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The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 8, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having already read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover-to-cover (The Know-It-All) and spent a year living by every rule in the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically), Jacobs, a kind of latter-day George Plimpton, tests our patience and our funny bones once again with his smart-aleck, off-the-wall and uproarious experiments in living. No cross-dresser he, Jacobs lives a vicarious life as a beautiful woman, the experiment growing out of his role in persuading his son's nanny, Michelle—a stunning beauty—to participate in an online dating service. He signs her up for the site, creates a profile for her, sifts through her suitors and co-writes her e-mails. Pretending to be Michelle, he learns not only the regret of rejection (having to let some guys down), but he also predictably discovers that there's a lot of deceit, boasting and creepiness in Internet dating. In another experiment, Jacobs outsources everything in his life to a company in India, from his research for articles to a complaint letter to American Airlines. This experiment worked so well that he continues to use this company every few weeks to make car rental reservations or to do research for him. Although a coda of reflection follows the tale of each experiment, they provide no clarity or wisdom about his experiences. Everybody plays the fool sometimes, and with this book, Jacobs seems to have made a career out of it. (Sept.)
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Review

"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.”
Entertainment Weekly

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416599061
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416599067
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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