In The Guinea Pig Diaries, A.J. Jacobs describes several “experiments” he has done with his life, generally in terms of his own behavior. Each experiment lasts (usually) about a month, and some are more formal than others. He experiments with portraying a beautiful woman on a dating site (on behalf of his babysitter), following George Washington’s rules of conduct, practicing Radical Honesty, and attending the Academy Awards as a look-alike stand in for a movie star. My favorite experiments in this book:
- My Outsourced Life. Jacobs outsources everything to India–and I mean everything. He gets his assistants in India to research articles for him, worry daily about things that worry him, email his wife an apology after a big fight, even read a bedtime story to his son (that is, newspaper headlines). This was fascinating to me, because I never would have thought to do it. I didn’t even know that such agencies existed, or that India would have cornered the market on virtual assistants. It was hilarious and eye-opening at the same time.
- The Unitasker. Jacobs tries to do only one thing at a time. He closes his eyes while talking on the phone. He stops making his breakfast while his wife tells him a long, rambling story. He plays with his sons without looking at his phone. I loved his conclusion–unitasking isn’t always practical or even necessary, but it is greatly underappreciated. Slow down and be where you are.
- Whipped. Jacobs gives his wife a month of total authority over him. She lays down the rules, makes demands, and reveals all the work she does that Jacobs doesn’t realize. Funny–almost like he gets his just desserts for all the things he puts his wife through during his other experiments. He also goes over typical “battle of the sexes” myths and sees how he and his wife stack up.
I really did like this book, but it just wasn’t as good as The Year of Living Biblically, the other A.J. Jacobs book I’ve read. This one was a little disjointed due to the fact that every chapter was a different experiment, and I couldn’t get into his life experiments as deeply. (Besides that, some of the experiments succeeded much more than others.) Still, it’s worth a read if you’re into pop science as much as I am. Some experiments are amusing, others are eye-opening, and almost all of them are entertaining.
Rating: Good but Forgettable