A.J. Jacobs

“I get most of my ideas by pushing things to the extreme. Take situation X, push it as far as it ca go, see whether it becomes sublime, ridiculous, or some combination of the two. Usually a combination.

I find this works best when there’s something in my life that naturally dovetails with the idea. That way I can make it organic to my life. It helps to infuse it with passion.

For instance:

I wrote a book called The Know-It-All about my quest to read the entire encyclopedia from A to Z. (Or more precisely from a-ak to Zywiec).

Here, I was pushing the idea of intelligence and knowledge to the extreme. Become the smartest person in the world. But I actually got the initial idea from my dad. When I was in high school, he started to read the encyclopedia, but he only made it up to the middle of the letter B, around boomerang or Borneo.

So I decided to finish his quest and restore the family’s honor. So that gave it some basis in reality.

“My new book is called The Year of Living Biblically, and it’s about how I spent the year trying to follow every rule in the Bible, from the famous (The Ten Commandments) to the often-ignored (Don’t wear clothes of mixed fibers, stone adulterers). Again, an extremist adventure.

But the seed of the idea came from my own family. My ex-uncle (he used to be married to my aunt) is a religious extremist. At one point he decided to take the Bible completely literally. There’s a part in the Bible that says you should keep your money close at hand. Most interpret this to mean that you shouldn’t spend it irresponsibly. But my ex-uncle decided to take it literally. He got all his money out of the bank and tied it with a string around his hand.

So I decided to try the same.

In other news: I went out to dinner with a woman last night who gets ideas from monkeys. She says it’s much better to peel bananas from the bottom, because then you never bruise the top of the banana. She got the idea from watching chimps peel bananas.

So, that’s another way to go.”

– A.J. Jacobs
(from an e-mail)

Not only is A.J. Jacobs the editor of Esquire magazine, he also read the entire encyclopedia and survived the ordeal by chronicling his experience in The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.

And just when you think his exploits with great literature was over, he springs one more with A Year of Living Biblically, where Jacobs follows Biblical laws and teachings to the letter.

One wonders where he finds the time to interview beautiful women for Esquire.


~ by croatoa on October 26, 2007.

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