ENCYCLOPEDIA PARANOIACA by Henry Beard

ENCYCLOPEDIA PARANOIACA

KIRKUS REVIEW

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.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4391-9955-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2012




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionTOP SECRET AMERICA by Dana Priest
by Dana Priest
ChildrenTHE KINGFISHER SPACE ENCYCLOPEDIA by Mike Goldsmith
by Dr. Mike Goldsmith
Sci-FiTURTLE RECALL by Terry Pratchett
by Terry Pratchett