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

4.1 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

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 (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,092,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After enjoying Jacobs' last three books I had to read this one. I wasn't disappointed. While not as funny as The Know-It-All it definitely has its moments of hilarity and perhaps is even more illuminating. Yes, I read Jacobs for illumination as well as humor. In fact I wish he had given us more insights into some chapters such as when he posed nude for a magazine article. It would have been interesting to get more info on this archetypal celebrity event and its effects on the subject. I especially like Jacobs' tendency to add commentary as to whether the experiments created lasting change or were less compelling.

I find Jacobs to be funny, readable, and clever. I just wish he would let his intelligence shine a bit more. That said, I hope the author is working on many more books (don't let my minor critique slow you down!).
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