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A.J. Jacobs has once again found that perfect balance of wit and wisdom, this time in "The Guinea Pig Diaries".
on September 8, 2009
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.