In A Field Guide to Radiation (Penguin, $15), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wayne Biddle (author of the cult hit A Field Guide to Germs ) tells you everything you need (but might not necessarily want) to know about this ubiquitous threat.
The 84 paranoia-inducing yet weirdly entertaining essays include such topics as the following:
Air travel: A transatlantic flight can expose you to as much radiation as you receive in a week on the ground.
Cigarettes: Smokers' lungs can contain three times as much polonium-210 (the isotope famously used to assassinate former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko) as those of nonsmokers.
Life on Earth: About 1 percent of the population gets cancer from exposure to seemingly benign objects—brick houses, Brazil nuts—that contain trace amounts of radiation.
A Field Guide to Radiation is in stores July 31.
—Timothy Hodler, research director at Details