While there are numerous physical and psychological certainties and generalisations that set men and women apart, few result in such divided opinions and heated arguments as the business of reading on the toilet. While certain men and women may break the mould, lavatorial reading sits firmly in the realm of 'one of those things men do'. While most men think nothing of it, many women question the wasted time, the anti-social nature of the act and the general issues of hygiene.
While men may enjoy the experience of a moment's peace and quiet reading in the loo, the activity may cause certain health issues worthy of note. Studies cite toilet reading as a possible cause of relative venous return problems in the perianal area, resulting in enlarged hæmorrhoids. Basically, venous return refers to the system by which blood flows back to the heart and muscular activity promotes the whole process. While a focused process of stool extrusion involves several definite muscular contractions, the relaxed process experienced by the distracted reader leads to less efficient blood flow management in the area about the anus. Basically, beware! As well as 'relative venous return problems in the perianal area', prolonged sessions on the lavatory may cause cramps, pins and needles or leave a permanent indentation around your buttocks.
Readers should consider a few things to ensure optimal comfort while in the lavatory:
Lighting — Comfortable reading requires good lighting, something that may not always exist in the average toilet. If insufficient natural lighting exists, consider installing a bulb with a softer, soothing glow — ideally something environmentally-friendly and power saving, due to the increased usage.
Temperature and Air Flow — While temperature doesn't really matter on short visits, prolonged sojourns to the lavatory demand better control of temperature and air movement. Reading becomes impractical to concentrate on if the room gets too stuffy or too cold, and allowances need to be made for seasonal variations.
Toilet Seat — Given the very real possibility of encouraging and aggravating haemorrhoids by reading, you don't want to further threaten health deterioration by sitting on a hard, unforgiving and uncomfortable seat. You wouldn't buy a sofa after trying only one, so give the same consideration and thoughtful process of selection to your toilet seat.
Storage — While you can probably create a small pile of magazines and books or lean a selection against a wall, over time you will appreciate the benefits of extra storage. Hardware stores and large supermarkets generally stock a fine range of corner shelves and cabinet units ideal for screwing into the back corners of the toilet1, allowing you to store books and magazines neatly and off the floor. Get a couple of nice bookends and maybe a few hardy magazine boxes to help keep your library organised and contained.
Bookmarks and Page-holders — You should scatter a few bookmarks, trading cards, promotional inserts and similar convenient markers around your toilet to ensure you don't forget where you left off reading. Additionally, you might consider one of the commercially available page-holders (or just a house peg!) to keep pages together and assist in ensuring toilet reading can be a one-hand operation without too much hassle.
Toilet Roll — Given the promise of a moment of quiet and indulgence in a good book, don't forget to check the toilet roll dispenser before you sit down. Having spent half an hour relaxing, you don't want to instantly spike your stress levels by discovering you have nothing at hand (bar your precious reading material) to 'finish the job'.
Building Your Library
The collection that builds in your toilet should fall somewhere between the piles on your coffee table, those next to your bed and that one in the doctor's waiting room. The lavatorial library ideally exhibits a broad range of subject matter, generally in an easily digestible format suitable for brief nuggets of free time.
You should try to retain some freshness and interest in your collection by completing an occasional clean-out. You can whittle the books and magazines present down to a bare minimum of essential volumes and then once again add new material in an ad hoc manner. Anything you clean out can either go into the mainstream collections within your house or off to the recycle2.
Anthologies and Collections
Books consisting of small, self-contained chunks provide ideal reading — making collections of poems, short stories, summaries and pithy observations the perfect for toilet reading. Consider including a combinations of classics and modern writers to taste. Many publishers generate annual anthologies in various genres — fantasy, science-fiction, crime, horror and so forth — that offer short works by dozens of well-known and new poets and writers.
Scatter specialist magazines on your favourite hobbies into the mix. Hobby magazine articles, guides and letter pages offer entertainment and education without demanding too much of your precious time and attention. If in doubt, buy magazines on new science/technology, current movie releases, cars and gardening/wildlife — these cover a fair number of bases for both sexes.
Choosing a few women's magazines provides a plethora of short, informative and probably dubious articles and insights, likely to bring a smile to your face without offending anyone. While you could fit lads' mags3 into this category, the content generally falls into areas of questionable taste with the potential to offend visitors to your library. Of course, you could always tuck the magazines somewhere at the back of the collection to avoid undue attention4.
Almanacs and Lists
Increasingly popular in books, magazines and on TV, lists and collections of quite interesting information make for perfect dipping material. The very nature of these books mean you won't actually ever need a bookmark to hand, because you can start almost anywhere and still find something you haven't read yet.
Humour and Biography
A variant on the short story anthology, volumes of humour and auto-/biographies tend to mean cover-to-cover anecdotes suitable for a quick read. Due to your location, you may want to warn people who share the property with you that you intend to read something funny to stop intrusive queries or concerned calls for the emergency services should you let out a scream of laughter or hearty guffaw.
How to Survive...
Short, pithy guides and manuals, covering topics from proper management techniques to weathering a zombie armageddon make good reading while also educating and informing — a win-win situation in the lavatory library stakes.
Possibly less practical and not really reading, puzzles like crosswords and sudoku make for a short distraction that you can easily complete in the time you have. As both crosswords and sudoku require more thinking than writing, you can just about handle the occasional use of a pen and a steady knee.
Some Thoughts on Hygiene
Out of Harm's Way
While you almost certainly aim straight and true every time, you cannot assume the same for visitors or when you're sleepy/under the influence. To avoid the chance of stray urine soaking your magazines and books, try to keep them out of harm's way by not placing them in the area directly behind the toilet. Better yet, get those extra shelves fitted!
Given all the paper materials now sitting around your toilet, you should take a moment to maintain good hygiene by closing the lid before you flush. Tests have shown that flushing without a lid sends up a cloud of spray, invisible to the naked eye, a considerable distance away from the toilet (easily filling the volume of an average lavatory). The spray has the potential to contain a variety of viruses and bacteria, which will happily seek to eke out a wretched existence on the covers and pages of your books. Closing the lid before flushing should mitigate the prospects of contamination.