Author Spotlight: AJ Jacobs

Stunt-memoirs are all the rage, and AJ Jacobs is their king. Live a year without wearing mixed cottons? Sure! Spend a year on a crazy diet? Why Not! Those are the kind of stunt-memoirs people find fascinating, but they often don’t give us a lot of insight into the real world and real life. AJ Jacobs tries to combat that and find real life lessons in his stunts that we can put into practice in everyday life. Check out his complete ouvre below!

It’s All Relative

A.J. Jacobs has received some strange emails over the years, but this note was perhaps the strangest: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in our database.” That’s enough family members to fill Madison Square Garden four times over. Who are these people, A.J. wondered, and how do I find them? So began Jacobs’s three-year adventure to help build the biggest family tree in history. Jacobs’s journey would take him to all seven continents. He drank beer with a US president, found himself singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and unearthed genetic links to Hollywood actresses and real-life scoundrels. After all, we can choose our friends, but not our family.

My Life as an Experiment

Bestselling author and human guinea pig A. J. Jacobs puts his life to the test and reports on the surprising and entertaining results. He goes undercover as a woman, lives by George Washington’s moral code, and impersonates a movie star. He practices “radical honesty,” brushes his teeth with the world’s most rational toothpaste, and outsources every part of his life to India—including reading bedtime stories to his kids. And in a new adventure, Jacobs undergoes scientific testing to determine how he can put his wife through these and other life-altering experiments—one of which involves public nudity.

The Year of Living Biblically

Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers. The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history’s most influential book with new eyes. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations—much to his wife’s chagrin. Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first-century brain.

Drop Dead Healthy

Hospitalized with a freak case of tropical pneumonia and ashamed of a middle-aged body best described as “a python that swallowed a goat,” A.J. Jacobs felt compelled to change his ways and get healthy. To accomplish this epic task, he consulted an army of experts and subjected himself to dozens of different workouts, diets, and devices—from Finger Fitness to Strollercize sessions, veganism to extreme chewing. The story of his transformation is not only brilliantly entertaining, but it just may be the healthiest book ever written. It will make you laugh until your sides split and endorphins flood your bloodstream. It will move you emotionally and get you moving physically in surprising ways. It will serve you up today’s best health advice. And it will give you occasion to reflect on the body’s many mysteries and the ultimate pursuit of health: a well-lived life.

Know-It-All

To fill the ever-widening gaps in his Ivy League education, A.J. Jacobs sets for himself the daunting task of reading all thirty-two volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His wife, Julie, tells him it’s a waste of time, his friends believe he is losing his mind, and his father, a brilliant attorney who had once attempted the same feat and quit somewhere around Borneo, is encouraging but, shall we say, unconvinced. With self-deprecating wit and a disarming frankness, The Know-It-All recounts the unexpected and comically disruptive effects Operation Encyclopedia has on every part of Jacobs’s life — from his newly minted marriage to his complicated relationship with his father and the rest of his charmingly eccentric New York family to his day job as an editor at Esquire. Jacobs’s project tests the outer limits of his stamina and forces him to explore the real meaning of intelligence as he endeavors to join Mensa, win a spot on Jeopardy!, and absorb 33,000 pages of learning. On his journey he stumbles upon some of the strangest, funniest, and most profound facts about every topic under the sun, all while battling fatigue, ridicule, and the paralyzing fear that attends his first real-life responsibility — the impending birth of his first child.

Fractured Fairy Tales

Long before Politically Correct Bedtime Stories invaded bookstores, Americans were getting their giggles from Fractured Fairy Tales, those delightfully twisted parables brought to us between the cliffhanger adventures of our favorite cartoon heroes, Rocky & Bullwinkle. This collection, illustrated with classic art from the animated series includes the comical retelling of 25 classics such as Pinocchio (who starred in his own variety show “The Pinocchio Doody Show”), Jack and the Beanstalk (did you know that Jack grew a beanstalk in the outfield so he could catch fly balls for his baseball team?), or King Midas (who became a dentist so he could give his patients gold fillings). This satirical humor loved for so long by so many, is a must-have for fans of the show and anyone who loves classic fairy tales–with a twist.

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