Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Guinea Pig Diaries

Yesterday, for reasons too mundane to relate, I spent much of the day on the phone to various internet service providers. At one point during the day, I thought, "I wish I'd hired someone in India to do this." The only reason it occurred to me to think this was because I had recently read The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs.

I've read all three of A.J.'s books, all of which are about the author taking on crazy tasks and then writing about them. First was The Know-It-All in which he read the Encyclopedia Britannica; then The Year of Living Biblically in which he followed all of the commands of the Bible as literally as possible. They are both terrific reads, but the thing that's particularly great about this book, to me, is that A.J. is a much more pleasant person now than he used to me, and in large part because of these strange tasks he set himself.

This book is a little thinner (both literally and figuratively) than the other two. Each of the tasks--such as spending a month practicing Radical Honesty, living according to George Washington's rules of civility, and (as I mentioned) outsourcing his personal life to an assistant in India--is only for a month, which is probably about right for the scope of the tasks involved. For those who have also read the other books, you'll be glad to know that one of his tasks was to do everything his wife wants for a month. She also gets her say in the coda for that chapter.

Each section is fun and breezy, though it feels a bit like he is going to the same well again. I enjoyed it, no doubt, and I'd recommend it, too. But mostly I read this with a strange personal connection with the author, watching him grow up, or mature, at any rate. I feel glad to see him settling into his own skin more and more, less of a smart-ass and more genuine. It wasn't so much about reading a book as checking in on a friend, and feeling pleased to know he was doing so well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to reading the book - but I think A.J. has a ways to go on his journey of growth if he still really thinks that "the perfect spouse" should describe himself as "whipped" for paying attention to what his wife wants.