The Great American Bathroom Book

Bathroom Book

You wouldn’t do it, of course, but some people who want to make themselves look good lie about the books they’ve read.  They’re not bad people, they just don’t have time to read those big, intimidating books.  The Federalist has a list of the top ten books that people say they’ve read when they haven’t.

Some years ago, an entrepreneur named Lan England wanted to know what was inside the world’s greatest works of literature, but he simply didn’t have time to read them.  So with the help of a lot of well-read people, he came up with a delightful three volume set of books designed to fill that gaping hole in his knowledge base.

Each of the three volumes contains over one hundred condensed books and articles on such wide-ranging topics as biography, philosophy, health and fitness, poets and their poetry, self-help, and even the basics of such sports as baseball and basketball.  The best part is that almost every condensation is a mere two pages long.  Don’t have time to wade through Herman Melville’s Moby Dick?  No problem, it’s covered on pages 303 and 304 of Volume I.  Don’t have time to fight your way through Tolstoy’s 1200 page classic War and Peace?  Read the two page summary on pages 227 and 228 of Volume 2 instead.  Love Shakespeare, but find Elizabethan English daunting?  Try these quick summaries of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet written in modern English.

If you’re trying desperately to get ahead, but something just isn’t clicking, you may need to read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey or The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. Just for the fun of it you can explore sections on famous quotations, 500 vocabulary building words, and trivia about geography, history, art, architecture, literature and music. You’ll also find two page biographies of a number of great people including Churchill, Galileo, Einstein, Patton, Jackie Robinson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. There is literally something for everybody in each of these three delightful and entertaining volumes.

You would think that books that offered so much would “sell like hotcakes,” as they say.  Unfortunately, under the original title, Compact Classics, the books didn’t sell well at all.  When England’s friends told him where they were reading his books, he decided to rename the set, The Great American Bathroom Book with the subtitle, “Single-Sitting Summaries of All-Time Great Books.”  They say “you’ve gotta have a gimmick,” and that was England’s gimmick.  With the name change, sales went from mediocre to WOW!

The Great American Bathroom Book set has been out of print at times, but is available at present in various formats.

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