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For the South African rugby union referee, see AJ Jacobs (rugby union).

Arnold Stephen "A. J." Jacobs, Jr. (born March 20, 1968) is an American journalist, author, and lecturer best known for writing about his lifestyle experiments. He is the editor at large for Esquire and has worked for the Antioch Daily Ledger and Entertainment Weekly.

Early life

Jacobs was born in New York City to secular Jewish parents[1] Arnold Jacobs Sr., a lawyer, and Ellen Kheel. He has one sister, Beryl Jacobs. He was educated at The Dalton School and Brown University.[citation needed]


Jacobs has said that he sees his life as a series of experiments in which he immerses himself in a project or lifestyle, for better or worse, then writes about what he learned.[2] The genre is often called immersion journalism or "stunt journalism".[3][4]

In one of these experiments ("stunts") Jacobs read all 32 volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica. He wrote about it in his humorous book, The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (2004). In the book, he also chronicles his personal life along with various endeavors like joining Mensa. The book spent eight weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.[5]NPR's Weekend Edition ran a series of segments featuring the unusual facts Jacobs learned in each letter.[6] Jacobs also wrote a column for mental floss magazine describing the highlights of each volume.[7] The book received positive reviews in The New York Times,[8]Time magazine[9] and USA Today.[10] However, Joe Queenan panned it in the New York Times Book Review. Queenan called the book "corny, juvenile, smug, tired" and "interminable" and characterized Jacobs as "a prime example of that curiously modern innovation: the pedigreed simpleton."[11] Four months later, Jacobs responded in an essay entitled “I Am Not a Jackass”.[12]

In 2005 Jacobs out-sourced his life to India such that personal assistants would do everything for him from answering his e-mails, reading his children good-night stories, and arguing with his wife. Jacobs wrote about it in an Esquire article called "My Outsourced Life" (2005).[13] The article was excerpted in The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.[14] Jacobs also talked about his outsourcing experiences on a Moth storytelling podcast.[15]

In another experiment Jacobs wrote an article for Esquire called "I Think You're Fat" (2007),[16] about the experiment he conducted with Radical Honesty, a lifestyle of total truth-telling promoted by Virginia therapist Brad Blanton, whom Jacobs interviewed for the article.

Jacobs' book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (2007) chronicles his experiment to live for one year according to all the moral codes expressed in the Bible, including stoning adulterers, blowing a shofar at the beginning of every month, and refraining from trimming the corners of his facial hair (which he followed by not trimming his facial hair at all). The book spent 11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list,[17] and Jacobs gave a TED talk about what he learned during the project.[18]

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment (2009) is a series of first person essays about his experiences with various guides for human behavior.

Jacobs is the author of The Two Kings: Elvis and Jesus (1994), an irreverent comedic comparison of Elvis Presley and Jesus; and America Off-Line (1996). He also writes for mental floss, a trivia magazine.

His most recent book is Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (2012) in which he explores different ways humans can bring their bodies to peak health, from diet to exercise.[3] He wrote the book while walking on a treadmill.[19] Jacobs gave a related TED talk about this health quest entitled “How Healthy Living Nearly Killed Me.”[20]

From 2011 to 2012, Jacobs wrote the “Extreme Health” column for Esquire magazine, covering such topics as high-intensity interval training[21] and the quantified self. Since 2012, he has written the “Modern Problems” advice column for mental_floss magazine. The column compares modern day life to the horrors of the past.[22]

As of May 2013, Jacobs writes a weekly advice column for called “My Huddled Masses.”[23] The column is crowdsourced to Jacobs’s 100,000 Facebook followers, who give etiquette and love advice.[24][25] He also writes the regular feature “Obituaries” for Esquire, which consists of satirical death notices for cultural trends, such as American hegemony.[26]

As of 2015 Jacobs was working on a project called the Global Family Reunion, where he aims to connect as many people as possible to the global family tree at[27] and WikiTree. He hosted the Global Family Reunion, planned to be largest family reunion in history on June 6, 2015, at the New York Hall of Science.[28]

On December 5, 2016, Gimlet Media announced Jacobs as the host of Twice Removed, a podcast focused on geneaology.

Personal life

Jacobs is married to Julie Schoenberg and has three sons: Jasper Kheel Jacobs (born March 11, 2004)[29] and twins Zane and Lucas Jacobs (born August 24, 2006).[30][31]

Jacobs is a first cousin, once removed, of the legal scholar Cass Sunstein. He is also distantly related to pop singer Michael Jackson by thirty-three generations.[32]

Jacobs is a member of Giving What We Can and pledges 10% of lifelong earnings to charity. He donates to the Against Malaria Foundation and other effective altruism organizations.


Notable articles

  • 2005. "My Outsourced Life", Esquire[33]
  • 2008. "My Life as a Hot Woman"', Esquire[34]
  • 2009. "The 9:10 to Crazyland", Esquire[35]
  • 2012. "How to Blurb and Blurb and Blurb", The New York Times[36]
  • 2012. "Overly Documented Life", Esquire[37]
  • 2013. "Grading the MOOC Universe", The New York Times[38]


  1. ^ Jacobs, A J. "The Year of Living Biblically". Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  2. ^ A. J. Jacobs: My year of living biblically. TED video. Filmed December 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Print: One Man's Journey Into Stunt Books", Mathew Honan, Wired, July 28, 2010.
  4. ^ By the Book, By HANNA ROSIN, Published: October 14, 2007
  5. ^ "Paperback Nonfiction". The New York Times. 11 December 2005. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  6. ^ "NPR Search". NPR. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  7. ^ AJ, Jacobs (23 October 2007). "Guest Blog-star: AJ Jacobs!". mental_floss. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (20 September 2004). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; A Walking, Wisecracking Encyclopedia". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  9. ^ Stein, Joel (4 October 2004). "The Know-Everything Party". Time Magazine. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  10. ^ Blais, Jacqueline (1 December 2004). "If you really must know, these smart reads are for you". USA Today. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Queenan, Joe (3 October 2004). "A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Jacobs, AJ (13 February 2005). "I am not a Jackass". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "My Outsourced Life" Archived June 18, 2014, at the Wayback Machine., Esquire, September 1, 2005
  14. ^ Ferris, Timothy. "Outsourcing Life". Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  15. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "The Moth Presents AJ Jacobs: My Outsourced Life". The Moth. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  16. ^ "I Think You're Fat", Esquire, July 24, 2007
  17. ^ "Paperback Best Sellers: Nonfiction". The New York Times. 11 January 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  18. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "AJ Jacobs: My Year of Living Biblically". TED. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Minzesheimer, Bob (9 April 2012). "Author takes on his body in quest to be 'Drop Dead Healthy'". USA Today. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  20. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "How healthy living nearly killed me". TED. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  21. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "The Case Against Jogging". Esquire. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  22. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "AJ Jacobs Can Solve all Your Modern Problems". mental_floss. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  23. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "My Huddled Masses: Crowdsourced Life Guidance". Esquire. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  24. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "Crowdsourced Advice with Author A.J. Jacobs". Boing Boing. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  25. ^ Chaey, Christina. "Dear Abbys: A New Esquire Column Sources Life Advice From 100,000 People". Fast Company. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  26. ^ "Esquire Search". Esquire. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  27. ^ "World Family Tree". 
  28. ^ "Global Family Reunion". 
  29. ^ Jacobs, A.J. The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. (2004) Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. p. 371.
  30. ^ Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Bibically (2007) Simon & Schuster. p. 314-316.
  31. ^ Jacobs, A.J. "The Maximum Good: One Man's Quest to Master the Art of Donating". Esquire. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 
  32. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "Cass Sunstein and Samantha Power: Fun Couple of the 21st Century". Esquire. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  33. ^ Jacobs, AJ (1 September 2005). "My Outsourced Life". Esquire. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  34. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "My Life as a Hot Woman". Esquire. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  35. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "The 9:10 to Crazyland". Esquire. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  36. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "How to Blurb and Blurb and Blurb". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  37. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "Overly Documented Life". Esquire. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  38. ^ Jacobs, AJ. "Grading the MOOC Universe". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 June 2013.