- Stone, Irving — The Agony and the Ecstasy (439 of 763 pages)
- Morpurgo, Michael — The Mozart Question (68 pages)
- Unsworth, Barry — Stone Virgin (312 pages)
- Phillips, Caryl — The Nature of Blood (212 pages)
- Howard, Robert E. — The Conan Chronicles, Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (549 pages)
- Lockwood, Richard & Steve Potz-Rayner — A Little Book of Lies (170 pages)
- Vickers, Hugh — Great Operatic Disasters (65 pages)
- Howard, Robert E. — The Conan Chronicles, Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (574 pages)
- Rennison, Nick — 100 Must-Read Classic Novels (164 pages)
- Augustine of Hippo (John K. Ryan, translator) — The Confessions of Saint Augustine (422 pages)
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott — The Great Gatsby (146 pages)
- Harrison, Fraser — Infinite West: Travels in South Dakota (188 pages)
- Banks, Iain M. — Consider Phlebas (466 pages)
- Banks, Iain M. — The Player of Games (307 pages)
- Carter, W. Hodding — Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization (239 pages)
- Mandela, Nelson — Long Walk to Freedom (750 pages)
- Banks, Iain M. — Use of Weapons (411 pages)
- Banks, Iain M. — The State of the Art (215 pages)
- Banks, Iain M. — Excession (450 pages)
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- Banks, Iain M. — Inversions (407 pages)
- Banks, Iain M. — Look to Windward (403 pages)
- Nouwen, Henri J. M. & Yushi Nomura — Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers (136 pages)
- Gaiman, Neil — The Sandman, Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (217 pages)
- Banks, Iain M. — Matter (600 pages)
- Banks, Iain M. — Surface Detail (627 pages)
- George, Rose — The Big Necessity (308 pages)
- Page count
The full title of The Big Necessity is The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste, which should tell you all you need to know about one of my recent obsessions. I have enjoyed reading about shit this past year.
At first flush, it might appear that Flushed and The Big Necessity cover the same subject matter. The first chapter of The Big Necessity, which deals with how plumbing works, seems to confirm that. However, Carter is interested in all aspects of plumbing, including but not limited to waste disposal, and Rose seems concerned only with how to deal with shit and its byproducts.
The attitude towards the subject is very different as well. Carter is like a kid with a new toy, eager to learn how it works, tinker with it, and joke about it. George, on a mission to demonstrate how human waste is one of the biggest crises facing the world today and highlight some of the efforts worldwide to deal with the problem, takes a more serious tone. As a result, Flushed was the more enjoyable read, but The Big Necessity is perhaps the more important book. (That said, George could have benefited from better editing: her writing sometimes suffers from lack of clarity, and the Notes to the text were not easy to follow.)
The Big Necessity is worth reading if only to discover some of the creative ways people are finding to deal with the problem of human waste all over the world and some of the ongoing efforts to increase awareness and promote change.
This book has changed one habit of mine. I now lower the lid on the toilet every time I flush. Why? When a toilet is flushed, it shoots a column of aerosolized water (and other bowl contents, including urine and faecal matter) several feet into the air. (I've found other corroborating sources.) I've decided I don't want to breathe my own shit or piss, so I lower the lid. If only everyone in the world were able to avoid ingesting their own excrement so easily.