AJ Jacobs is a man who likes a big project. He read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and wrote about it in “Know It All.” He followed every Biblical rule for a year and wrote about it in “The Year of Living Biblically.” In those books, as in this one, he manages to be informative, humorous, and emotional. But in a good way, not in a Facebook-status-y way.
In “Drop Dead Healthy,” Jacobs resolves to diet, exercise, cleanse, and generally will himself to health. Each month for 2ish years, he focuses on one body part at a time. One month, the skin: what’s the best sun protection? What should you eat and drink for good skin? What about botox?
Another month, the stomach: What’s the best diet? How do you get washboard abs? Are washboard abs even healthy?
And so on and so forth, including the brain, the eyes, the (ahem) intimate parts, the lungs, and so on. You’ll learn a lot, occasionally be grossed out, and laugh quite a bit.
You’ll also read about AJ’s grandfather, a once super-famous lawyer, as he finishes life. It’s heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting, in the same way Jacobs and his wife struggled to conceive during “Know It All.” I realize I’m sounding like Oprah here, but it’s true.
The one criticism I read of the book was that it was very egocentric. Jacobs talks about himself a lot, it’s true…but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? Hard to describe your self-improvement project without discussing yourself. And I didn’t mind, since he’s incredibly self-deprecating.
I wouldn’t recommend this book as any sort of diet/exercise/health guide. You may pick up a few tips here and there, but it’s ultimately a cautionary tale. Jacobs finds that health, just like knowledge or virtue, can overwhelm your life. All things in moderation.