Sunday, September 20, 2009

A.J. Jacobs

There's something gimmicky about immersion journalism- trying out something for a certain period of time and writing about the experience. And there have been so many books like it that get published, why didn't I think of it?

Anyway, A.J. Jacobs was at Powell's to promote his latest work "The Guinea Pig Diaries". I was surprised to see that the audience weren't just college frat boys (because for some reason I thought that was the demographic for his books) but a good mix of people young and old, male and female. This also wasn't a reading as I expected. He just talked a little about each of his books and then took questions from the audience before signing copies.

In his first book- "The Know-It-All"- he set out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. "The Year of Living Biblically" was the follow up and had him living the Bible as literally as he could. With "The Guinea Pig Diaries", he changed his format a bit by tackling on a series of different experiments. As I was already under the wrong impression that his books were just funny without being substantial, I thought listening to him share the lessons he learned during each experiment would sound pretentious. But he came off as genuinely interested in trying different things in order to perhaps improve his life- or at least see things in a new perspective. While not exactly the best public speaker, I found his self-deprecating (and topical) humor quite enjoyable.

During the course of the Q&A, he mentioned his next project would be him trying to be the healthiest person alive. It's weird how when a speaker is considered funny, the people who asks them questions seem to think they have to be funny as well. The whole event (aside from the book signing) lasted about half an hour but it was enough time to get me to want to actually read a book of his. And if there was one thing I learned from him, (and not just because he mentioned it as a life lesson himself), it's this: "Never say 'no' to adventures. Always say 'yes' otherwise you'll lead a very dull life"- Ian Fleming. Well, actually, there's another thing I got: Leave expectations behind.

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