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One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

by A.J. Jacobs

Pub Date: April 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4165-9907-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The bestselling author of The Know-It-All (2004) and The Year of Living Biblically (2007) stretches the experiential journalist shtick to its limit with a cockamamie fitness quest to become the “healthiest man alive.”

Jacobs, an affable everyman with a ready supply of reliable one-liners, offers a moderately entertaining literary stunt. Some might spend 10 years or more dabbling in this or that fitness craze; the author runs the entire gauntlet in a period of months. One month he’s running bare-chested through Central Park like a caveman. The next he’s eating off kiddie plates (to reduce portion size) and squatting over the toilet (to facilitate smoother excretions). The author tests a variety of differing health prescriptions but quickly settles into a rut of conflicting information, unsettled medical consensus and eye rolling from his wife. He dedicates each month to a different part of the body—the stomach, the heart, the teeth, etc. By the end Jacobs has donned a bicycle helmet for simple walks around town in order to protect his fragile skull. Any hope of gaining a leg up on the Grim Reaper evaporates into a mist of futile perspiration. Despite his labors, the best advice the author offers is eat less, move more and try to steer clear of pollutants. Periodic visits to his 94-year-old grandfather (who has “the relentless energy and hearty build of Theodore Roosevelt”) are welcome detours, alleviating the drudgery and providing much-needed authenticity to an otherwise contrived exercise. The story of granddad’s long and rich life as a crusading lawyer (he helped bring “The Gates” art installation to Central Park) lends sharp perspective to Jacobs’ somewhat myopic quest. Maybe the goal shouldn’t be becoming the healthiest man alive, but to live life to the fullest.

Unobtrusive reading material for your next trip on the treadmill.