May 12, 2004

The Speculist Bathroom

Whenever you… sit down to read, you don't always have hours of time to spend. Sometimes you might have just a few minutes. The market for such reading material began to be directly exploited a few years back with the publication of The Great American Bathroom Book, Volume 1: Single-Sitting Summaries of All Time Great Books.

There is a rumor that the book was originally published under a different title like "Classic Abstracts." After selling about three copies, the writer had the brilliant idea of the new title. Not only did the author make a bundle on the retitled book, but a series of books was born.

Being, er, a regular reader, I haven't had a chance to peruse the entire series. I own "Volume 1" and I can recommend it as a fun educational supplement. After reading the book you'll know the basic outline of many, many classics - a quantity of stories that you would most likely never have time to consume otherwise.

Knowing the classics is great, but your typical Speculist also has a taste for practical nonfiction. Stories where the water meets the wheel. In fact, we want to know who invented the water wheel and why, how it worked, how it was later improved, and what effect it had on society.

This is just the sort of information you'll find in another series of bathroom-worthy books by Charles Panati:

Panati's "origins" series has actually grown to include about ten books. The three books listed are those I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed all three.

Sometimes history is not just about battles that were won and lost, sometimes it's just as informative to know the history of alcoholic beverages. And I'm a sucker for "useless" trivia like the fact that cough drops were invented in Egypt in 1000 B.C., or that there was a real "Uncle Sam" and a real "Johnny Appleseed" and that they were boyhood friends.

If you're a fan of Daniel J. Boorstin's The Discoverers and The Creators, you'll probably enjoy these less academic books. Boorstin's books require hours of time to fully appreciate, but you can enjoy one of Panati's light anecdotes before your feet go numb.

Posted by Stephen Gordon at 08:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack