The bestselling immersion journalist embarks on a world-spanning journey of family and genealogy.
For years, Jacobs (Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, 2012, etc.) has built a significant following at Esquire, where he is a contributing editor, with articles that mix serious inquiry with laugh-out-loud humor, usually featuring the author as his own main character. He used the same formula for his bestselling books, in which he tried to absorb more miscellaneous knowledge than anyone else alive (The Know-It-All), live daily life according to biblical commandments (The Year of Living Biblically), or sculpt his body into its best possible shape (Drop Dead Healthy). In his latest book, Jacobs delves into his own genealogy and that of his wife, Julie, and he chronicles his plans for what he hoped would become the largest “family” reunion in history. Along the way, the author provides a cornucopia of information about genealogy and ancestry: how males often dominate family trees while females remain in the background, the impact of American slavery on family histories, his own Jewish heritage, the complications of working with the Mormon archive (“every year, more data is added to this vault than is contained in the entire Library of Congress”), how nonhuman animals fit into the equations, the reliability of DNA testing as a genealogical tool, and the reliance on the story of Adam and Eve as the beginning of humanity. Some of the short chapters are almost entirely entertainment, as when Jacobs and his wife travel with their twin sons to a large gathering of families with twins. But whether the author is being ruminative or rollicking, he is consistently thought-provoking in his “adventure in helping to build the World Family Tree,” and his natural gift for humor lightens the mood of even the most serious discussion.
A delightful, easy-to-read, informative book.