The year of doing something crazy to learn a lesson or prove a point is by now less a gimmick than a full-fledged publishing genre.
Cracker A Day: One Man’s Battle
By Scott Raubineck
The graham cracker, the story goes, was created in 1829 by Reverend Sylvester Graham as a deterrent against masturbation. One-hundred and eighty years later, first-time author Scott Raubineck, drawing from his popular blog crackeraday.com, put the long-discarded theory to test. For 12 months, each time Raubineck felt the urge to masturbate, he ate graham crackers instead. What begins as a meditation on outdated sexual mores and the history of American junk food gradually descends into madness, as the precocious author (a college senior at the outset of the experiment) increasingly finds Reverend Graham’s logic to be “extremely, extremely, extremely faulty.” Readers will be startled by the dramatic passage in which Raubineck — shivering from excessive sugar intake, his mouth smeared with graham crumbs — is arrested for humping a grocery store’s Honey Maid display while cursing the “demonic cracker.” Thus begins his second month of the experiment.
My Year of Saying “Yes” to Spam
By Edward Forke
Like so many computer users, Edward Forke was fed up with his unceasing barrage of spam. Rather than continue to bat away the unsolicited e-mail, the journalist opted for the opposite path: Over the course of a year, he followed up with every plea and solicitation that landed in his Inbox. Forke writes with vim about what turned out to be a harrowing year. Within months, his apartment was overflowing with Cialis, Viagra and other medication; his bank account was emptied by two members of the Nigerian royal family, facing apparently unrelated hardship; his penis had swelled to three times its natural size; and his computer became flooded with so many viruses that it literally blew up, damaging Forke’s newly acquired collection of beautiful designer timepieces. Join Forke on his rollercoaster year as he navigates life with his new bride, the Russian virgin Olga.
A Year as Before
By Joanne Weller
Joanne Weller greeted the new year demoralized. Her memoir The Burger Queen — for which Weller chronicled a year eating nothing but Burger King in order to prove how tasty the food is — had tanked following an editorial shakeup at her publisher, Burger King Holdings Corporation. Gazing into the mirror on January 1st, her destiny seemed clear: She would shed 100 pounds in 365 days and write a book about the experience. Weller procured the services of an eccentric troupe of frat boys who promised to help her “chase away that revolting lard.” Working pro bono to fulfill their fraternity’s philanthropic obligations, the Delta Tau Delta brothers trailed the author to restaurants and ice-cream parlors to make “barnyard” noises if she ordered too much and sent Weller on literal beer-runs whenever their cupboard was bare. But when a DTD-alumni-turned-tabloid-editor placed Weller on his newspaper’s “Repellent Celebrity Beach Bods” cover — “She may not be famous, but Joanne Weller sure is grotesque!” read the caption — the author snapped. Follow Weller on her path to an ashram, a second ashram with less appetizing food, the United Kingdom, and finally back to the frat house, where the worried brothers eagerly welcomed back their beloved “Before.”
Up Yours, Mother Earth: A Year without Recycling
By Charles Sternfield
In 2006, Charles Sternfield and his wife Georgina co-authored The Green Life, an account of a year spent reducing their household’s carbon footprint. When Georgina left Sternfield to write her follow-up book, I Cheated on My Husband for 365 Days (and He Never Found Out), the aggrieved environmentalist turned nihilistic and vengeful. His latest tome follows the author as he spends a year struggling to raise his carbon footprint to unprecedented heights. Sternfield covers his windows with whale skins and burns Styrofoam effigies of his ex-wife, allowing him to comfortably blast his air-conditioner through the winter. He orders custom-made plastic shopping bags emblazoned with the saying “I Used to Be a Chemical,” and regularly preys on the insecurity of men carrying their groceries in canvas totes by complimenting their “purses.” Note that this leather-bound door-stopper features text exclusively on its odd-numbered pages — each even-numbered page is devoted to a photograph of Sternfield offering his raised middle finger to a tree.
By Sofia Rafterberg
The young strivers who populate Sofia Rafterberg’s debut novel hail from all parts of the literary spectrum. There’s the elusive Daisy, a bohemian toiling over a book in which she spends a year doing everything recommended on Ellen DeGeneres’s Twitter feed. Daisy pines for Daniel, who is reeling from the success of his bestselling The Human Guinea Pig, for which he spent 365 days impersonating a guinea pig. Daniel, in turn, obsesses over Katie, a food critic writing a book about cooking nothing but cod for 12 months. Things heat up when Smith, a child of Greenwich researching a book in which he spends a year pretending to be poor, falls hard for the ghetto-bred Chantelle, who is spending the year pretending to be rich. Does Smith only love Chantelle for her money? See what made Publishers Weekly rave, “This is the kind of novel that makes you want to quit your job as a book reviewer, live among young artists for a year, and write a book about the experience.”