Experiments in Living

These memoirs all recount experiments in living (most within a one-year time frame), from eating locally to reading the Oxford English Dictionary to cooking every recipe in a classic cookbook.

Related event:
A.J. Jacobs discusses The Guinea Pig Diaries, Sept. 30, 2009

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment
By A.J. Jacobs
The Guinea Pig Diaries is a collection of essays written by Jacobs as he immersed himself in eight different lifestyles to see what he could learn. For “My Life as a Hot Woman,” the author lived undercover as a beautiful woman, signing his son’s nanny up on a dating web site. For “My Outsourced Life,” he hired a team of people in Bangalore, India, to answer his e-mails, respond to phone calls, and argue with his wife for him (and then buy her gifts when he wins).

Julie and Julia book jacket

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously
By Julie Powell
With the humor of Bridget Jones and the vitality of Augusten Burroughs, Powell recounts how she broke the monotony of her life by inventing a deranged assignment: to take her mother's dog-eared copy of Julia Child's 1961 classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and cook all 524 recipes in the span of just one year.

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process
By Colin Beavan
When it comes to saving the planet, can one person really make a difference? Define difference. For Beavan, his wife, and their infant daughter, it meant trying to live for a year in New York City without producing any trash, consuming any nonlocal foodstuffs, or traveling by any method other than foot power.

Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages
By Ammon Shea
With sharp wit, sheer delight, and a keen eye, Shea shares his year inside the Oxford English Dictionary, delivering a hair-pulling, eye-crossing account of reading every word, and revealing the most obscure, hilarious, and wonderful gems he discovers along the way.

Plenty book jacket

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally
By Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon
Plenty tells the remarkable adventures of a Canadian couple who make a year-long attempt to eat foods grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of their apartment – and learn the simple joys of reconnecting with community and home ground in the process.

The Year of Yes: A Memoir
By Maria Dahvana Headley
Hilariously funny and ultimately inspirational, this formerly single girl's memoir recounts a year of saying "yes" – for 12 months, she dated every person who asked her out, regardless of circumstances.

Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything
By Simon Majumdar
With the same incisive wit and nose for quality as Anthony Bourdain, Majumdar – an internationally popular food savant and blogger – chronicles his yearlong journey around the world in search of everything delicious, odd, and oddly delicious.

The Year of Living Biblically book jacket

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
By A.J. Jacobs
Jacobs writes about his improbable adventure – a year spent living, as literally as possible, by the rules of the Bible.

Piano Lessons: Music, Love & True Adventures
By Noah Adams
Piano Lessons is Noah Adams's delightful and moving chronicle of his fifty-second year – a year already filled with long, fast workdays and too little spare time – as he answers at last a lifelong call: to learn to play the piano. The twelve monthly chapters span from January – when after decades of growing affection for keyboard artists and artisans he finally plunges in and buys a piano – through December, when he attempts a favorite piece of music, a difficult third-year composition he's been struggling with in secret to get to this very moment.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
By Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow for one year to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
By A.J. Jacobs
Alarmed and more than a little chagrined at the massive gaps in his personal knowledge, Jacobs sets for himself a suitably daunting, and some might say insane, task: to fill in the holes in his Ivy-league education by reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica from A to Z.

Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.