As the bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All, A.J. Jacobs has made a career out of exploring the great (and not-so-great) mysteries of humankind firsthand. In his latest book, The Guinea Pig Diaries, he outsources his life to India, poses nude for a national magazine, and even spends a month adhering to a social doctrine penned by George Washington. All in the name of (social) science.
I recently caught up with A.J. to chat about The Guinea Pig Diaries and his life spent under a self-imposed microscope.
Amazon.com: You begin The Guinea Pig Diaries with an introduction to the world of immersion journalism. What excites you most about this genre?A.J. Jacobs: Well, I love diving into these projects. It's called The Guinea Pig Diaries because I like to be a human guinea pig and experiment on myself. You get a crash course in a topic, but you also get to improve your life. That's what's great about this. With The Year of Living Biblically, it was a crazy year - I was wearing robes and sandals, and stoning adulterers with pebbles - but at the same time, I took away life-changing lessons. So in the end, after all of the humiliation, you do come out a better person.
Amazon.com: What was your favorite experiment?
A.J. Jacobs: Well, one of the most pleasant was called "My Outsourced Life." I hired a team of people in Bangalore, India to do everything for me. They answered my email, they answered my phone, they argued with my wife for me, and they read bedtime stories to my son. So I just spent the whole month reading books.
Amazon.com: Which of the following quotes do you feel best typifies your work?- The unexamined life is not worth living. "“ Socrates
- A man's errors are his portals of discovery. "“ James Joyce
- I think it makes life so much fun to change up things. "“ Britney Spears
A.J. Jacobs: [Laughs] That's disturbing that Britney Spears and I have a very similar life philosophy.
Amazon.com: Or that I spent last night looking up Britney Spears quotes on the Internet.
A.J. Jacobs: Oh man, that is impressive. I love all of 'em. Actually, I was at a signing just a couple nights ago, and a woman came up and asked me to sign a line from my first book, The Know-It-All. It was a line I quoted from Ian Fleming, who wrote the Bond books, but also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This line is from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang [and] it totally sums everything up - even better than Brittney Spears: "Never say no to adventures. Otherwise you'll lead a very dull life."
For more from A.J., click below to listen to the entire interview.