Chicken Little was right
Three new books play into our worst fears, for laughs or for real (or both).
The Coffee Table Book of Doom (Plume) by Steven Appleby and Art Lester teams a journalist and a cartoonist for a mordant look at threats from superbugs to asteroids to what we won't have when fossil fuel runs out (anything made of plastic).
Dangerous Instincts: Use an FBI Profiler's Tactics to Avoid Unsafe Situations (Plume) by Mary Ellen O'Toole and Alisa Bowman offers rational methods and strategies for assessing and avoiding danger, in situations ranging from buying a house to spotting a psychopath.
Encyclopedia Paranoiaca: The Indispensable Guide to Everyone and Everything You Should Be Afraid of or Worried About (Simon & Schuster) by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf gathers up research on the threat levels of everything from abstinence and air fresheners to yoga and zombie armies.
Colette Bancroft, Times book editor