“The best way to read Moby Dick,” my college professor said, “is in the bathroom.” He was not suggesting, as I strongly felt, that the process of reading Moby Dick was so painful that it might cause one to curl up in the fetal position in an empty bathtub. He simply argued that a long book with many short chapters was easier to digest in small bites.
Moby Dick never did it for me—in the bathroom or elsewhere— but I have always been a toilet reader. It doesn’t matter how long I plan on being in the bathroom, I’m bringing a book regardless. Often, I’m so engrossed in a book that I forget my whereabouts and finish a book only to realize I’ve been sitting on the porcelain throne for much longer than necessary.
Still, not every book is ideal for bathroom reading. If you’re going to keep books in the loo with you, you’ll want to look for books with short chapters, a lighthearted tone, and perhaps a nugget of information. A few examples:
The primary purpose of books in the bathroom is to be entertained while you do…less entertaining things. Brosh’s illustrations are a hilariously accurate depiction of depression and the trials of adulthood but they are also just flat-out funny. Whether she’s talking about the dynamic between her two dogs, “helper dog” and “simple dog,” or her need to consume cake at all costs, this book will make you laugh so hard you’ll be glad you’re seated appropriately.
The Experts’ Guide to 100 Things Every Person Should Know How to Do by Samantha Ettus
This book has been on the back of my toilet for years. As I have moved from place to place, I’ve picked it up from the top of my toilet tank, packed it up, and replaced it on the back of my new abode’s toilet. Filled with 100 short instructional essays written by experts in their fields, you might find yourself reading an essay like “How to Tell a Story” by Ira Glass, “How to Remove a Stain” by Linda Cobb, and (possibly related to the previous essay) “How To House Train a Puppy” by Andrea Arden. Published in 2004, a few of the experts might seem a little outdated or just retrospectively hilarious (for example, one of Donald Trump’s pieces of advice in the “How to Negotiate” essay is “Remain Optimistic at all Times”), but even that adds to the book’s charm.
Meaty by Samantha Irby
Few people understand the value of a good bathroom book more than Samantha Irby. As a person living with Crohn’s Disease, she spends a lot of time there. As a fellow haver-of-a-colon disorder, I appreciate her frank talk about bodily ailments. Even if poop talk isn’t your jam, Meaty offers plenty of other short, funny, smart essays about life, love, and the struggles of adulthood. You may not think falling in love while sitting on the toilet is possible, but if that’s where you read Meaty, you’ll be proven wrong. It’s impossible to read Samantha Irby without falling head over…squatty potty?
In Texts From Jane Eyre, Mallory Ortberg attempts to answer the age-old philosophical question: if famous literary characters could send text messages, what would they say? What began as a feature on The Toast (RIP) spawned into a delightful collection featuring SMS missives from Scarlett O’Hara, Daisy Buchanan, and a few members of the Baby-Sitters Club (YES, I SAID FAMOUS LITERARY CHARACTERS AND I MEANT IT). Each interaction is only a few pages long but 100% smart, fun, and mildly addicting. If your party guest disappears into the bathroom for a long period of time and you hear squeals of laughter from behind the locked door, don’t jump to illicit conclusions. It may simply be that your pal has lost track of time thanks to Ortberg’s imagination.
What’s Your Poo Telling You by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth
I know, it’s not for everyone. But isn’t the bathroom the only appropriate location for this book? If you’re not easily grossed-out or you’re medically/scientifically minded, plop this one on the back of the tank and enjoy.