This widespread reaction, I'll admit, kind of baffled me. I can see why you might think it's gross for people to pick up and handle books after using the toilet (and before washing their hands), but why is it gross for them to do so while using the toilet? Their hands are, at this point, no dirtier than they were before they went into the bathroom, and presumably you don't hide all your books before every party to make sure that no one touches them with hands that haven't been freshly washed. (I mean, unless you're truly disturbed and in need of psychiatric help.)
Speaking for myself, I like to keep reading material of some sort in every room of the house, and the bathroom is no exception. Of course, I always try to make sure that the material I keep in there is particularly suitable for the, ahem, function of the room, so I try to select books or magazines that are broken up into nice, small nuggets that can easily be consumed in a short visit. My upstairs bathroom has a small basket on top of the toilet tank, containing:
- Living on Less, a collection of pieces from Mother Earth News magazine about "affordable food, fuel, and shelter"—an appropriate assortment for our ecofrugal household;
- Ex Libris, a collection of whimsical essays about books by Anne Fadiman;
- Idiots, Hypocrites, Demagogues, and More Idiots: Not-So-Great Moments in American Politics a collection of amusing gaffes of various sorts from American public figures; and
- Humorous Cryptograms, an assortment of puzzles that I keep in there mainly for my own use, since they're just about long enough for me to solve during a single potty break.
- 6 months' worth of Atlantic magazines that I got from a freebie subscription (why keep them on the coffee table when the bathroom is so much more suitable for reading while visiting a friend?);
- a collection of New Yorker cartoon puzzles (the puzzles have all been solved already, so now it's really just a collection of New Yorker cartoons with writing in it);
- The Utne Reader Alamanac, an assortment of "123 Ideas, Innovations & Insights" on topics such as daily life, work, relationships, the media, and spirituality;
- The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, a collection of advice on how to survive situations you're extremely unlikely ever to find yourself in, from alligator attacks to leaping from a moving car; and
- The Best of Bad Hemingway, a set of winners and runner-ups from the annual Bad Hemingway contest, which challenges writers to come up with "a really good page of really bad Hemingway."