Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Experimenting on Yourself

I have recently gotten into a few books that would all fall under the category of "Self Experimentation" (I don't know if this is really a category, it's just something that I said). I think the true pioneer of this kind of writing (at least recently) is a an Esquire Magazine columnist named A.J. Jacobs. A few months ago, I read his first book, which was titled The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest To Become the Smartest Person in the World. The basic premise is that he sets out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year's time. He has written a second book entitled The Year of Living Biblically, in which he spends a year (you guessed it) living strictly according to the laws of the Old Testament.

Jacobs has taken curiosity to the next level. He has found things in our world that he is fascinated by, and then he fully engulfs himself in them. There are two books that I've recently come across that could both fit this same description (and both have Jacobs' endorsement on the front cover). The first is called My Jesus Year about the son of a Jewish rabbi who experiments with Christianity. The second is The Unlikely Disciple about a non-Christian college student who spends a semester at Liberty University (former institution of the late Jerry Falwell).

I love this trend in writing. People seem to be more and more curious about things that they don't fully understand, and this type of writing allows us to vicariously take our curiosity to the next level. I've begun asking myself, "If I did this kind of thing, what would I do?" My brother-in-law said that he would "go green" for a year. That sounded interesting.

What about you? What would you do? If you were going to experiment on yourself with a sub-culture or a lifestyle, where would you start?