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It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  3,520 ratings  ·  652 reviews
New York Times bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs undergoes a hilarious, heartfelt quest to understand what constitutes family—where it begins and how far it goes—and attempts to untangle the true meaning of the “Family of Humankind.”

A.J. Jacobs has received some strange emails over the years, but this note was perhaps the
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by Simon Schuster
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  3,520 ratings  ·  652 reviews

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Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, memoir, genealogy
This is one I picked up solely because of the author. I have no real interest in genealogy, but I'm ALWAYS interested in a new book by A.J. Jacobs. His books are packed with fascinating facts and tidbits. This one, however, is on a more personal level, and much of the information is about A.J.'s relatives. He has some fun tales to tell, but I'm willing to bet most of us have stories of immigrants and wartime heroes hovering in our backgrounds just waiting to be discovered.

And that, I suppose, is
Not what I was expecting and didn't find it that funny.
Angel Hench
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: signed-editions
This book was interesting and amusing in some places, but I didn't get the sense that this was an A.J. Jacobs' usual in-depth ultra-obsessed project book. This felt more like A.J. Jacobs-lite. It did get me looking into my family history, which I'm thankful for. I've learned that my great-grandmother's second marriage was to a man almost 15 years her junior (go, grandma!) and my maternal grandmother's family was probably Amish. So, if you are interested in genealogy at all, you will enjoy this b ...more
I would call this a book about genealogy for people who aren’t really all that interested in the subject. It is genealogy lite. Which is not to say that it isn’t a good book or that I didn’t like it. I enjoyed it a great deal.

I’ve been doing genealogy since I was a teenager and discovered our family Bible, with my great-grandfather’s handwritten records of the family in it. It’s huge & heavy and he bought it from someone in a California train station for 25 cents back in the day. He was a lumber
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I have loved everything A. J. Jacobs has written so far, and I'm happy to say that I loved his new book, It's All Relative, too. Jacobs takes on huge personal projects in his writing. This time, he takes on genealogy. He does all the DNA tests, and researches his family members from the past, and decides to put on a huge family reunion. Everything he does makes me laugh, and laugh out loud, and it takes something good to have me laughing out loud. It's All Relative is something good.
Beth Jusino
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it

This would have been better if it spent more time exploring genetics, family trees, and human connections, and less time complaining about party planning.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I love AJ Jacobs but this wasn’t quite as strong as his other experimental ventures. I thought the idea of a global family reunion was pretty ridiculous, but the genealogy bits were interesting, and as always, his writing was very witty and fun. I know next to nothing about my family history so this might just inspire me to do some research.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Disclaimer: I first need to say that the fact the author and I are cousins in no way influenced me to give this book a good review. (If you don't believe we're related, read the book and find out!)

I don't care what anyone says, it can be good to judge a book by its cover. I opened this book thinking it was predominately a book about evolutionary biology and how all living things are connected; that's what I surmised from the cover. However, if I'd known it was instead predominately an accounting
Benjamin Thomas
For those readers like me who have experienced an AJ Jacobs book before, we know that he has a seriously curious mind. And he doesn’t think small. This time around, he has been thinking of his own ancestors and the concept of the World Family Tree (i.e. that we are all, in essence “cousins” descended from a scientific Adam and Eve known as the “Y-Chromosomal Adam” and the “Mitochondrial Eve”). And, of course, Mr. Jacobs dreams up a project to dwarf anything a rational human being might think of: ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-for-review
I became a fan of AJ Jacobs after finishing his first book, The Know-it-All. He expertly is able to combine humor with factual info and make a subject you wouldn’t expect to find entertaining, well, entertaining.

His newest book starts with the idea that we are all related. It’s so timely, given the popularity of sites like and mail-in DNA kits.

This book gives us some examples of his family history, but it also covers genealogical connections to presidents, celebrities, and scientist
Dec 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish this one. Stopped at Chapter 10: Should Families Be Abolished. In this chapter, the author discusses the idea that instead of being building blocks of society, families are actually bad because they encourage an us-versus-them mentality. All people of goodwill should denounce their mothers, fathers and ancestors and embrace the Universe as your light-giving force. Or you might as well be a full fledged warlord. Okay, I exaggerate in the style of the author, but that seemed to be ...more
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017-wom
Did you know that we share an estimated 99.9% of DNA with each other? Did you know that most homo sapiens have a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA? Or an atom of Beethoven's? How about that we share 88% of the same DNA with mice?

If information like this fascinates you, you'll like the writings of A.J. Jacobs. I read his first book 'Know It All' when it came out. It was his account of reading his way through the encyclopedia. I have never read an entire encyclopedia, but I have picked one up m
Daniel Chaikin
18. It's All Relative : Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree (audio) by A. J. Jacobs
read by the author
published: 2017
format: 8:07 overdrive audiobook (~225 pages, 336 pages in hardcover)
acquired: Library
listened: Apr 3-11
rating: 2½

Not much to this. This is my first book by Jacobs, and he's charming and reads really nicely on audio and can make almost anything interesting, no matter how thin. And this is really really thin. In sum, we are all related, we are all cousins at some level an
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.
In his latest personal adventure, A.J. Jacobs researches his family tree. He decides to try to break a world record for family reunions while he goes far afield to find relatives. His theme seems to be that we are all related in some way, and has photos of disparate people, including celebrities, holding up signs that say “I Am A Cousin”. Although the book is generally humorous, at times he seems to be trying too hard to be funny.

The book is an interesting delve into the world of gene
Alex O'Brien
An interesting and funny account of Jacobs' efforts to research his ancestors, prepare a global family tree, and stage the world's biggest reunion. The book is well-written and will serve as a good guide for budding genealogists, but it's not as deep in content as Jacobs' previous works and I found the ending-his description of the actual reunion-a bit of a let-down. Unfortunately, Jacobs only touches on this event which the whole book had been building up to.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Funny, interesting and educational; I was sticking post it notes throughout the book. I'm excited to look further into my family tree.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
At best, a very light introduction to genealogy and the world family tree.
Not recommended for anyone with experience in genealogy seeking any insight.
It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs is both very funny and very serious at the same time. A.J. Jacobs becomes interested in the idea that if the world can go back 70 generations, everyone in the world is related. The rest of the book is stuffed full of facts and tidbits of information on genealogy, his family history, and holding what he tries to make is that largest family gathering in the world. A.J. Jacobs turns his battle cry into "We are Cousins" ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
From the publisher -
New York Times bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs undergoes a hilarious, heartfelt quest to understand what constitutes family—where it begins and how far it goes—and attempts to untangle the true meaning of the “Family of Humankind.” A.J. Jacobs has received some strange emails over the years, but this note was perhaps the strangest: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ken Heard
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm not that interested in geneaology; I've often said I could hold a family reunion in a telephone booth because I have no living relatives and come from a tiny family tree (a sapling, so be it). I am the last branch on whatever family tree I'm involved in. That said, though, I will read anything A.J. Jacobs writes and I'm never disappointed.

The thing that works best with his writing is that he seems to really put his heart into it. He truly seems interested in what he's studying and he is able
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I picked up this book after hearing AJ Jacobs discuss his attempt to create the world's largest family reunion in a podcast. As always, he is an amiable and highly readable chronicler of his misadventures as he shares what he learned about the boom in genealogy brought about by the fertile combination of the Internet and DNA testing and what he learned about his own family history through the process.

Jacobs' motive in attempting to create the world's largest family reunion is a noble one; after
Bob Andelman
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
TODAY’S GUEST: A.J. Jacobs, author, “It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree,” and his wife, Julie Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs is always a great guest because he is always getting himself into situations that most people would want to avoid.
You know, like that year he spend literally following the life instructions found in the Bible.

Or when he turned himself into a lab rat trying out all sorts of ways to get healthy.

And that time he outsourced his family obligations and job resp
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very informative and humorous, which is par for the course from Jacobs. His latest social experiment is a deep dive into the world of genealogy, and I enjoyed learning about the various aspects of this field and following where Jacobs' curiosity-fueled quest about his family tree took him. The updates that count down the weeks to the family reunion are especially amusing; while not everything came together perfectly in the end, it sounds like a very memorable event for all involved. As usual, it ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
AJ Jacobs is always good for an entertaining read, and this latest book is no exception. If you've listened to AJ's podcast Twice Removed you'll already have an idea of what you will get in this book. (And if you haven't listened be sure to check it out. It was a short lived podcast, but kind of fun.) AJ is on a quest to show that everyone is all part of one big family.

There is a light narrative through the book in which AJ is organizing a (hopefully) record breaking family reunion. It seems lik
Scottsdale Public Library
A.J. relates (pun totally intended!) his journey of finding his and the worlds’ proverbial and literal, shallow and deep family roots in It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree. An Israeli dairy farmer sends an e-mail to A.J. stating how he is a distant relative. Concerns only slightly aside, A.J. does some of his notoriously in depth research (Did you know that you and I are at most seventieth cousins?! … Probably. ) to find out more about how to begin a genealogy sear ...more
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
I really enjoyed this lighthearted look at the author's cousins genealogy project.
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I believe Jacobs sold me on a lot of ideas because of his candor. His humor and ability to keep such a positive attitude was great and also refreshing. It kept me reading and enjoying his adventure. His idea of a world wide reunion to unify us is something I can get behind. I’m so incredibly tired of everyone focusing on how our identities set us apart. It’s exhausting. And it ends up leaving me angry. But this? This is something soul soothing. Focus on what we have in common. How are we connect ...more
Anna (lion_reads)
A light, fluffy read for anyone vaguely interested in family trees. A.J. Jacobs tells a few stories from his own genealogical search and attempt to organize a Global Family Reunion. Jacobs spends some time talking about what it means to be connected. I think the book was not the in-depth discussion I was looking for, but Jacobs does introduce a few basic concepts and paradoxes of genealogy. I didn't enjoy the party planning updates or preoccupation with the event. Another quibble I have is that ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A. J. Jacobs recounts how he brought another one of his over-the-top ideas to life. This time his interest in genealogy leads him to try to break the Guinness World Record for largest family reunion.
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A.J. Jacobs is a New York Times bestselling author, Esquire editor and human guinea pig.

Among Jacobs’ life experiments:
--The Know-It-All. The bestselling memoir of the year he spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a quest to become the smartest person in the world.
--The Year of Living Biblically. The bestseller about his life as the ultimate biblical man. He followed every rule of th

Articles featuring this book

In It's All Relative , A.J. Jacobs explores the transformation of the modern family, including the impact of DNA tests and his own tangled...
3 likes · 1 comments
“Tyson emails back: “I’m going to tell you the same thing that I told Henry Louis Gates” (Gates had asked Tyson to appear on his show Finding Your Roots): My philosophy of root-finding may be unorthodox. I just don’t care. And that’s not a passive, but active absence of caring. In the tree of life, any two people in the world share a common ancestor—depending only on how far back you look. So the line we draw to establish family and heritage is entirely arbitrary. When I wonder what I am capable of achieving, I don’t look to family lineage, I look to all human beings. That’s the genetic relationship that matters to me. The genius of Isaac Newton, the courage of Gandhi and MLK, the bravery of Joan of Arc, the athletic feats of Michael Jordan, the oratorical skills of Sir Winston Churchill, the compassion of Mother Teresa. I look to the entire human race for inspiration for what I can be—because I am human. Couldn’t care less if I were a descendant of kings or paupers, saints or sinners, the valorous or cowardly. My life is what I make of it.” 1 likes
“Mrs. Bush answers: “I think you ought to treat your spouse like you treat your friends. You clean your house for your friends, you make sure they’re taken care of. A spouse often comes second. So treat your spouse like the friends. Don’t just go halfway. If each spouse goes seventy-five percent of the way, it’s a perfect match.” 1 likes
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