and employees peg to bulletin boards to give their officemates a gallows-humor chuckle about corporate life.
You can open this book to any random page and find a great piece of wry life advice to help you navigate our often vexing world.
Shameless-but-appropriate plug: Our book, The Illustrated Art of Manliness, is an excellent toilet read. It consists of a bunch of skills and manly know-how wonderfully illustrated by the talented Ted Slampyak. Each time you take your daily constitutional, you can become a handier, more competent man and learn something new, from how to properly deadlift to how to shoot a gun.
Be prepared to have your assumptions about the world challenged and reversed when you flip through The Book of General Ignorance. John Mitchinson and John Lloyd examine taken-for-granted facts and show how they’re completely wrong. Was baseball really invented in America? Is Mount Everest really the tallest mountain in the world? Was Magellan really the first man to sail around the world? Find out the real dope in this classic toilet book.
While it’s a small volume, Schott’s Original Miscellany is jam-packed with interesting facts and trivia like weather proverbs, the husbands of Elizabeth Taylor, Shakespearean insults, and chess terms. You’ll leave each trip to the loo with some fodder for your next cocktail party conversation.
A compilation of the very best guides from the famous Worst-Case Scenario series. Learn how to escape a charging rhino, what to do if you have excessive gas, how to survive if you forgot your wedding anniversary, and more. Some of the guides are silly and fun, but many are dang practical, making it an excellent toilet book.
We’ve written about the importance of having cultural literacy.
Use your time on the toilet to bone up on yours with a copy of The Encyclopedia of Cultural Literacy. It’s a giant tome of a book, so it’ll provide years of bathroom reading edification. Flip to a random page and read a short section on Greek mythology or literary references every gentleman scholar should know.
When you’re sitting on the toilet, questions might come to your mind like:
What would happen if the earth stopped spinning?
What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball hurtling at 90% of the speed of light?
You can learn the answers to these questions by reading What If? Serious Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. Randall Munroe, creator of the classic internet comic xkcd, explains and illustrates the answers to some off-the-wall hypotheticals. The explanations are deeply researched and based on science but presented in an easy-to-read and humorous format.
100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation
Written by retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson, this book covers just about everything a man might need to know to become a secret international operative, or as Clint puts it, a “violent nomad.” There are sections on things like scaling high walls, stealing a plane, escaping from a car’s trunk, and turning a pen into a weapon, accompanied by plenty of illustrations (also done by Ted, so you know they’re great). The chapter on constructing a rectal concealment may be particularly apropos for bathroom reading.
Now, you might be thinking, “You’ve included a philosophy textbook on your toilet book list? How does it fit the criteria for a book that will provide a quick hit of infotainment in three minutes or less?”
Well, what’s great about The Great Conversation is that the authors organized the book into brief, very readable sections. In a short bathroom session, you can flip to the Aristotle chapter and read the section on “substance and form.” Maybe not the kind of academy of thought Plato had in mind, but an effective way to learn a little more about philosophy every day.
Bonus: While I don’t own this one, the Uncle John’s series is a classic in the genre that might also be worth checking out. For 35 years, the Bathroom Readers’ Institute has been publishing story- and factoid-filled books specifically designed to be toilet reads.