A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs has a shtick, and that's okay. He knows he has a shtick , and it's profitably served him through two tongue-in-cheek self-improvement books (The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically). Now comes the third and likely final installment in his makeover trilogy: Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (Simon & Schuster, $26), which he claims to have typed while walking on a treadmill beneath his desk. It's a stunt, it's a gimmick, it's a crib from George Plimpton's first-person adventures, but so what? Jacobs is endearingly unserious about his get-in-shape regimen. A magazine writer for Esquire, he knows how to grab the colorful anecdote or zany source, and there's no danger of his tripping on the loose shoelace of erudition. He leaves the footnotes to Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan, playing up his own persona as fitness dufus, a guy who knows nothing about the (now sagging) equipment he was born with. His zealous quest matches up with America's long mania for fitness and perfection, from Dr. Kellogg to 8-Minute Abs. As much as Drop Dead Healthy laughs at itself, it laughs at us, too. And once his tour is completed, Jacobs can return to noshing Cheetos on the couch, let his gut grow back (as they all do), and start scheming up his next book pitch—about himself, of course. BRIAN MILLER

Thu., April 26, 6 p.m., 2012

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