Title: 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
Author: AJ Jacobs
I twas charmed by AJ Jacobs' book The Year of Living Biblically. In that book, he spends a whole year trying to live by the rules of the Old Testament, tackling one specific goal each month and growing a massive beard in the process. In that book, Jacobs laid bare his compulsions and idiosyncrasies in a way that felt brave and interesting. Jacobs wrote another book, which I haven't read, in which he reads the entire encyclopedia from start to finish. I'd imagine that that book is also organized around a sole theme. In My Life as an Experiment, there's still a lot of AJ Jacobs being slightly zany and neurotic, a lot of his longsuffering wife, Julie, putting up with his antics, but what is missing is a single unifying theme.
Instead, we get a bunch of short essays which take place over the span of many years, and in each of them Jacobs does some different crazy thing (like posing nude for a magazine or giving up lying entirely). Unlike the other two books, I got the sense that most of the material for My Life As An Experiment came from the articles he wrote for Esquire and Entertainment Weekly, slightly repackaged for the book. In fact, I know I've come across the second chapter of the book, in which he talks about outsourcing his life to two Indian assistants, in some other place, but I couldn't remember where (This American Life, maybe?). Anyway, Jacobs's antics were still entertaining (the naked photoshoot chapter is especially fun) but I felt like I was being sold repackaged goods instead of a cohesive book. It's worth reading, but I got the feeling that Jacobs's editors said something along the lines of "You've written two books now, let's pull together some essays for a greatest hits album." It works, but I like the concept albums a little bit better.