The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs

Winter snow and ice getting you down? Try some humorous reading. Esquire editor-at-large A.J. Jacobs has made a niche for himself by practicing various extreme ways of life — to the exasperation of his wife, friends, and complete strangers — and thenwriting about them.

His last book, A Year of Living Biblically, was about trying to follow all the prescriptions and proscription in the Bible. Before that, he read the whole Encyclopedia Britannica, from A to Z, and sharing his newfound knowledge in The Know-It-All.

In The Guinea Pig Diaries, the author writes about, among other experiments in abnormal living, trying radical honesty for a month (in a chapter called “I Think You’re Fat”) and, for another month, abiding by all of George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation (“What Would George Washington Do?”).
Here’s how the chapter on outsourcing (“My Outsourced Life”) begins:

“I really shouldn’t have to write this piece myself. I mean, why am I the one stuck in front of a computer terminal? All this tedious picking out of words on my laptop. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions. Sheesh. What a pain in my butt. Can’t someone else do it?”

Read a longer excerpt — and sample other memoirs– at SMITH Magazine here:
Excerpt: The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs | Memoirville

Robert Parker Dies Writing at Age 77

>The Boston area lost one of its own on Monday, January 18, with the death of Robert B. Parker, best known as the author of three popular mystery series featuring Massachusetts investigators: Spenser, Jesse Stone, and Sunny Randall. Split Image, the ninth Jesse Stone novel, is due out on February 23.

“Publishing 65 books in 37 years,” Bryan Marquard writes in yesterday’s Boston Globe, “Mr. Parker was as prolific as he was well-read. He featured Spenser – ‘spelled with an ‘s,’ just like the English poet,’ he said – in 37 novels.” Read the whole article here.

Booklist editor Bill Ott blogs about his pleasure in Robert Parker’s novels on the Booklist blog.

For many more tributes, obituaries, and reminiscences, including her own Los Angeles Times article, check out Sarah Weinman’s post on her blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind.

Happy New Year! A Round-Up of 2009’s Best Books

>As a persnickety librarian, I must insist on the decade’s not being over till Dec. 31, 2010, but I can still point out three best books of the decade lists that have been posted prematurely:

But what’s the rush to close out the decade? There was a lot of good reading published in 2009 alone, starting with those on The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2009.

Although Publishers Weekly editors came out with their 2009 Top Ten early and was criticized for not choosing any books by women, two of my favorite novels of 2009 are by women — The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. Both books made Library Journal‘s Best Books 2009. A Gate at the Stairs also appears on The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2009 list, as well as The Washington Post Book World’s Ten Best Books of The Year,  the San Francisco Chronicle’s list, and Slate‘s list, Booked for the Holidays. (I think The Children’s Book came out too late in the year to make some of the lists.)

NPR’s Best Books of 2009 includes best cookbooks, best memoirs, best books for a book club, and Librarian Nancy Pearl’s suggestions for “Under-The-Radar Gift Books”, among others. For a list that’s heavy on nonfiction, try The Economist’s list of 2009 Page-Turners.

I didn’t know the online superstore Amazon had editors, but it does, and they have named Colum McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin book of the year for 2009, part of the Amazon’s Top 100 Editor’s Picks.
One novel that I think may have appeared on every single list mentioned here, is Hilary Mantel’s work of historical fiction, Wolf Hall — the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner. Check for library availability and log in to place your hold from the Brockton Public Library System here, and read an excerpt from the book on The New York Review of Books’ Web site here. Happy Reading!

P.S. If you’re in the mood for a movie instead of a book, check out NPR reviewer Bob Mondello’s list of The Year’s Top Ten. He includes a few family-friendly suggestions.

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