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Encyclopedia Paranoiaca

Simon & Schuster

Encyclopedia Paranoiaca Overview

“An amusing and cruelly accurate cultural critique” (The Wall Street Journal), this informative and utterly debilitating compendium explores the many surprising ways you might die a horrible death. Did you know that carrots cause blindness and bananas are radioactive? That too many candlelight dinners can cause cancer? And not only is bottled water a veritable petri dish of biohazards (so is tap water, by the way) but riding a bicycle might destroy your sex life? In Encyclopedia Paranoiaca, master satirists Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf have assembled an authoritative and disturbingly comprehensive inventory of things poised to harm, maim, or kill you—all of them based on actual research about the perils of everyday life. Beard and Cerf cite convincing evidence that everyday things we consider healthy—eating leafy greens, flossing, washing our hands—are actually harmful, and items we thought were innocuous—drinking straws, flip-flops, neckties, skinny jeans—pose life-threatening dangers. Hilarious, freakishly insightful, and “the only guide to super-paranoia that you’ll ever need” (Scientific American), Encyclopedia Paranoiaca brings to light a whole host of hidden threats and looming dooms that make asteroid impacts, planetary pandemics, and global warming look like a walk in the park (which is also emphatically not recommended).

Encyclopedia Paranoiaca Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

National Lampoon luminaries Beard and Cerf have created a guide to all the common nightmares, with a few hundred new ones tossed in. Their alphabetized, intensively cross-referenced tome confirms the great truth of modern life: everything is bad for you. The list includes the big (global warming), the small (bed bugs), the innocuous (blueberries), the unusual (zombification), and the ubiquitous (sitting on the toilet). Life, it seems, is inevitably fatal, especially on a postindustrial globe filled with pesticides, radiation, superbugs, and random accidents. Despite its presentation of contemporary dangers, the book is charmingly old-fashioned, with a structure and format that pay tribute to the reference books that lined the shelves of academics and nerds before the Internet reshaped the personal library (“cybersex” earns an entry in an age when “over 15 million Americans are using cybersex in ways that are risky and showing signs of compulsivity”). In another nod to outmoded fashions, Beard and Cerf write with wit in this ironic take on a world where we live in constant fear of dairy products, lemon wedges, shopping carts, and vitamins. (Nov.)

Kirkus Reviews

From National Lampoon co-conspirators Beard (Golf: An Unofficial and Unauthorized History of the World's Most Preposterous Sport, 2012, etc.) and Cerf (co-author: Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak, 2008, etc.), a whimsical collection of the sometimes-scary, sometimes-silly things that threaten our modern-day lives. Considering such things as French fries and fracking as dangerous are no-brainers. But other entries in this compendium of assorted life-threatening perils seem downright ludicrous. The shock value of having fresh fruit and fish oil on the same list as skin cancer and radiation is undeniably high--until you read deeper and find that the "danger" of whole fruits is eating them to excess and flooding your system with sugar. The horrors of fish oil? Fish breath. Chewing gum is also on the list of things to fret. Why? Wrinkles around the lips. As the late Gilda Radner once said, "It's always something." Other entries, however, are genuinely shocking and fittingly disturbing--e.g., brown rice. Who'd have thought that the macrobiotic mainstay was so potentially devastating thanks to its nasty habit of absorbing arsenic? The dusty encyclopedic format is also problematic and feels a little awkward deep in the digital age, requiring readers to constantly cross-reference. Beard and Cerf too often mute their many dire warnings, dour cautions and grim advisories with qualifying language. Much more effective are the brief discussions of lesser-understood topics like doom loops and portfolio diversification. Similarly, descriptions of the seething volcano that exists underneath Yellowstone National Park and the fast-approaching Asteroid 99942 Apophis hurtling toward the Earth are truly frightening and fascinating. The book works best as a leisurely joke book rather than a real research tool. Amusing in short spurts--an entertaining way to pass the time in between worrying about the real issues in your life.

Vanity Fair

“Be afraid: Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf’s Encyclopedia Paranoiaca is deadly to the humor averse.”


“Perversely enjoyable.”

The Sacramento Bee

“What we think is healthful and harmless may well be deadly, or at least harmful, say the humorists. They’ve compiled a long list of everyday foods (cherries, carrots), clothing (skinny jeans, flip-flops) and items (drinking straws) that we can now worry about like never before. Thanks, guys.”

The Scientific American

Encyclopedia Paranoiaca . . . [is] the only guide to super-paranoia that you’ll ever need. . . .While the authors’ tongues couldn’t be more firmly in cheek from first entry to last, Encyclopedia Paranoiaca is written and compiled with scrupulous attention and extensive research. . . . Start worrying now.”

The Wall Street Journal

“An amusing and cruelly accurate cultural critique, offering a “comprehensive and authoritative inventory of the perils, menaces, threats, blights, banes, and other assorted pieces of Damoclean cutlery” that hover over our collective head. . . . Beard and Cerf gleefully fan the flames of our paranoia”

The Daily Beast

“A humorous look at all of the ways, obvious and not, that humans have of doing harm to themselves. . . . The writing is witty and verbose, almost Monty Python-ish, but the science is good enough that hypochondriacs should be shielded from this book at all costs.”


“The madcap brainchild of National Lampoon alums Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, Encyclopedia Paranoiaca comprises a smartly researched, apocalyptic alphabet of exotic and everyday dangers and dreads—from bananas to fracking to sleeping on your back—that is scary, amusing, and informative.”

Details magazine (No. 1 in "Five Things We Emphatically Endorse")

“Perversely enjoyable.”

B&N Review

“As two founders of the National Lampoon, Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf are responsible for some of the sharpest satirical humor of the past forty years. Their latest opus is a tongue-through-the-cheek encyclopedia of modern neuroses -- a work that will both confirm all your fears, then dispel them with fits of laughter.”

Readers' Reviews

Encyclopedia Paranoiaca

Book Info

  • Book Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13: 9781439199558
  • ISBN-10: 1439199558
  • Number of Pages: 400
  • Dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.17 (d)
  • Approx Price: $18.38
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