Bookworm: 'Encyclopedia Paranoiaca'

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You didn’t sleep very well at all last night. Something was on your mind, and it was 2 a.m. before you found a solution. By then, you worried that you’d wasted too much time on work and not enough on sleep. You fretted about that for an hour, peeking at the alarm to be sure it was set properly, until you finally drifted off … 45 minutes before get-up time.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to turn your brain away from the inconsequentials. So why not read Encyclopedia Paranoiaca by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf and find some things to really worry about?

Bleary-eyed, you crawled out of bed this morning, and that’s probably good. Sleeping on your back can cause breathing problems. Laying on your side causes wrinkles. Snoozing on your stomach can strain your spine. And you don’t even want to know what’s lurking in your pillows and mattress.

You make your way to the bathroom, but you best be wearing slippers: there are germs on bathroom floors. Don’t even think of jumping in the tub (which one researcher calls “bacterial soup”) or the shower (full of bacteria) or grabbing a bar of soap (ditto). In fact, don’t even enter the room if someone’s flushed with the seat up.

You don’t, by the way, have any hydrogen peroxide in there, do you? It’s a fire hazard.

Breakfast, well, that could be dicey. Fried foods contain toxins. Bananas emit radiation. Cherries and peaches contain cyanide. Many other fruits carry pesticides. Salt raises blood pressure, meat-eating can cause impotence and salads can be high in fat. Coffee is bad for the environment, hot tea causes cancer and tap water sickens more than 19 million people each year.

Okay, so you’ll go outside for some fresh air. Or maybe not, since “fresh” air contains pollutants. Also, there are volcanoes outside, and they could instantly vaporize you and millions of others.

So, back indoors (avoid the welcome mat) but don’t sit down, don’t dance (polkas cause injuries), don’t get dressed (“clean” clothes aren’t necessary clean), don’t blow your nose, invest in gold or grab your wallet. Don’t call anybody (phones are filthy). And whatever you do, seriously: don’t ever hire a clown.

You know you’ve got a unique book in your hands when you find an entry for “warthog rectum, unwashed.” That alone should tell you the tone you’ll find in Encyclopedia Paranoiaca. With tongues firmly in cheek but with solid science and real facts, Beard and Cerf give readers thousands of reasons not to do anything (although lack of exercise kills), go anywhere (the air on a plane – ick!), or eat anytime (food is deadly). This is a book that teaches while it entertains, and it’s easy to browse (but not in the bathroom).

Worrywarts with a sense of humor, trivia lovers or anyone who wants something oddly fun will find it inside this deliciously quirky book.


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