The Scaredy-Pants Handbook

Are you one of those people who, as you walk along a city street, stare toward the skies convinced a piano will come screaming out of a 27th-floor apartment and alight atop your head? At the gym, do you skip the sauna because you consider it a synonym for germ bouillabaisse? If you answered, “Hey, that’s me!” to either of the above, have I got the book for you: The Encyclopedia Paranoiaca!

Wryly written by Henry Beard, a founding editor of National Lampoon, and Christopher Cerf, it’s everything every scaredy-cat needs to know—and wants to know, since it validates every crazy fear they have. For example:

• Never laugh or cry while eating—you’ll choke.

• If you must be in contact with a menu at a restaurant, wash up! Menus will kill you—they’re filled with germs.

• Do you enjoy reading on the toilet? It’s fun, isn’t it? Stop it! You’ll get hemorrhoids!

It’s as if everything was put on earth just to kill you. And while that’s not completely true, all of the entries have been scrupulously fact-checked, making for a very odd, yet thoroughly fun read.

On a related note, humorist Mike Sacks convinced the famously reclusive Beard to sit down for a rare Q & A (his last was done in the ‘70s.) If you’re a fan of National Lampoon, it’s a fun read.

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