Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Stall Review: The Guinea Pig Diaries

The Guinea Pig Diaries
My Life as an Experiment
by A. J. Jacobs
Simon & Schuster, 2009

A. J. Jacobs is a journalistic stuntman in the tradition of George Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson who chooses a topical or peculiar actvity and immerses himself in it for a set amount of time, then writes a book about the expeirence.

For his first book, The Know-It-All, Jacobs read through all 32 volumes (33,000 pages and 44 million words) of Encyclopedia Britannica alphabetically. Then, Jacobs committed to a year following the Talmudic laws of the Bible as literally as possible and wrote The Year of Living Biblically. In this one, he volunteers himself as "guinea pig" for nine separate lifestyle experiments: practicing Radical Honesty, avoiding all multitasking, outsourcing a month of his life to a couple of assistants in India, being his wife's devoted servant.

Other experiments include a month of living like George Washington, pretending to be a woman in the world of online dating, and an afternoon posing nude for a photographer.

Why should anyone care? Because Jacobs is a well-schooled auteur and the feigned earnestness of these quests makes for entertaining, if not enlightening, reading.

Most of the these pieces previously appeared in the pages of Esquire magazine, where he is an editor at large.

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