Book to unchain poo from the closet

By Rodney Chester

IT'S something everyone has in common but as a topic of conversation it's rarely resorted to as a way to break the ice.

And for good reason. If you start off with your stool, the topic is generally seen to be as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit.

But poo is set to come out of the (water) closet with a book about the intricacies of human waste that has already taken America by storm.

What's Your Poo Telling You? is one part medical and one part humorous -- although there's a strong case to be had that it is also one part weird.

Penned by former college mates Josh Richman and Dr Anish Sheth, a gastroenterology fellow at Yale, the book has gone from a gimmick sold in outdoor stores to something of a publishing phenomenon. From an original print run of 20,000 copies a year ago, it's sold more than 225,000 copies and -- and this is a cultural milestone -- made it as a discussion topic on Oprah.

The book doesn't contain photographs of the model poos in question because, let's face it, that would be gross. Instead, there are illustrations of the types of poos that are detailed under such chapter headings as Ring of Fire, Postpartum poo and The Clean Sweep.

The book has also been released in England, but with the quaint title change for the local audience of The Book of Poo: A Spotter's Guide. It's just like trainspotting, except that instead of looking for a no-stations express or whatever it is that weirdos who spot trains try to spot, poo weirdos (who are in an altogether different group) go looking for iconic poos that the authors label Monster poo, Braille poo and the Hanging Chad.

Americans are being encouraged not just to look before they flush but also to share with a friend, if not the physical object at least a description of the product. I poo, you poo, let's all poo together.

There's not just a book, there's also a website (, where you can anonymously post questions that you've always been dying to ask.

The book offers practical advice, from the topic of how many times a day is it "normal" to poo to the habit of the "pre-game poo" which apparently is practised by elite sports stars as a way of preparing for a big game.

And while there is clearly a giggle factor, there are also answers to what your poo says about you. And apparently, it can say quite a lot.

On a trip to Vienna, the book reveals that Secret Service agents ensured President George W. Bush's poo didn't end up in the wrong hands (although it's hard to know whose hands would be the right ones) with concern that analysis of the presidential dump would reveal details about the state of his union.

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