A. J. Jacobs
Jacobs in April 2009
Arnold Stephen Jacobs Jr.
March 20, 1968
New York City, New York, U.S.
The Year of Living Biblically
|Title||Editor at Large, Esquire magazine|
Arnold Stephen "A. J." Jacobs Jr. (born March 20, 1968) is an American journalist, author, and lecturer best known for writing about his lifestyle experiments. He is an editor at large for Esquire and has worked for the Antioch Daily Ledger and Entertainment Weekly.
Jacobs was born in New York City to secular Jewish parents Arnold Jacobs Sr., a lawyer, and Ellen Kheel. He has one sister, Beryl Jacobs. He was educated at The Dalton School and Brown University.
Jacobs has said that he sees his life as a series of experiments in which he immerses himself in a project or lifestyle, for better or worse, then writes about what he learned. The genre is often called immersion journalism or "stunt journalism".
In one of these experiments ("stunts") Jacobs read all 32 volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica. He wrote about it in his humorous book, The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (2004). In the book, he also chronicles his personal life along with various endeavors like joining Mensa. The book spent eight weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list. NPR's Weekend Edition ran a series of segments featuring the unusual facts Jacobs learned in each letter. Jacobs also wrote a column for mental floss magazine describing the highlights of each volume. The book received positive reviews in The New York Times,Time magazine and USA Today. However, Joe Queenan panned it in the New York Times Book Review. Queenan called the book "corny, juvenile, smug, tired" and "interminable" and characterized Jacobs as "a prime example of that curiously modern innovation: the pedigreed simpleton." Four months later, Jacobs responded in an essay entitled "I Am Not a Jackass".
In 2005 Jacobs out-sourced his life to India such that personal assistants would do everything for him from answering his e-mails, reading his children good-night stories, and arguing with his wife. Jacobs wrote about it in an Esquire article called "My Outsourced Life" (2005). The article was excerpted in The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Jacobs also talked about his outsourcing experiences on a Moth storytelling podcast.
In another experiment Jacobs wrote an article for Esquire called "I Think You're Fat" (2007), about the experiment he conducted with Radical Honesty, a lifestyle of total truth-telling promoted by Virginia therapist Brad Blanton, whom Jacobs interviewed for the article.
Jacobs' book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (2007) chronicles his experiment to live for one year according to all the moral codes expressed in the Bible, including stoning adulterers, blowing a shofar at the beginning of every month, and refraining from trimming the corners of his facial hair (which he followed by not trimming his facial hair at all). The book spent 11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and Jacobs gave a TED talk about what he learned during the project. In May 2017, CBS Television picked up a TV series based on the book. It was originally renamed By the Book for television, but later changed to Living Biblically.
The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment (2009) is a series of first person essays about his experiences with various guides for human behavior.
Jacobs is the author of The Two Kings: Elvis and Jesus (1994), an irreverent comedic comparison of Elvis Presley and Jesus; and America Off-Line (1996). He also writes for mental floss, a trivia magazine.
His most recent book is Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (2012) in which he explores different ways humans can bring their bodies to peak health, from diet to exercise. He wrote the book while walking on a treadmill. Jacobs gave a related TED talk about this health quest entitled "How Healthy Living Nearly Killed Me".
From 2011 to 2012, Jacobs wrote the "Extreme Health" column for Esquire magazine, covering such topics as high-intensity interval training and the quantified self. Since 2012, he has written the "Modern Problems" advice column for mental_floss magazine. The column compares modern day life to the horrors of the past.
As of May 2013, Jacobs writes a weekly advice column for Esquire.com called "My Huddled Masses". The column is crowdsourced to Jacobs's 100,000 Facebook followers, who give etiquette and love advice. He also writes the regular feature "Obituaries" for Esquire, which consists of satirical death notices for cultural trends, such as American hegemony.
As of 2015 Jacobs was working on a project called the Global Family Reunion, where he aims to connect as many people as possible to the global family tree at Geni.com and WikiTree. He hosted the Global Family Reunion, planned to be largest family reunion in history on June 6, 2015, at the New York Hall of Science.
On December 5, 2016, Gimlet Media announced Jacobs as the host of Twice Removed, a podcast focused on genealogy. In June 2016, Gimlet announced that the podcast would not be renewed for a second season.