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MEASURING HIS LIFE WITH A BIG SHTICK

As life unfolds for A.J. Jacobs, it's all about the humor of it all.

To label A.J. Jacobs the most successful humor writer alive is a statement filled with peril. After all, humor - what strikes somebody as funny - is individual in the extreme. But I will make the statement anyway: Jacobs' third book, The Guinea Pig Diaries, establishes his success as a humorist beyond doubt, perhaps without peer.

A longtime New York City resident and staff writer for Esquire, Jacobs began his book author career with The Know-It-All, a diary of his thoughts and actions while reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover. Next came The Year of Living Biblically, also a chronological progression. But rather than reading a multivolume encyclopedia, Jacobs read the Bible, then tried to live his life in the 21st century according to the precepts of a much earlier era.

The results of each quest are laugh-out-loud funny (for me, on almost every page), yet also remarkably educational - not only about encyclopedia entries and Biblical rules, but about human nature.

The strength of those books can be found in a unified narrative, as Jacobs' missions change him, his wife, his children and those around him.

The Guinea Pig Diaries is a different type of book, because rather than a unified narrative it consists of nine more or less interconnected essays. Perhaps some readers will find certain topics more attractive. That should pose no problem, because chapters can stand alone.

Jacobs explains that his life as a guinea pig began about 15 years ago, while employed at Entertainment Weekly. The La-Z-Boy company was marketing a new reclining chair. He decided to test the manufacturer's claims by watching television for 24 hours while occupying the chair. After that, Jacobs could not stop himself from initiating other experiments, and the result is The Guinea Pig Diaries.

Steve Weinber's latest book is "Taking on the Trust: How Ida Tarbell Brought Down John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil."

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment

By A.J. Jacobs

Simon & Schuster, 256 pages, $25

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