The Humanure Handbook was something of an accidental literary phenomenon. Joe Jenkins began writing the book as a master's thesis while attending Slippery Rock University's Master of Science in Sustainable Systems program in northwestern Pennsylvania in the early 90s. Not content with academic convention, but fastinated with the topic of humanure composting, Jenkins decided to convert the book's language into a popular format and self-publish the thesis as a book.
The intention was to learn how to "self-publish" using a book that probably no one would ever read. As expected, every possible publishing mistake was made on the first edition of the book, published in January 1995. Yet, an unbelievable 10,000 copies sold. Clearly there was more interest in this topic than Jenkins had expected, so he revised the book and published the 2nd edition in 1999. This edition sold another 15,000 copies and won awards. See reader feedback of the Humanure Handbook.
The 3rd edition was published in 2005, sold out its first 10,000 printing, sold out its next 10,000 printing, and is working on the next 15,000 copies, most of which have already been sold. The book and topic receive regular coverage in the news and have been mentioned on Howard Stern, BBC, CBC, NPR, the New Yorker Magazine, Grist, Seoul Broadcasting (SBS), Playboy, Wall Street Journal, Mother Earth News, and many others. See reviews of the Humanure Handbook.