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History & Biography

“Year in the Life” Memoirs

In A.J. Jacobs' new book, “Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection,” the author describes his mission to improve his overall health by trying just about every piece of diet and exercise advice that is given to him. Jacobs' latest work follows previous books with a similar format including, “The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible."

Jacobs isn't the only author who has written books of this type. If you enjoy reading about the intense pursuit of a personal goal within a limited time frame, you might enjoy one of these other “Year in the Life” memoirs.

 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver
When Kingsolver and her family move from suburban Arizona to rural Appalachia, they take on a new challenge: to spend a year on a locally produced diet, paying close attention to the provenance of all they consume. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, and complete with original recipes, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

 Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention
by Katherine Ellison
The author recounts her journey to understand and reconnect with her 12-year-old son after they were both diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.


 Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine
by Lou Ureneck
The account of a year spent building a small post-and-beam cabin in the hills of western Maine tells a deeper story about brotherly bonds, home and nature.


 Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year Without Sex
by Hephzibah Anderson
Seeking love in an age obsessed with sex, a journalist chronicles her year without it. As Anderson examined her past, she recognized that most of her relationships went off course at the precise moment sex was involved. So, she decided it was time to spend a full year without sex to rediscover its meaning and purpose in her life.

 Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting
by Michael Perry
In over his head with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and baby due any minute, Perry gives readers a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country.


 Dream On: One Hack Golfer's Challenge to Break Par in a Year
by John Richardson
John Richardson was determined to break par within a year at the local golf course, while working a demanding full-time job and trying his best to remain a good husband and father.  “Dream On” is the hilarious and inspiring story of how John achieved the seemingly impossible -- from how the initial challenge took shape and the methods he used to dramatically improve his game, to that glorious day, less than one year later, when he broke par and played the best round of his life.

 Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit
by Ryan Nerz
Journalist Ryan Nerz spent a year penetrating the highest echelons of international competitive eating and “Eat This Book” is the fascinating and gut-bustingly hilarious account of his journey. Sparing no one's appetite, Nerz reveals the training, game-day strategies and after-effects of competition in this delectably shocking banquet of gluttony and glory on the competitive eating circuit.

 Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home
by Susan Pohlman
As soon as Susan Pohlman and husband Tim wrapped up a business trip in Italy, she planned to end their 18-year marriage. During their last day in Italy, Tim fantasized aloud that, perhaps, they could live there. Together with their children, they traded in their breakneck Los Angeles pace for adventure and a slower, more intimate lifestyle. 

 Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously
by Julie Powell
Julie Powell, nearing 30 and trapped in a dead-end secretarial job, resolves to reclaim her life by cooking in the span of a single year, every one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's legendary “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Her unexpected reward: not just a newfound respect for calves' livers and aspic, but a new life-lived with gusto.

 I'm With Fatty: Losing Fifty Pounds in Fifty Miserable Weeks
by Edward Ugel
Where does one draw the line between being a lifelong foodie and a food addict? Edward Ugel is 36 years old and weighs 263 pounds, or as he likes to think about it: 119 kilograms. “I'm with Fatty” chronicles Ugel's attempt to follow doctor's orders and lose 50 pounds or risk dropping dead while standing in line at Popeyes.

 Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk
by Robyn Okrant
What happens when a 35-year-old average American woman spends one year following every piece of Oprah Winfrey's advice on how to "live your best life"? Robyn Okrant devoted 2008 to adhering to all of Oprah's suggestions and guidance delivered via her television show her website, and her magazine.

 MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend
by Rachel Bertsche
When Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she's thrilled to finally share a zip code with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, Bertsche realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: She'll go on 52 friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.

 My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith
by Benyamin Cohen
One day a Georgia-born son of an Orthodox rabbi discovers that his enthusiasm for Judaism is flagging. Looking out of his window at one of the hundreds of churches in Atlanta, he asks, "What would it be like to be a Christian?" So begins Benyamin Cohen's hilarious journey that is part memoir, part spiritual quest, and part anthropologist's mission. By year's end, to Cohen's surprise, his search for universal answers and truths in the Bible Belt actually make him a better Jew.

 My Year With Eleanor: A Memoir
by Noelle Hancock
In the year leading up to her 30th birthday, the author, a former media blogger, turns to Eleanor Roosevelt for guidance as she spends the last months of her 20s pursuing a "year of fear" during which she embarks on many adventures.


 Quarter-Acre Farm: How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn and Fed My Family for a Year
by Spring Warren
When Spring Warren told her husband and two teenage boys that she wanted to grow 75 percent of all the food they consumed for one year -- and that she wanted to do it in their yard -- they told her she was crazy. She did it anyway. 

 Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to do the Right Things
by Lee Kravitz
After losing his job, Lee Kravitz, a workaholic in his mid-50s, took stock of his life and realized just how disconnected he had become from the people who mattered most to him. He committed an entire year to reconnecting with them and making amends. 


 The Year of Yes: A Memoir
by Maria Dahvana Headley
Playwright Maria Headley had had her fill of terrible dates. Discouraged and looking for love, she decided the time had come for her to eliminate her own taste from the equation. Instead, she would date every person who asked her out for an entire year, regardless of circumstances.

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