Author of the week
You remember your cousin A.J. Jacobs, don’t you? said Sheena McFarland in The Salt Lake Tribune. With his latest book, It’s All Relative, the New York–based magazine writer and best-selling author of several quirky memoirs is boasting about how widely his family tree extends, and no one on earth can be safely counted outside his expanding circle. His project began when he received an email four years ago from a genealogy researcher claiming to be an eighth cousin. “I figured he was going to ask me to wire $10,000 to Nigeria,” Jacobs says. But the inquirer was simply building a family tree, and Jacobs decided to take up the endeavor as well. Thanks to the online services fueling an explosion in such research, he now claims traceable family ties to 250 million people—on his way, inevitably, to 7 billion.
The point, of course, is that we’re all family, said Brian Bethune in Maclean’s. “It’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but we’re all Kevin Bacon,” says Jacobs, who used that discovery to track down distant relatives— including Ricky Gervais and Olivia Wilde—and to gather 3,800 kin in a nearly successful attempt to hold the largest family reunion ever. What still excites Jacobs is how people have been shown to warm to one another—even across tribal boundaries— when they learn they share a family lineage. If Jacobs can help spread the news that everyone on earth is, by one estimate, at least a 70th cousin of everyone else, he’ll be satisfied. “I don’t expect us to all burst into song and solve all wars and racism,” he says. “But it’s a nice nudge in the right direction.”