The Bestselling Book About Poo

Posted on March 13, 2008

Blame it on Oprah. Or Dr. Mehmet Oz, the chatty cardiovascular surgeon who regularly appears on her show. But the hottest book these days is -- wait for it -- What's Your Poo Telling You. So what's the appeal of the book? That gazing into one's toilet will provide deep, inner secrets about your health. The squeamish should stop reading this post right now.

I am hardly alone in poring over "What's Your Poo Telling You?" Not only does poo have a lot to tell you, but lately scores of Americans seem anxious to listen. Last spring, Chronicle Books printed 20,000 copies of the little brown book, mostly to be sold as a novelty in Urban Outfitters. Today it has sold more than 225,000 in big-box bookstores nationwide. Apparently its success is proof that at long last poo has come out of the water closet.

Indeed, what the book's coauthors, Josh Richman and Anish Sheth, M.D., say was once regarded as "malodorous waste" can now be openly regarded for what it is: a miracle of creation, a crystal ball of intestinal health, a feng shui of the derriƩre. "Like a snowflake, each poo has a wondrous uniqueness," they write. They deconstruct specimens such as the "log jam," "a cruel reminder of your inability to perform," and "hanging chads," "stubborn pieces of turd that cling."

And for those who aspire to leave behind a shameful history of faulty stools? "The ideal poo is a pillowy soft, singular bolus of stool that exits the body with minimal effort," says Sheth. And that paragon of poo is achieved by consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber superstars: beans, peas, seeds and nuts.

We're fine with poo discussions -- it's hard to find any mother, father, elder caretaker or frequent babysitter of infants that is in the least bit fazed by the subject, due to desensitization after thousands of diaper changes. But where we draw the line is when perfect strangers discuss it at cocktail parties. Poo is a private matter, to be studied in the privacy of one's own bathroom. Or, if one prefers, not studied at all.