He's a New York Times best-selling author, editor at large at Esquire magazine…and human guinea pig! A.J. Jacobs talks with Dr. Oz, Lisa Oz and Dr. Roizen about the unexpected lessons he learned by subjecting himself to a number of social experiments chronicled in his books, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible and The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.
In The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. recounts how he followed the laws of the Bible as best he could for a year to see what could be gained from the wisdom contained in its pages. Though some rules were easier to follow than others, A.J. says he had a positive experience, from being more truthful and respectful in his relationships to working less on weekends by observing the Sabbath.
A.J. says his year of living biblically also provided him with a hands-on lesson in cognitive psychology, in terms of teaching him just how much his actions could affect his thoughts. By practicing virtuous behaviors, A.J. says his mind began to follow suit. "I almost pretended to be a better person, and I became a little bit of a better person," he says. "If you go visit sick friends in the hospital, you become more compassionate because you almost trick your mind, 'Well, I must be a compassionate, I'm visiting friends in the hospital.' So it's like, behavior first, and then thought."
To write The Know-It-All, A.J. read all 32 volumes of Encyclopædia Britannica in the course of a year. A.J. says he used the intellectual undertaking as an opportunity to reflect on his own life story as well as mankind's search for meaning and knowledge. While A.J. says he learned a lot of interesting, esoteric or even useless facts, his most important discovery came from studying world history. "Our achievements outweigh the terrible things we've done, so by the end I became more optimistic about humanity—which is a good thing," he says.
Printed from Oprah.com on Monday, December 9, 2013