Ellen Silverman
Ellen Silverman

Bathroom reading is a specialized and very personal genre of literature. I imagine everyone has his/her idea of what passes muster for bathroom reading, what its essential qualities must be. Of the books that have had a place on my makeshift bathroom shelf (a pipe) for some time  – as opposed to magazines or newspapers that come and go- I look for books that I can open anywhere and find something entertaining, illuminating or educational. Proper beginnings and endings don’t matter. A folding aluminum camp stool (yikes!) I bought at the flea market serves as a book stand.

As a way of finding interesting new things to read and share in the unique sensibilities of ‘the improvised life’s readers, I invite you to join in our first reader’s survey. Please take a few minutes to list your favorite bathroom reads in the Comments.

I’ll start with my current line-up (and an excerpt I came across today):
Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art
Chronicles: Volume One
Zen Art for Meditation
The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems: 1937-1952
The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2010
T’ai Chi Ch’uan for Health and Self-Defense: Philosophy and Practice (my boyfriend’s; it’s been there for YEARS)
NY Atlas (I think this is out-of-print; the subway info is out-of-date but the maps are GREAT)

“I can’t say when it occurred to me to write my own songs. I couldn’t have come up with anything comparable or halfway close to the folk song lyrics I was singing to define the way I felt about the world. I guess it happens to you by degrees. You just don’t wake up one day and decide that you need to write songs, especially if you’re a singer who has plenty of them and you’re learning more every day. Opportunities may come along for you to convert something — something that exists into something that didn’t yet. That might be the beginning of it…”
–Bob Dylan Chronicles, Volume One

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9 replies on “reader survey: what are your favorite bathroom reads?

  1. I usually read copies of Tricycle Magazine — articles in there that are meant to be picked up and read, sometimes over and over. I also like anthologies — particularly short stories. I’ve been rereading Lorrie Moore in the bathroom. Finally, a good thick book of poetry. I have Donald Hall’s Collected and I love to just read here and there…

  2. All bathrooms in my two houses have a copy of The New Yorker open at all times. I can pick it up and go to the precise sentence where I left off, a strange skill I marvel at but haven’t found any other practical use for!

  3. The 33 1/3 Classic Album Critique Series. I’m currently reading about the making of Songs In the Key of Life. The books themselves are nice and small and fit on my shelf.

    I also read Pema Chodron in the can.

  4. Catalogues, esp. the ones with “musical toilet paper carousel caddy” type items, IKEA catalogue, Grand & Benedict store display fixtures, thrift store finds esp. how-to’s and “…for Dummies” series on topics I wish I’d learned back in the 60s (algebra, statistics, economics, investing). For storage, just found a Goodwill bookshelf thing to sit on the terlet ledge.

  5. Geez, everyone is so literate. Not here. We have The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes (Invariably, people come out telling a one-liner like Henny Youngman) and The Food Lover’s Companion.

  6. I’m with Susan – I love reading catalogs on the throne – also, which may gross some of y’all out, I also read cookbooks. Our son, 21, and about to graduate from one of “them Ivy League” schools, keeps atlases. I kept a Celtic daily meditation book there for years, but I had finally memorized the thing, so I lightened up the throne room reading.

  7. Thanks, skabook, for cookbook revelation. I do too. And atlases… Could there be a compilation effect?

  8. For the first “visit” of the day: Chinese philosophy.

    For subsequent deposits into the Bank of Porcelain: detective stories, spy novels, The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the day’s mail….

  9. Blue Mountain: a spiritual anthology celebrating the earth and Alice Walker’s Chicken Chronicles.

    Blue Mountain is an endless source of inspiration featuring poetry, quotes, short essays by writers famous (Mary Oliver, Barbara Kingsolver, Marge Piercy and, get ready, Woody Allen) and unknowns, at least to me.

    Alice Walker’s Chicken Chronicles offers short essays about life with her chickens. Much more interesting than it sounds.

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