Has your own hand tried to choke you lately?  Is there a 2 foot worm trying to escape your foot?  Do you look like a human werewolf?Believe it or not, there’s a diagnosis for that.These types of diseases – sometimes scary, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking – are the focus of Ian Landau’s novel The Hypochondriac’s Handbook: Syndromes, Diseases, and Ailments that Probably Should Have Killed You By Now” The Hypochondriac’s Handbook: Syndromes, Diseases, and Ailments That Probably Should Have Killed You By Now.

Landau is not a doctor, but he’s clearly done his research.  He details a number of wacky, rare medical diagnoses that sound like something straight out of House or Grey’s Anatomy.  In his explanations, he includes symptoms, treatments, prognosis, prevalence and most importantly, how to avoid any given disease (though some are unavoidable, he admits).

And even while you’re cringing at the idea of a worm growing in your appendages, it’s hard to stop reading.  Landau’s writing is smart and clever and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny.  Particular gems include:



“Foreign accent syndrome is not what made Madonna suddenly speak in plummy English tones when she married Guy Ritchie and moved to London (that’s called pretentiousness!)” (Regarding Foreign Accent Syndrome)

“You lift the back of your shirt, and your friend peers closely at the bump, and then he shrieks, ‘It’s alive!’  What the [redacted] does he mean, it’s alive?” (Regarding Human Botfly Myiasis)

I definitely recommend this book if you’re growing a horn or turning orange – Carrot Addiction, anyone? – but also if you’re just interested in having a good laugh while learning a thing or two about weird medical conditions.