After some preliminaries on the fragility and ""ultimate futility"" of civilization, Cornell launches into a catalogue of disasters, manmade and natural. The top ten format may remind you of an AM DJ's playlist, but in this instance volcanoes, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, plane crashes, tidal waves, et al. are rated according to their lethal impact and economic cost. Cornell, who is associated with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., aims his all-points bulletin at ""disaster researchers,"" editors and writers, noting that a disaster is ""the perfect media event."" There's a chapter on the social and psychological impact of cataclysm which refutes the folkloric conception of mass panic and bestial behavior--courageous, pragmatic reactions are more the rule. On the other hand, people tend to disregard early warnings, succumbing to fatalism, denial, and the ""it can't happen here"" syndrome. Historically, post-disaster reactions have included a turn toward occultism, asceticism, debauchery, and scapegoating--all were evident in Europe after the Great Plague. Among the more startling items is the Boston molasses flood of 1919 which killed 21. For those who enjoyed Jaws, the Titanic, and the Towering Inferno--a complete source book.