Uncle John's Bathroom Reader

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"Uncle John" redirects here. For the computer scientist, see John McCarthy (computer scientist).

Uncle John's Bathroom Readers are a series of books containing trivia and short essays on miscellaneous topics, ostensibly for reading in the bathroom.[1] The books are credited to the Bathroom Readers' Institute, though Uncle John is a real person, and are published by Portable Press, an imprint of Baker & Taylor. The introductions in the books, as well as brief notes in some articles, provide small pieces of information about Uncle John. The first book was published in 1988, and in 2012, the series reached its 25th release, The Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.

Volumes dedicated to a single topic have been released, under the title Uncle John Plunges Into..., for example: history, presidents, and the universe. There are also books on individual U.S. states, the weather, numbers, quotes, the year 2000, a special book for mothers, cat lovers, dog lovers, horse lovers, love, Uncle John's Book of the Dumb, and several Bathroom Readers for Kids Only!. Though most of the books were written by the Bathroom Readers' Institute, some of the ones that are based around a specific subject are written by a lone author, who is not in the Institute. Additionally, the Institute will often publish articles and other contributions sent in from readers. Recurring articles such as "Flubbed Headlines", "Oops", and "Classifieds" often depend on these contributions. As of late, the institute publishes three books a year; a "classic" reader, and two "plunges into" editions, one for a location such as a U.S. state, and another of a specific topic.

Their volumes contain information on subjects such as quotes, dumb criminals, palindromes, anagrams, urban legends and hoaxes, failed inventions, the history of everyday things, and accidental discoveries, as well as articles on pop culture and 'celebrities' such as Emperor Norton (see Features). Throughout the books, there are what the BRI calls "running feet" - short fun facts on the bottom of each page. A typical example is "An object on Jupiter would weigh 144,000 times more than it would on Pluto." Some books have one running foot that simply says "Hi, mom.", being the dedication.

Uncle John's also publishes Page-a-Day calendars with Workman Publishing Company.

The series has sold 15 million copies.


Among the regular articles in the books are:

  • Origins of Words and Phrases- the "Familiar Phrases" feature, though having changed names several times throughout the series, has been featured in some form in 16 of the "Classic" books. It is often seen many times in each book, usually three or four times. The "Word Origins" has also had its name changed over the years, and has been seen in every book of the series since its introduction in Uncle John's Second Bathroom Reader
  • Rumors and Urban Legends The "Rumors" article was first seen in the very first book, but has been replaced, starting with the 10th Anniversary Reader with the similar, and very popular "Urban Legends" section.
  • Famous for 15 Minutes- Also originating in the series' first book, "Famous for 15 Minutes" is based on Andy Warhol's famous quote that everybody will someday be famous for a short period. The feature describes the stories of those who fit this description, often in a style reminiscent of the Darwin Awards (i.e., those mentioned often act in a very unbecoming fashion). Also very popular, it has been seen in 15 Bathroom Readers.
  • Strange Lawsuits: Bizarre, actual lawsuits. For example, a woman sues Bill Clinton because aliens have told her that he will enslave all black women.
  • Oops! First seen in Uncle John's Sixth Bathroom Reader, "Oops!" is a set of newspaper article excerpts describing humorous mistakes in the previous year.
  • Q&A: Ask the Experts: Considerably more popular in the Kids Bathroom Reader series, "Ask the Experts" answers questions (e.g. "Do fish drown?"). It was first seen in the 6th Bathroom Reader.
  • Court Transquips Originally called "Order in the Court," the feature was introduced in the 5th Bathroom Reader, and pokes fun at things said in court cases (such as 'Were you alone or by yourself?' and 'Was that the same nose you broke as a child?'
  • They Went That-a-Way Accounts of unusual deaths, typically of celebrities—for example, the ironic passing of Redd Foxx. This first appears in the 2nd bathroom reader under epitaphs.
  • Uncle John's Stall of Fame- Accounts of bathrooms and toilets being used in a positive way.
  • Uncle John's Stall of Shame -- Accounts of bathrooms and toilets being used in a negative way.



The Bathroom Readers' Institute began in 1988, with the publishing of the original Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, by St. Martin's Press Publishers. After the book's success, Uncle John's 2nd Bathroom Reader was published in 1989, with a third and a fourth book being added to the series in the subsequent years. These earlier books are distinct from the rest not only due to their short length, but because of the writing style: Short articles starting with a brief history of the subject, followed by several tidbits on the subject.


After the initial four, successful books, the BRI decided that it would publish its own books, and Uncle John's 5th Bathroom Reader was released in October 1992. It sold well.[clarification needed] Preoccupied with the writing of book 6, no more print runs were made. The same thing happened with 1993's 6th Bathroom Reader, and 1994's 7th Bathroom Reader. (The books later became available in omnibus format when Uncle John's Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader was printed.) In 1995, the millionth copy of the series was sold, and in commemoration, The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, the eighth in the series, was printed. Books 5–8 are noted because they are the first to contain in-depth articles.


In 1996, the BRI got what was later described in the "Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader" as "A New Attitude:" The ninth book in the series was much larger. The group had begun to change their writing style and so books 9–14, published from 1996 to 2002, contain long articles that are spread out throughout the book, and use a more encyclopedic writing style.


In 2003, a spin-off series was introduced, and the books were selling better than ever.[clarification needed] For the first 15 years, "Bathroom Readers" referred to just one series. Now, there were several competitors (none quite as successful) and quite a few series within the BRI. Books 15–18 began to move away from the format seen in previous books, using two- and three-part articles, and often not using features that had been popular from the beginning. In 2012, Uncle John's Bathroom Reader celebrated its 25th anniversary with the publication of "Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader".

List of Uncle John's Books[edit]

Uncle John's Classic Editions
Edition Title Year Notes
1 Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader 1988
2 Uncle John’s Second Bathroom Reader 1989
3 Uncle John’s Third Bathroom Reader 1990
4 Uncle John’s Fourth Bathroom Reader 1991
5 Uncle John’s Fifth Bathroom Reader 1992
6 Uncle John’s Sixth Bathroom Reader 1993
7 Uncle John’s Seventh Bathroom Reader 1994
8 The Best Of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader 1995
9 Uncle John’s Ultimate Bathroom Reader 1996
10 Uncle John’s Giant 10th Anniversary Bathroom Reader 1997
11 Uncle John’s Great Big Bathroom Reader 1998
12 Uncle John’s Absolutely Absorbing Bathroom Reader 1999
13 Uncle John’s All-Purpose Extra-Strength Bathroom Reader 2000
14 Uncle John’s Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader 2001
15 Uncle John’s Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader 2002
16 Uncle John’s Unstoppable Bathroom Reader 2003
17 Uncle John’s Slightly Irregular Bathroom Reader 2004
18 Uncle John’s Fast-Acting Long-Lasting Bathroom Reader 2005
19 Uncle John’s Curiously Compelling Bathroom Reader 2006
20 Uncle John’s Triumphant 20th Anniversary Bathroom Reader 2007
21 Uncle John’s Unsinkable Bathroom Reader 2008
22 Uncle John’s Endlessly Engrossing Bathroom Reader 2009
23 Uncle John's Heavy Duty Bathroom Reader 2010
24 Uncle John's 24-Karat Gold Bathroom Reader 2011
25 Uncle John's Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader 2012
26 Uncle John's Perpetually Pleasing Bathroom Reader 2013
27 Uncle John's Canoramic Bathroom Reader 2014

List of Omnibuses[edit]

Uncle John's Omnibus Editions
Edition Title Year Notes
1 The Best of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader 1995
2 Uncle John's 4-Ply Bathroom Reader 2008 Uncle John's First Bathroom Reader,
Uncle John's Second Bathroom Reader,
Uncle John's Third Bathroom Reader,
Uncle John's Fourth Bathroom Reader
3 Uncle John’s Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader 1999 Uncle John’s Fifth Bathroom Reader,
Uncle John’s Sixth Bathroom Reader,
Uncle John’s Seventh Bathroom Reader
4 Uncle John’s Biggest Ever Bathroom Reader 2002 Uncle John’s Ultimate Bathroom Reader,
Uncle John’s Great Big Bathroom Reader
5 Uncle John’s Gigantic Bathroom Reader 2006 Uncle John’s Giant 10th Anniversary Bathroom Reader,
Uncle John’s Absolutely Absorbing Bathroom Reader
6 Uncle John’s Monumental Bathroom Reader 2007 Uncle John’s Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader,
Uncle John’s All-Purpose Extra-Strength Bathroom Reader
7 The Best Of The Best Of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader 2008


External links[edit]