The movement continues…

After 36 editions, Uncle John's is still a buttload of work

Published September 13, 2023

For the better part of four decades, no big trivia dump has been as regular as Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.

(That’s right, the first one dropped in 1988 – but they couldn’t truly be described as “annual” until ‘89, when they released #2. Which presumably made an even bigger splash.)

(Okay, I think I’ve got that all – ahem – out of my system.)

In August, Portable Press released the 36th edition of its flagship random-fact almanac, this one titled Uncle John’s Weird, Wonderful World Bathroom Reader ($19.99), the latest entry in a series that is older than Taylor Swift, the Slovak Republic, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup. For Brian Boone, who says he wrote about half of the tome’s 400-plus pages, it was just another calendar-marking waypoint at a job where he’s compiled facts by any means necessary, nearly every day since 2004.

“We’ve always been a little bit internet, a little bit analog,” Boone says. “I have a lot of books in my house, and we have a staff library. Specialized topics, you’re not going to find by Googling. You gotta dig deep to find this stuff, and I’m proud of that.”

The result of all the work is a book jam-packed with ephemera, where synopses of weird old radio shows (The Bickersons, Baby Rose Marie) live right next to a list of ridiculous race-horse names (Passing Wind, Nope), all over a footer that insists: “Worldwide, more people die each year after donkey attacks than they do in plane crashes.”

Naturally, there are no citations anywhere: Who’s going to deeply question facts that are organized according to how long of a toilet session you’re planning? They all pass the smell test, and that’s good enough for Uncle John’s readers – who seem to have an uncanny gift for using the book as intended, Boone says.

“So many people have said that they magically finished the book exactly when the new one came out,” he says. “These are specifically and carefully engineered to last exactly as long as they need to.”

See? Regular.

What is Boone’s favorite fact in Weird, Wonderful World? Naturally, we asked. It’s on page 267, and it busts the pirate myth that “Pirates talked like, well, pirates”:

Pirates hailed from all over the world, so they spoke in a variety of languages and dialects. The “pirate voice” with which we’re all familiar dates back about 70 years. Actor Robert Newton starred in a bunch of popular pirate movies in the 1950s, including Treasure Island, Long John Silver, and Blackbeard the Pirate. He spoke in a West Country English dialect, made more grizzled with folksy turns of phrase that he and filmmakers invented, such as “scurvy dog” and “argh,” and replacing “is” and “are” with “be.”

One thought on “The movement continues…

  1. Anonymous says:

    Actually I usually finish one three months before the next one comes out, during which three months I depend on portablepress blog posts

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