Where would many of us be without the sanctity of our own private 24 hour reading room? People read in the bathroom for any number of reasons, including the guarantee of privacy, a considerable amount of downtime and the lack of external distractions. Unless the current occupant happened to have won a hot dog eating contest the previous day, however, it's unlikely he or she will be reading Tolstoy's "War and Peace" from cover to cover. It's more likely that the reading material of choice might be a newspaper, a general interest magazine or a comic book.
One reason some people read in the bathroom is because it is one of the few rooms in the home where privacy is routinely respected. A child may burst into a parent's bedroom unannounced, or a spouse may share time in a den or living room, but the bathroom is generally considered the home's Fortress of Solitude. It would not be unusual for a person to spend a substantial amount of time behind the bathroom's locked door, and doing a little lightweight reading while otherwise engaged shouldn't raise too many warning flags.
As we all know, there can be some considerable downtime during an average trip to the bathroom. Using the telephone seems contra-indicated given the circumstances, and watching television or a movie can come off as a bit too self-indulgent. This would appear to leave reading as the most viable time-killing option for long-term bathroom occupants. In fact, there are a number of publications appropriately called bathroom readers which specifically caters to that captive audience who tends to read while in the bathroom. Bathroom readers usually contain short articles of general interest, jokes, puzzles and other quick reads.
Some people have been known to read in the bathroom even without the usual gastrointestinal motivation. The bathroom provides an atmosphere free of external distractions such as blaring televisions, loud stereos, rambunctious children and ringing telephones. Some people may prefer to read in the bathroom rather than disturb their spouses with a bedroom reading lamp late at night. In fact, it is not unusual to find filled magazine and book racks in many people's bathrooms.
In a classic episode of the sitcom Seinfeld, a bookstore refuses to give George Costanza (Jason Alexander) a refund because their sensors indicated the book had been in a bathroom before its return to the store. In the movie The Big Chill, one character, a freelance journalist, complains that his contributions to a mainstream pop culture magazine were only supposed to last as long as an average trip to the bathroom. Many people have proven his theory correct time and time again since then.