The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment Hardcover – Sep 8 2009
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"Jacobs, the author of The Know-It-All (2004) and The Year of Living Biblically (2007), could be the funniest nonfiction writer this side of Bill Bryson.... The experiments themselves are fascinating and lead to genuinely surprising conclusions...and Jacobs's storytelling is lighthearted and frequently laugh-out-loud funny.... There aren't a lot of nonfiction books you want to read over and over, but this is certainly one of them."–Booklist (starred review)
"Whether he's posing as a celebrity, outsourcing his chores, or adhering strictly to the Bible, we love reading about the wacky lifestyle experiments of author A.J. Jacobs."–Entertainment Weekly
"Jacobs's third book . . . establishes his success as a humorist beyond doubt, and perhaps without peer."–Chicago Sun-Times
“We love reading about the lifestyle experiments of author A.J. Jacobs.”
About the Author
A.J. Jacobs is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically. He is the editor-at-large of Esquire magazine, a contributor to NPr, and a columnist for mental_floss magazine. He lives in New York City.See all Product Description
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And his effort to become a disciplined "unitasker" by (among other matters) reciting out loud (seemingly to himself) his shopping list while in the supermarket, and the reactions of bystanding shoppers, was among the many moments of droll humor in the book.
Perhaps my personal favorite of the Jacobs experiments was "The Rationality Project", his effort to identify as rationally as possible, the "right" toothpaste from among the 40 or so on the shelf. To do so, Jacobs explains the need to remove from the decision making process the "Halo effect", the "Availability Fallacy", "Confirmation Bias", the "Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy" and other of the "irrational biases and Darwinian anachronisms" that influence all of us in making the most mundane of our choices.
And once again it is his wife Julie who, in her long-suffering style, provides the necessary dose of reality to bring his over-the-top eccentricities back down to earth.
Fans of A. J. Jacobs will once again be amply rewarded.
Who among us hasn't wished to just dump all the minutia of everyday life into someone else's lap? Jacobs accomplishes this in his essay, "My Outsourced Life," starting off with little things, like shopping, and escalating to conducting arguments with his long-suffering wife, Julie, who deserves major props for putting up with all of these schemes. (By the way, she finally gets a measure of recompense as hubby caters to her every wish for a month in "Whipped.")
Some of Jacobs's experiments border on the dangerous, as when he resolves to spend a month being radically honest ("I Think You're Fat") or pretends to be a movie personality, crashing the Oscar Awards ("240 Minutes of Fame"). While published under the general category of humor, THE GUINEA PIG DIARIES could also be considered a philosophical treatise. In "The Rationality Project," Jacobs channels Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner of FREAKONOMICS fame when he deconstructs several behavioral theories to prove their irrationalities.
Some of the pieces seem to contradict each other. The book leads off with Jacobs masquerading as a beautiful woman as he attempts to play an online Cyrano for the family's lovely nanny. For all the anecdotes he includes regarding this well-intentioned gesture, one can imagine the creepy stuff that didn't make it into print. In another essay, the tables are turned as Jacobs becomes objectified as a condition for an article and photo shoot of "Weeds" star Mary-Louise Parker ("The Truth About Nakedness"). Both of these seem to go against his attempt to follow the tenets of our nation's first president ("What Would George Washington Do?"). Although he doesn't actually follow said behavior as he did in THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY, it's an interesting look at the mores of a more genteel period; there's something to be said about the dignity and formality with which our foreparents comported themselves.
Perhaps the most difficult of the projects was the concentration required to do just one thing at a time, to totally immerse oneself in the here and now ("The Unitasker"). Can anyone these days but the most devoted yogi actually focus to that extent? Not me; as I write this I'm checking my email, listening to music and drinking my coffee, with the U.S. Open on in the background.
One wonders how long Jacobs maintained some of these behaviors after completing the assignments. He has said there are some habits he acquired during his BIBLICALLY period that he tries to maintain. Does he still retain all the knowledge from reading the encyclopedia? Can he still just stop and smell the roses? Has he managed to keep that buff physique for which he worked so hard for the nude photo shoot?
Can you say "sequel"?
--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
** on a Kindle note, the pictures are not at all clear so that was disappointing but certainly not a deal breaker
The experiments include Jacobs impersonating his hot female nanny on a dating site in order to find her a man. I found after reading this chapter that there were many missed opportunities for messing with the minds of the sleazy guys for a man impersonating a woman. I guess though you could give Jacobs the benefit of holding back, due to the fact he was actually trying to find an actual life partner for his nanny, instead of just running a pure social experiment.
Another experiment has Jacobs outsourcing his life to two Indian call centre type women (who don't know the other exists). This was quite an interesting and fun experiment.
Next Jacobs decides to emulate the movie Liar Liar and tell the truth. Disappointingly though he doesn't do this all the time, so a lot of potential simply isn't reached with this one. I also found the constant checking with his mentor during this honesty project to be a bit boring and actually annoying after a while.
His rationality project where he pretty much exists sort of like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory pretty much just illustrates that fiction is funnier than fact. Jacobs would get in a lot of debates over people's statements like Sheldon does, but yeah the experiment just isn't that interesting.
Jacobs has a few other experiments including posing nude for a magazine and lives his life as if he was George Washington with all his decisions. The biggest experiment and one where you get to know Jacobs the best is the final experiment where he decides to do whatever his wife asks him. You'll learn the most about Jacobs in this one including that when given the opportunity to bed his wife every night he says no explaining this is just for teenagers and he's only interested once a week at most. So I guess he's not your average guy after all.
The most interesting though was 240 Minutes of Fame, where due to Jacobs having a similar appearance to Noah Taylor who Americans don't really know that well, had Jacobs going to the Academy Awards pretending to be the actor, since Taylor didn't want to go since he wasn't nominated for Shine. It's good, but Jacobs pretty much just stands back and with the exception of talking to Rush, doesn't really interact and test the limits of this impersonation. He should have at least gone to the after party.
Enjoyable enough read, but never reaches the potential it could have.