Colman digests information from the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Information Bureau of Chicago, and a healthy variety of other sources, producing a juicy excursion into several gross but undeniably engrossing topics. Leading off with a line from J.C. Stobart, author of The Grandeur That Was Rome (1961), about there being ""no truer sign of civilization in culture than good sanitation,"" she shows how the tide of ""civilization"" has ebbed and flowed over the centuries, from the neatly capped, 4000-year-old drains of Mohenjo-Daro in present-day Pakistan to the streets of Leeds, which ""were floating with sewage"" in the 1830s. She dabbles not just in sewers, but bathtubs, bathtubs with drains (a significant refinement), bathing habits, toilets (destroying the beloved popular myth that the flushing toilet was invented by a man named Crapper), and the relationship between sanitation and disease in the Old World and the New, in times past and present -- with a bare glimpse of times to come. There's not much detail here, especially about the modern appliances we all know so well, but plenty of b&w photos enrich the mix. Colman (A Woman Unafraid, 1993, etc.) provides a short bibliography for those who want to dig deeper into the subject. Plenty of readers will want to sit down with this one.