You remember A. J. Jacobs. For his first book, he read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Zz. For his second book, A Year of Living Biblically, he followed every Gospel commandment and Old Testament rule. In The Guinea Pig Diaries, he goes all the way, committing himself to experiments that would probably curl the hair of Sacha Baron Cohen. In one full-body immersion, he goes undercover as a beautiful woman. In another, he outsources everything in his life, from answering his personal letters and emails to arguing with his wife. Other experiments including public nudity, living like George Washington (but remaining clothed), and speaking with complete frankness for two solid months. An education in itself.
Having already read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover-to-cover (The Know-It-All) and spent a year living by every rule in the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically), Jacobs, a kind of latter-day George Plimpton, tests our patience and our funny bones once again with his smart-aleck, off-the-wall and uproarious experiments in living. No cross-dresser he, Jacobs lives a vicarious life as a beautiful woman, the experiment growing out of his role in persuading his son's nanny, Michelle-a stunning beauty-to participate in an online dating service. He signs her up for the site, creates a profile for her, sifts through her suitors and co-writes her e-mails. Pretending to be Michelle, he learns not only the regret of rejection (having to let some guys down), but he also predictably discovers that there's a lot of deceit, boasting and creepiness in Internet dating. In another experiment, Jacobs outsources everything in his life to a company in India, from his research for articles to a complaint letter to American Airlines. This experiment worked so well that he continues to use this company every few weeks to make car rental reservations or to do research for him. Although a "coda" of reflection follows the tale of each experiment, they provide no clarity or wisdom about his experiences. Everybody plays the fool sometimes, and with this book, Jacobs seems to have made a career out of it. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Esquire editor at large Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically, 2007, etc.) continues his unique brand of immersion journalism. The swift-moving collection holds together well, and though the author cultivates the persona of a nebbish, his style is crisp and often laugh-out-loud funny. He examines his love for organizing his days via archaic or eccentric principles, regardless of the confusion inflicted on friends, acquaintances and his long-suffering wife. "I've tried to understand the world by immersing myself in extraordinary circumstances," he writes, and admits the addictive nature of the process, rather than the results. He capably translates these journeys into wry comedy, although he claims that "making life better in the end" is his secondary goal. Some of the participants in his experiments, however, may disagree, such as his son's attractive nanny, who afforded Jacobs the opportunity to live the life of a beautiful woman-for which the author rather intrusively managed her Internet dating. Next, Jacobs discovered he could "outsource" every aspect of his daily life to companies based in India, apparently staffed by youthful overachievers who are pleased to take on the responsibilities of lazy Americans while presumably thinking, "How the hell did these idiots ever become a superpower?" After encountering a psychotherapist who advocates the cultish lifestyle of "Radical Honesty," the author spent a month being compulsively truthful: "I had to do some apologizing post-piece, as you might imagine." He also lived for a month like George Washington, based on the president's surprisingly useful list of 110 "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation," and spent amonth being completely subservient to his wife (which she felt was long overdue). Each chapter-some of which previously appeared in Esquire-is followed by a "Coda," in which Jacobs assesses the experiment and its aftermath. A lightweight but endearing and nimble look at how pursuing absurd extremes can illuminate the more mundane aspects of contemporary existence. Agent: Sloan Harris/ICM
“Jacobs’ experiments are about understanding oneself, making life more interesting and showing the reader a good time. And I love them for it.”—San Francisco Chronicle
"Both laugh-out-loud funny and enlightening.” —People
“Inspired and inspiring.”—Vanity Fair
“Off-the-wall and uproarious.”—Publishers Weekly
"The virtuoso of this self-as-guinea pig genre."—Brad Tuttle, Time
"We love reading about the lifestyle experiments of author A.J. Jacobs."—Entertainment Weekly
"Both laugh-out-loud funny and enlightening."—People
"Over the years, [Jacobs' experiments] have grown more complex and deeper in potential meaning. Not to mention funnier and funnier."—The Kansas City Star
"[T]he most enlightening moments are driven by his honesty, his sense of humor, and his willingness to constantly challenge his ingrained assumptions.... Hilarity, and quite a bit of learning, ensue.... In [My Life as an Experiment], he once again achieves a rare literary balance–an intellectual study of human behavior that will make readers laugh out loud or, in the more daring cases, inspire them to try one of these experiments for themselves."—Providence Journal
"He's not just in it for the yuks–though there are plenty of yuks. (He's very funny.) He has a curious, questioning mind and is always looking for larger meaning.... [My Live as an Experiment] is intelligent, insightful shtick."—Minneapolis Star-Tribune