A.J. Jacobs is a mouth breather. He has, per his own description, the body of "a python that swallowed a goat." After coming down with pneumonia while on a tropical vacation, he decided it was time to get healthy.
Known for taking an obsessive stance on his authorial subject matter, Jacobs, an Esquire editor, once spent a year living the rules of the Bible as literally as possible (eight months Old Testament, four months New). He also read the entire Encyclopædia Britannica to become the ultimate know-it-all. His latest book, Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (Simon & Schuster, 416 pages, $26) takes the same extreme approach to health.
As with Jacobs' other work, Drop Dead Healthy reads not as a step-by-step guide but as a spirited narrative on methods, beliefs and practices that help establish health. Workouts range from the traditional (gym membership) to the absurd (a comedy club where workouts consist of trying to laugh your ass off). Diets include raw food and extreme chewing. Jacobs also tackled some other, not-so-evident ways to improve his health: sleep studies, teeth whitening and how to properly take a dump. On his 25-month journey, Jacobs tried everything you've ever heard mentioned as the key to good health—and many you haven't.
But, while infused with Jacobs's self-deprecating humor, the book still manages to be helpful. Jacobs is hardly a fitness expert, a fact that becomes evident in his explanations. Take, for example, the calorie-restrictive diet. It sounds relatively feasible—cut calories—yet when Jacobs details his laborious steps, that nascent feasibility vanishes.
Reading the book most likely won't be a life-changing event, but it will get readers thinking. The innocent willingness shown by Jacobs throughout Drop Dead Healthy helps transform a book about subjects most of us willfully ignore into a great read.