We sat down with New York Times Bestselling author A.J. Jacobs to learn about what makes him tick and to discuss his eclectic mix of projects, past and present.
Q: What is your biggest motivation as a writer/journalist?
I love the variety of topics I get to cover. In the past six months, I’ve interviewed a proud bearded woman, attended a polyamory support group and spoken with president George H. W. Bush (the older one). I feel lucky to get to be a generalist.
Q: How was The Global Family Reunion last summer? What was the inspiration behind the event?
My next book is about the revolution in family trees. Because they aren’t trees anymore. They’re forests. I’m helping to build the biggest family tree in the world, which is currently at over 100 million people. That’s 100 million people all related by blood or marriage. For instance, I’m Barack Obama’s fifth great aunt’s husband’s father’s wife’s seventh great nephew. Really. We’re practically brothers. To celebrate the idea that we all share 99.9 percent of our DNA, I threw the Global Family Reunion last summer. We had about 14,000 people participate at 40 parties around the world. Sister Sledge was there to sing “We Are Family,” so that was a highlight. (Full disclosure: One of the four sisters couldn’t come, so we had 75 percent of Sister Sledge).
Q: Where is your favorite place to write?
Right outside Conference Room 2 at the Upper West Side Yard, of course! Actually, I also do a lot of writing at home. I wrote a book about health, and became a fan of the treadmill desk. I find it keeps me awake. You can’t fall asleep at your keyboard or you’ll end up with a concussion.
Q: What song do you get stuck in your head most often?
My kids still have a mild obsession with “Watch me Whip, watch me Nae Nae” all these months later. So I find that seeping into my brain.
Q: What are three things you love about The Yard: Lincoln Square?
1. Hearing abut other people’s cool jobs – like accountant for a tarot card reader (I think that’s true, though I might have made it up).
2. I love the energy of the Yard staff (DaVonne, Alexandra, etc.) They are far more like cheerleaders than schoolmarms. They’re delightfully positive.
3. Of course, the occasional free muffins and/or donuts.
Q: What are you currently working on? Sneak Peek?
I’m hosting a podcast with a company called Gimlet Media (they do Start Up). It’s about history, but not just your traditional wars and presidents. We just did a segment on Meat Loaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light. (The show will be out in the fall).
Thanks A.J! We’re huge fans of your unconventional storytelling and can’t wait to learn more about the world through your eyes.