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My Life as an Experiment: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests Paperback – Bargain Price, July 13, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In these outrageous and thought-provoking vignettes, Jacobs uses his own life to explore a host of social and personal issues: he outsources every aspect of his life to a team in Bangalore, India; he practices Radical Honesty and attempts to speak nothing but the truth for a month; to understand fame, he poses as a celebrity at the Academy Awards; he submits to his wife's every whim. While the audiobook—which is wholly enjoyable—may have been significantly stronger if professionally narrated, Jacobs's reading is true to his text, and there's something undeniably appealing about listening to the author describe the bizarre situations into which he again and again chooses to place himself. A Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, July 6). (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

“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


"[My Life as an Experiment] is as funny and instructive as memoir can get."The Knoxville News-Sentinel


"Immersive journalism' is a popular trope these days and Esquire editor A. J. Jacobs is one of its most entertaining adherents, performing a public service with his quest for knowledge in his latest book, [My Life as an Experiment].... His experiments, alternately Herculean and banal, are emblematic of how difficult it is in this modern age to find enlightenment; 'know thyself' regularly brushes up against the cold, rocky bottom of daily life."LA Weekly


"Jacobs... could be the funniest nonfiction writer this side of Bill Bryson.... The experiments themselves are fascinating and lead to genuinely surprising conclusions... and Jacobs 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)


"Jacobs continues his unique brand of immersion journalism... [and] his style is crisp and often laugh-out-loud funny.... [An] endearing and nimble look at how pursuing absurd extremes can illuminate the more mundane aspects of contemporary existence."Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439104999
  • ASIN: B004KAB4GA
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #980,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A.J. Jacobs is the editor of What It Feels Like and the author of The Two Kings: Jesus and Elvis and America Off-Line. He is the senior editor of Esquire and has written for The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, New York magazine, New York Observer, and other publications.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the familiar style that he perfected in "The Know It All" and "The Year of Living Biblically", Jacobs takes us through his life as a series of "experiments", from outsourcing to India such daily routines as reading bedtime stories to his young children to trying to live according to the 110 "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour" that George Washington formulated for himself as a young man. In the chapter "The Truth About Nakedness" Jacobs shares with us the full range of emotions he experienced while posing nude for a photo shoot for Esquire Magazine (his employer) in order to induce Mary Louise Parker to similarly pose (the book includes only a photo of the writer).
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.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on September 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A.J. Jacobs is the thinking person's Walter Mitty. Except instead of physically demanding challenges --- with perhaps one exception --- he deals in the cerebral. The editor-at-large for Esquire, who lived the examined life in THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY and read every entry in the Encyclopædia Britannica in THE KNOW-IT-ALL, collects several shorter but similarly thought-provoking pieces in THE GUINEA PIG DIARIES, where he seems too humble even to refer to himself in that regard.

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.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous VINE VOICE on September 30, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As another reviewer pointed out, many of the essays in this collection have already been published, so if you are a die-hard A.J. Jacobs follower you might already have seen them. That being said, I hadn't read them and was, for the most part, very happy with discovering them for the first time. I love Mr. Jacobs writing style, witty, a bit self-depricating yet letting a little intelligence shine through as well. One of my favorite things about all of his 'experiments' is that he comes away from the experience having learned something, not just a little factual tidbit but some sort of life lesson he shares with the reader, about himself or thoughts on life in general. My one complaint with this collection is that a couple of the essays have a book-reportish quality to them, in that too many articles/other sources are quoted and the material seems to just parrot back what others have already said. Still definitely worth checking out though I would recommend reading his other two, full-length books to get a true appreciation of this author!
** on a Kindle note, the pictures are not at all clear so that was disappointing but certainly not a deal breaker
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James N Simpson on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A.J. Jacobs certainly has come up with some interesting social experiments to take part in. There are moments of humour but Jacobs is a long way short of masters of the crazy life experiment writing such as Danny Wallace or Dave Gorman.

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.
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