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The Worst-Case Story

The year was 1998, and survival was in the air…

…everyone was freaking out about Y2K—afraid that a computer glitch would shut down the grid and bring on the apocalypse.

David Borgenicht had recently left his job at a Philadelphia-based publishing house to start his own publishing and book packaging endeavor, and he was looking for ideas.

He had always been a fan of action movies—of heroes like James Bond and Indiana Jones, and when he read an article about a man who’d been forced to land a small plane after the pilot had a heart attack, something clicked. He realized that there were experts who KNEW the real world answers to those action-hero situations.  People who knew what to do if you came face-to-face with a shark or had to jump from a building into a dumpster, what to do if your parachute failed to open, and how to really escape from quicksand.


David pitched the idea to several publishers, and ultimately selected Chronicle Books as his partner. He teamed up with Joshua Piven, a local journalist and a friend of a friend, and they set off to write and research it.

They spent the better part of six months trying to convince experts that they weren’t pranksters, that they actually wanted real answers to these absurdly unlikely questions.

In November 1999, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook was published with a first printing of 35,000 copies.

People took to the book quickly, and booksellers, reviewers, and clerks used Y2K as a hook to sell more copies. And even when the the grid remained intact, response to the book from the general public, and from specialty trade companies (including such chains as Restoration Hardware and Urban Outfitters), was tremendous.

Soon, demand from the media took over, and the authors worked the circuit, appearing on numerous radio shows and giving many newspaper and magazine interviews.

After a strong Christmas, the handbook hit the Los Angeles Times and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists. Two national television appearances by the authors in May (on the TODAY show and 20/20), along with articles in Time and People launched it onto the New York Times best-seller list.

Later that year it would cross the million-copy mark, with no signs of slowing down.

In the spring of 2001, the first spin-off book was published. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel had a first printing of 500,000 copies, and soon it too became a best seller. In the fall of 2001, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex was released with a first printing of 450,000 copies, instantly becoming a best seller. University Games released a Worst-Case Scenario board game, and work began on the Worst-Case Scenario television series to premiere the following year on TBS (produced by Survivor veteran Craig Piligian). Soon, they licensed many other successful products— posters, board games, video games, cell phone applications, and mini-kits, just to name a few.

Almost twenty years later, there are now more than ten million copies of Worst-Case Scenario titles in print, and the series shows no sign of flagging.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook has since become the world’s best-selling survival manual. The books have been translated into more than twenty six different languages. More than three dozen Worst-Case Scenario books have been published, a brand new edition will be released in April 2019, and a touring interactive museum exhibition is launching at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute in October of 2019.


The Worst-Case Philosophy 


Be prepared.

Don’t Panic.

Have a plan.

Face Your Fears.

Stay Positive.

Don’t Lose Hope.





Dave Borgenicht

Thus far, Dave has survived rattlesnake, bear, and mountain lion encounters (well, viewings anyway), muggings, con artists, and his own teenage children. He lives in Philadelphia and is the founder of Quirk Books.

Josh Piven WCS - Spider bite.JPG

Joshua Piven

Josh has been chased by knife-wielding motorcycle bandits (he escaped); stranded on a chairlift during a howling blizzard (he was rescued); and once had a kidney stone (he passed it). He lives in Philadelphia.