As I was flying into New York City a couple of weeks ago, I thought about all the interesting experiments going on there at any given time. Truly, the thought first occurred to me after seeing Julie and Julia – all these quirky New Yorkers doing something for a year and then blogging or writing about it. Although I didn’t spot any actual experimenters on the streets while I was there (that I know of at least), somehow I am still holding that strange impression of them.
It is fortunate for us that these people are willing to do the wacky things they do for two reasons: 1) we don’t have to do them; and 2) they make terrific reads. My favorite author in this vein has to be A. J. Jacobs. In The Year of Living Biblically, he grows his hair and beard, wears only white, and refuses to shake hands, all in the name of following every law in the Bible. If you liked that one, try his most recent book, The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment.
A couple of other options in this genre include:
- No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, in which Colin Beavan goes off the grid in New York City for a year, taking his wife and toddler with him. Let him go without toilet paper and tell us what it’s like.
- For one year, Maria Dahvana Headley decides to say yes to every guy that asks her out, except for the drunk or obviously dangerous. The result is The Year of Yes: A Memoir. Again, better her than me, but a good read.
Last on my list does not take place in New York, but should at least get me to stop judging New Yorkers. The Urban Hermit: A Memoir recounts a year of living on $8 a week and 800 calories a day. The author, Sam McDonald, now lives in Pittsburgh and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.