From: (SubGenius)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books
Subject: Nonfiction Monographs for Bathroom Reading
Date: 16 Mar 1995 01:02:57 MET
Organization: Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
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Message-ID: <3k7v7h$>
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Although at one point (or rather at several of them) I worked my way through _Swann's Way_ as a read-in-the-loo book, it occurs to me that the bulk of the librettage that has occupied a priviledged spot on the little table I keep near the porcelain stump in the w.c. has been nonfiction.

It is perhaps a function of most fiction to have a narrative structure that cannot be broken into convieniently exogenetically scatological segments. Or perhaps it is merely a function of the sort of fiction that one is apt to find in the stacks, or indeed piles, of the SubG li'bary.

On the other hand, many `popular' mathematics and science volumes can be thumbed through, generally have illustrations or graphs to behold and ponder in the serene environs most jakes afford, u.s.w. A few that leap to mind (in no particular order):

Mandelbrot's _The Fractal Geometry of Nature_
A fairly mainstream approach to fractals. The main attraction for the bathroom reader, and in fact of the book in general, seems to be the illustrations, but there is plenty of readable text as well.
John Allen Paulos' _Innumeracy_ and _Beyond Numeracy_
_Innumeracy_ is composed of sections short enough to lend themselves to bathroom-length reading sessions, although the text is not divided into section numbers or any such divisions as one finds in most mathematic texts. Constipated mathematicians (my third grade education tells me) and interested readers should take a pencil with them, to work things out; Paulos often suggest readers attempt to solve problems themselves before the author explains them. _Beyond Numeracy_ is divided into longish bathroom-stay long chapters, alphebetically listed, about everything from game theory (a literary theory, of course, based on Stoppard's _Von Neumann And Morgenstern Are Dead_) to Four-Colour Theorem.
Martin Gardner's collections of essays
A complete mixed bag of subjects. Generally more or less void of substantitive content, but usually containing pointers to more comprehensive discussions of the subjects raised. And lots of pretty pictures.
Donald (`The Big Man') Knuth's _The TeXbook_
You can never know too much TeX, and Knuth's book is readable, literate and generally engaging throughout. A fine example of how textbooks should be written. So to speak. Although I daresay one cannot master TeX by bathroom reading, the _TeXbook_ is nevertheless a viable bathroom read if for no other reason than the quotes at the close of every chapter (I mean, where else are you likely to find a quote from P.D.Q. Bach's biography?).
(IMHO, TeX is the best argument ever made that amateurs shouldn't design programming languages, and the TeXbook is unbelievably dense and full of irritating details that no TeX user should ever care about, but that's frustration speaking. -mfx)
It technical tracts aren't your thing (`What?'), there is of course a wealth of other nonfiction suitable to the task at hand. To whit:
Joe Bob Briggs
Virtually anything. I think my personal favourite would probably be _Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In_, but mileage will of course vary.
Bill Mauldin
Almost any of his books. _Up Front_ is of course the best known, but all his work seems to be work a look. Although the commentary and biographical information takes much longer to read than is probably convienient for most bathroom readers, there are of course the cartoons.
Harlan Ellison's essays
Although his fiction is almost (but not quite) as superlative as his fans will tell you, I am by and large more taken with his talents as an essayist. _The Glass Teat_ and _The Other Glass Teat_ are short, to the point and incisive; something I'd put on a `recommended reading list' for anyone intending to post widely on any semiliterate or better newsgroup.
(I wholeheartedly agree; IMHO Ellison's short stories are often unreadable, but the two glass teats are fine reading material. Even better if you know what he is talking about. -mfx)
G. Cabrera Infante's essays
_Holy Smoke_ is a history of the tobacco, and has perhaps more puns per inch than any book since _Finnegans Wake_. A copy of _A Twentieth Century Job_ recently made its way into my greedy grasp---as a collection of essays on film, or of film, or about film, it looks to be emminently bathroom readworthy.
Anthony Burgess _Homage To Qwert Yuiop_
A collection of the bulk of Little Wilson's journalistic output up to some year whose number eludes me for the moment. The essays are about all manner of topics, always literate although not always literary. Some are a tad long for bathroom reading, but of course one much have something to read after business is done.
There is of course more, but you'll have to excuse me for a moment.
This page was last changed on Mar 22 1995, 19:45 by Comments and corrections welcome.