Did you know that over 133,000 people every year are injured by doors? How about the fact that over 400,000 people in the United States suffer injuries every year while relaxing or sleeping in bed? You can find out this, and other wonderful information, in Laura Lee's 100 Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life and What You Can Do About Them. This is a book that straddles two worlds. Unfortunately, it has problems in each one, but it's still an interesting read. It's supposed to be a humor book. How do I know this? It says right on the back that the classification of this book is "humor". It also contains a lot of information about possible dangers in everyday life and how you can prevent yourself from becoming yet another statistic.
One of the problems with the book is humor. It's just not that funny. There are some humorous quips (I particularly liked the suggestion in the "money" section, where she says that you should get rid of all your cash immediately by sending it to her). I smiled a few times. Even some of the entries are slightly amusing (there's an entry for Finland because they have the highest accident rate in the western world). But as a humor book, it just doesn't really work that well.
The good thing is that the book is valuable in other ways, too. The idea of the book is not to induce general paranoia about everyday living. What, you're going to stay in bed? See the statistic above. No, the book is intended to lessen that paranoia.
"If you can look such deadly items as kitchen knives, bedding, vegetables and teddy bears in the face each day without fear, you should be able to stare down the much more statistically unlikely threats that now haunt our collective consciousness." (p. 9)
Lee presents each item in a very interesting fashion, giving statistics about the number of injuries and/or deaths every year. She briefly describes each entry, then gives a quick wrap-up of things you can do to avoid these injuries. Sometimes the beginning of the "what you can do" section is humorous (for Finland, the first thing she says is that you could avoid going there, but then you'd miss out on a lot of beauty). However, she always does come back to some concrete suggestions, such as avoiding enjoying Finland's wonders while overindulging.
Even when the entry itself may seem odd ("cute guys?"), the information she presents is intriguing. In the "cute guys" section, she talks about how studies have shown how attractiveness can affect our perceptions, such as how 57 percent of male defendants who were considered "attractive" in rape cases were convicted, but 82 percent of those deemed "unattractive" were. The book was definitely worth reading for interesting factoids like this.
The problem is in the presentation of some of these facts. The comparisons she uses don't work when you actually think about them. Take this one, for instance: in the section on sewing, she recounts how more people are injured sewing then are injured while mountain-climbing. According to her, 4056 people are injured mountain-climbing while 7099 are injured sewing. What she doesn't take into account is the fact that, I would guess, there are many more people sewing than climbing mountains. Statistics like this should really be given as percentages rather than straight numbers. Of course, those percentages may not be available, which just means that the comparison shouldn't even be used. She does this constantly, though there are entries where percentages are used. What's worse, she uses these statistics and then states that you are statistically more likely to be injured doing the one activity over the other. That's simply not true with the information she's given us. If 100 mountain climbers are injured but there are only 500 mountain climbers, and 1000 sewers are injured but there are 30,000 of them, you wouldn't say that you're more likely to be injured sewing, would you? Just because 900 more people are injured sewing than climbing mountains? This statistical problem does not affect every entry, thankfully. At times, she just presents the stats and doesn't try to analyze them.
Even the ones that do have this problem contain good information on the potential hazards, including one that I had not only never known, but realized after I read it that I had been using it dangerously and thus have changed my habit. 100 Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life is a very valuable book that can educate as well as make you rethink your irrational fear of other things, like plane crashes. It's an enjoyable, easy read that is well worth your time. Just give some of the statistics analysis (the statistics are fine by themselves) a hefty dose of salt. And don't expect to laugh uproariously.