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A salute you can enjoy sitting down

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Salutes the Armed Forces
Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Salutes the Armed Forces
By the Bathroom Reader's Institute

Portable Press: 2009

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This review first appeared in Turbula in July 2009.

Starting off with the first volume in 1988 as a kind of take-off on the old "Ripley's Believe it or Not!" panels in the comic-strips, the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series are perfect for reading on the commode: Short little articles on weird news, bits of trivia or oddities of nature.

And in a way, no topic lends itself so well to this format as military history and culture. The new Uncle John's Bathroom Reader is devoted to the armed forces, and offers up hours of quicks reads on all the branches of the U.S. military, plus some items on foreign forces as well.

Every major American war gets its due as well, from the French & Indian Wars up through the second invasion of Iraq. Still, certain wars get more attention than others: The Civil War and World War II seem to get the most – but both saw far more Americans serve in uniform than any of our other conflicts.

And where previous editions have focused on the weird or funny, this one takes a traditional view of military history: It focuses on heroism, leadership and sacrifice. A short biography of WWII reporter Ernie Pyle is stirring, as is the tale of the only Coast Guardsman to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. And those two stories are pretty representative of what's in this thick (490 pages) book.

As with all the Bathroom Readers, the writing here is informal yet crisp – it's an easy, quick read. There's not much in the way of citations to supporting documents, but no obvious glaring errors turned up, either.

Not something you'd turn to as a reference or a serious history, but for reading in the can it's darn near perfect.