“The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment” — A Giveaway

by Katy on August 29, 2010 · 29 comments

It’s Monday, which means that it’s time for another Non-Consumer Advocate giveaway. This week’s prize is a hardback copy of A.J. Jacob’s hilarious book “The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment.” (And yes, it is from Goodwill!)

To enter to win this book, write something in the comments section about your favorite non-fiction books and authors. Because Jacobs is hands down my go-to guy when it comes to funny, smart and entertaining non-fiction. I want to be him when I grow up, (even though I may actually be older than him.)

I will pick a winner on Tuesday, August 31st at midnight. Please enter only once, U.S. residents only.

I am reprinting my review of this book from last year. Enjoy and good luck!

The end of the calendar year invariably brings out that side of us that wants to look back and make sense of life. How was this year different from others? Was there anything I should have done differently? And most importantly, (at least to the marketing gurus at Weight Watchers and Soloflex) how can I be better in the coming year?

How can I be a better person?

I just finished reading A.J. Jacobs’ newest book “The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment” which took over an entire evening and most of this morning. In this book, Jacobs throws himself into a number of experiences that run the gamut from outsourcing all the details of life to a company in India, to practicing “Radical Honesty.” (Which saw him explain in all honesty to a female business colleague that he was trying for a sneak peek of her cleavage.)

I had read both of Jacob’s other books, and become giddy with excitement when I found this new book at the bookstore. I immediately put it on hold at the library and had been waiting with bated breath ever since.

Although Jacobs writes with self-depreciating humor, he’s not above making real and meaningful change as a result of his stunts, (And yes, they are stunts.) In the chapter when Jacobs, a father of three small boys writes about putting an end to multitasking, (he actually wears a sleep mask while on phone calls in order to cut down on possible distractions) he writes about how his focus on unitaskingaffected his interactions with his children:

His mission is to pour out all the coins and then put them back. Then repeat. His brothers are working on an equally important task: taking DVD’s out of a drawer and putting them back.

Zane invites me to collaborate with him on this project.

“Help. Daddy!”

I clink a nickel into the slot.

“I’m here with my sons, putting nickels into a watermelon bank.”

I say this sentence out loud, per the Bill Murry Method. I have three sons. They are healthy. They get pleasure from putting coins in a slot. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Maybe it’s the lingering effects of cold medication, but I start to choke up. A real “Cat’s in the Cradle” moment.

Just outside my brain, three thousand things bark for my attention. My book deadline. Worries about the death of journalism. The invoice to the German magazine I forgot to send. But I’ve put up a soundproof wall. I’m going to put nickels in this watermelon with my son — and that’s all I’m going to do.

It is the perfect undistracted ten minutes.

Yes, he’s taking on these tasks for a book contract, but they leave their stamp on him nonetheless.

This genre of participatory journalism seems to be gaining steam. And I can’t be the only one who snaps them up like fat free donuts at a dietetic police convention. Not Buying It, No Impact Man and Helping Me Help Myself quickly come to mind, and I’m sure I’m just skimming the surface.

So did I take any of Jacobs’ lessons to heart?

It’s hard to say, as I dedicated today to napping and laziness, (nonstop house guests from Christmas Eve until yesterday threw me for a loop!) but I do have to say that when my kids crawled into my nap-tastic bed this afternoon, I gave them my full and focused attention. No multitasking whatsoever. Which I believe does make me a better person.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn H August 30, 2010 at 3:19 am

This is a great book. I heard about this on your blog & checked it out from the library. I would say Barbara Kinsgsolver is one of my favorite authors for fiction or non-fiction.


pat August 30, 2010 at 4:34 am

“A Year of Living Biblically” by AJ Jacobs is my all-around favorite. I own it on audio and have listened to it many times. Last year I listened to it back-to-back because I found it not only thought provoking but very, very funny too. “Guinea Pig Diaries” would be an awesome Christmas gift for my oldest who got me interested in Jacobs’ other books (and I don’t think she’s read it yet either).


Ali August 30, 2010 at 5:08 am

My bookclub read The Year of Living Biblically and loved it! A.J. actually joined us for the book discussion, because his kids went to preschool with a club member’s kids. He was charming, smart, and funny in person, too. I’ll have to check out this book.



Barb @ 1SentenceDiary August 30, 2010 at 6:17 am

I suppose it will come as no surprise to anyone that my current favorite non-fiction book is ,strong>The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’m waiting for the paperback to come out in November so I can give it to all my friends. 🙂

I also love the Best American Science Writing series of books (one comes out each year). I’m eagerly awaiting the 2010 version, and just finished a compilation of the first 10 years of the series called The Best of the Best American Science Writing.


Krista August 30, 2010 at 7:04 am

I loved Greg Mortenson’s book, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission To Promote Peace… One School At A Time” and “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World” by Tracy Kidder.


Lucy August 30, 2010 at 7:08 am

Michael Pollan’s books have each made deep impressions on my life and choices–he has such a concise, unique way of looking at seemingly ordinary aspects of life and the natural world.


Trish August 30, 2010 at 7:54 am

‘Simple Living’ by Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska was very meaningful to me, and along those same lines, the Nearings’ book The Good Life’, and Amy Dacyczyn’s ‘Tightwad Gazette’. I would love for Amy to write a follow-up about her children’s adult lives, and how growing up with frugal resourceful parents impacted them.

I also love 2 simple travel books written by Allen L. Johnson, who wrote about canoeing the Wabash river from its source to where it empties into the Ohio river (Oubache Adventure) with his 10 year old grandson, and biking from Missouri to Ohio (Devil’s Backbone) with the same grandson a few years later, and his 10 year old granddaughter. The kids were remarkable for their ability to complete these difficult journeys with good grace, and what a gift to give them. I hope they both look back on these trips and think about what a fantastic experience they were.


TraciFree August 30, 2010 at 9:42 am

I’ve been on a kick reading those “year long life experiment” books: No Impact Man, Not Buying It, Happiness Project, etc. etc. I love this new genre of Self Help by experiment type books. Who doesn’t love a good experiment?


rePete August 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I enjoy ‘Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs’ by Chuck Klosterman and ‘One Red Paperclip’ by Kyle MacDonald. Both, make the mundane interesting. Klosterman gave me insight that television doesn’t have to be a mentally lethargic activity. MacDonald shows that adding a little effort to your life can make it quite an adventure.


Molly On Money August 30, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I’m in the middle of Barbara Kingsolvers book ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’. Some aspects of it are very close to Polans books and I have to admit I’m getting a bit bored!


Mary Kay August 30, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I read Jacob’s book, The Year of Living Biblically, and found it hillarious. I guess he is one of my favorites. I have not read the book you are giving away. I’d love to win.


Rebecca August 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I think I would love this book. I don’t read much non fiction right now, though I did read ‘No impact man” and liked it. My kids take up much of my time so when I do get a chance to read, which I love BTW, I tend to read trashy, bodice ripping regency novels. Sigh.


Owen's mom August 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Oh, I love AJ! Besides him, David Sedaris usually has me clutching my sides and wiping tears away (laughing hysterically). I have not read this book, and I would love to win it! (Did you know that you can send AJ a message on his facebook page and that he will actually respond? Awesome!). Also: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” kind of changed my life. So…highly recommended. Regards Katy!


Annie B. August 30, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Here is my list of first rate non fiction (my favorite genre).

Depletion and Abundance, A Nation of Farmers, and Independance Days by Sharon Astyk.

The Just In Case Handbook by Kathy Harrison. She also wrote One Small Boat and Another Place at the Table about fostering children and adoption.

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. Excellent and well written with accessible recipes.

Anything by Jon Krakauer or Richard Preston.

Made From Scratch by Jenna Woginrich


Katy August 30, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I am currently reading a book by an old friend about women and gambling – She Bets her Life, by Mary Sojourner – and am enjoying it immensely. Aside from many of the others mentioned above, I’m a great fan of Nick Hornby’s collections of columns about reading from the Believer Magazine. Each month he would list the books he bought and the books he read and then talk about them. The two lists were often mutually exclusive. Very funny and insightful writing about reading. And a great source of great books to read.
Housekeeping vs the Dirt; The Polysyllablic Spree. When I checked on Amazon, I found a 3rd one I haven’t read yet – Shakespeare Wrote for the Money – so now I’ll just beetle on over to the library website and put it on hold.


judyyy August 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I really like anything by Janette Oke. Thanks for the chance to win-I love to read.


Scribe August 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm

For humor my go to guy has to be Patrick McManus. Just thinking about The Grasshopper Trap, The Skunk ladder, and his father figure/mentor, Rancid Crabtree, always makes me chuckle. Of course, they all came from Goodwill, thrift stores, garage sales, etc.


namastemama August 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Loved the year of living Biblically.
Currently reading Weapons of Mass Instruction – John Gatto and have read Dumbing Us Down. Same author.
The Girls from Ames too. Such a great book about friendship plus I loved Iowa and only lived there a few years.


Elisa August 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I love any Lonely Planet travel guide. When I am reading them it usually means I am traveling to some interesting place!


Adele S. August 30, 2010 at 7:10 pm

My all time favorite non-fiction book is Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. I read it every summer before going back to school (I work at a high school) to give me inspiration. A great read, and I find something new in it every time I read it.


Melissa B August 31, 2010 at 4:55 am

A.J. Jacobs is great! I am sure this book is another great read. One of my favorite non-fiction books is Affluenza, The All-Consuming Epidemic by John DeGraaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor. I have read and re-read this book several times since I purchased it.
Katy-you might have recommended this book before, but if you haven’t, it is right in line with what you blog about… and it is funny too!


Kelleen Hembree August 31, 2010 at 5:54 am

I love Trent Hamm’s new book “The Simple Dollar”. I also like Micheal Pollans books too. I read all types of genres but I have not read anything from A.J. Jacobs. I would love to win it to see what he is all about!


Gena August 31, 2010 at 6:01 am

I also love A.J. Jacobs! I read The Know-It-All over the course of several months, and read The Year of Living Biblically in just a couple of days. I’m slowly incorporating non-fiction into my reading lists, I’ve got Michelle Goldberg’s The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of The World next on my list!


jana @ the empty kitchen August 31, 2010 at 7:48 am

i LOVE to read and i read a great deal of nonfiction. i read memoirs like jeanette walls’s the glass castle, jason mulgrew’s everything is wrong with me or love is mixtape by rob sheffield. i also like stunt journalism books like barbara ehrenreich’s nickel and dimed, kevin roose’s the unlikely disciple, adam shephard’s scratch beginnings or gretchen rubin’s the happiness project. i guess, in a nutshell, i like firsthand accounts of life. i can usually find one part of a book that makes me think and puts my life into perspective.

did i mention that i LOVE to read?


Bonnie August 31, 2010 at 8:09 am

I just finished reading Nora Ephron’s “I Hate My Neck”. It was hilarious and made me feel better about getting older and all the things that come with that. Sometimes I need something light and fluffy to bring me back to enjoying the little things in life. Thanks for the opportunity to win this next book.


AJ FAN August 31, 2010 at 9:31 am

I’m SO glad you have this site, in truth I didn’t know about it until I saw it posted to FV on AJ’s group but this is great. I’m a PNW’er too so these kind of values run deep and it can be lonely out here (in CA) lol!

I LOL’d so many times and so hard while reading a cousin’s copy of “Living Biblically” that it woke my hubs up, several times, every time I opened the book! I was reading it like some people eat fine chocolate – one morsel of a portion a day to savor it . It would be one thing if I was just doing that – but it was during one of the most soul-sucking times of our lives when we were there because of a death and so many very sad things were going on… (We were preparing to take care of the children of the person who passed and it was a huge problem to those who thought it should be them instead. ) AJ gave me laughter through some times that even to this day are still amongst the bleakest ever as we’d have no idea how far reaching those people’s self-serving reactions would be and still are. During that time, everyone else got the swine flu – but thank goodness – ‘laughter doeth good like a medicine’! Props to AJ for helping keep me well because I’m one of those ‘hard to treat’ types after a chemical exposure that decimated my immune system at work several years ago.

To be honest, since then, AJ is the only author I tell people about much because like you said – his humor and wisdom run-deep and stay long and I don’t have to tell you how he comes across and how genuinely wonderful it all is (his book on health/fitness is going to be a riot – think ribbon yoga for starters… i’m laughing in anticipation of the craziness and simple health wisdom already!).

I guess if I had to think up some other authors I’d talk about the one’s who write about healthy living. They’re not always ‘funny’ like AJ but they certainly show us how to live higher quality lives at a much lower cost and use what we have around us to be better and live longer etc (my co-workers died in that exposure – i’m still here). In that sense I’m talking about the Gerson family (Max, Charlotte Gerson and Howard Straus “Helping the Hopeless” etc.) and people like Kelly Coyne (“Urban Homesteading”) and even Dr Oz who shares scientific studies for people to use food as their medicine instead of all that expensive toxic medicine he could be pushing. GO DR OZ!!

Thank you for posting this opportunity and from one PNWer to another, I’m SOO glad you are doing this, I wish I’d seen this a tad sooner – just a few weeks ago my Dad and I had an argument over your motto: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Guess who ‘won’ but still got yelled at rofl. I wanted us to stay home and use up the food we already had – he wanted to ‘eat out, all the time, because he can… ‘ After dinner he checked his blood sugar and despite a few helpings it was VERY normal, the first time in months he hadn’t had to take a shot and it actually scared him because he didn’t know it was possible to do with ‘simple food’! Go TEAM!! lol.


Kariann August 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I like Anne Elliot’s Juggling Life’s responsibilities. This book looks great, thanks for the chance to win!



Deb August 31, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I have to admit that “Marley & Me” remains one of my fave nonfiction books. I laughed and cried throughout.

I have a dear buddy who is now 14 yrs 6 months old, is gray in the face, arthritic & wobbly, and nearly deaf, but is still happy and loves life. He’s been my devoted buddy through divorce, cancer, and a lot of other transitions in life. I treasure every single minute with him. It’s going to break my heart to bits when he passes, but I’m so thankful for his true friendship all of these years. I love him so.


Jessi August 31, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I’m a sucker for anything funny. I really love David Sedaris and Dave Barry.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: