EW Staff
December 24, 1993 AT 05:00 AM EST

Let’s face it, your bathroom can often be a cold and lonely place. The minutes pass slowly, the mind wanders, and that old dog-eared L.L. Bean catalog just isn’t enough to keep you occupied. When publisher Lan C. England realized that many Americans were spending a lifetime of solitude on their toilets, he did something about it. He and editor Stevens W. Anderson remodeled their forgettably titled Compact Classics-featuring 2,000-word synopses of self-help books and literary classics-and redubbed it The Great American Bathroom Book (Compact Classics, $19.95). Some half a million copies and a sequel (The Great American Bathroom Book II) later, Anderson is flushed and bowled over by the books’ success: ”It’s our feeling that everyone wants to be well read. We’re helping them become privy to worlds they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.” Puns aside, Anderson (who reads only ”at bedtime, the library, or work”) insists that the tomes are reaching far beyond toilets: ”A lot of people tell us they read the books on the plane or while they’re waiting at their son’s football practice. Some parents read them aloud to their children at the dinner table.” The books’ appeal, says Anderson, lies in one simple, universal truth: ”Mark Twain said, ‘A classic is a book which people praise and don’t read.”’ Meanwhile, Anderson and England are expanding their book-condensing empire. Volume three will roll off the presses sometime next year. Anderson is also looking into a new Japanese paper product that would make the pages waterproof-currently only the cover is-ensuring anxiety-free reading in the bathtub. Sounds like a watershed in publishing history. -Erica Kornberg

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