13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Great gift for geeks and well-adjusted people too!
, March 21, 2006
Not only is this book informative, thought provoking and hilarious, but Jacobs (and his patient wife, of course) have officially secured a place on my "fantasy dinner party" list. (A proud moment for A.J. and his family, I'm sure.)
My intention was to give this book to my husband as a sort of gag gift after he beat me senseless in Trivial Pursuit for the 1000th time (more like 1023rd, but who's counting?). This is a guy whose favorite Christmas present every year is the latest edition of the Statistical Abstract -- and that's only the part I'm not embarrassed to admit. At any rate, the book looked like something my quiz-bowl-champion-husband would enjoy (while the not-so-subtle dig implied by the title was something I would enjoy. Bonus!). And I'm sure he will enjoy it...if I ever give it to him. The thing is I started reading it first, and once I cracked the cover I was hooked. Now that I've finished it, I am having so much fun pelting him with trivia that I can't bring myself to cede my temporary advantage. Mature, I know.
I was surprised to read some rather scathing critiques of Know It All on this site. Maybe those reviewers are much smarter than I am, but...I would hate to suggest that certain people might be "dead inside", so let's just say they could possibly be lacking a sense of humor. Definitely not the kind of people I would pretend to invite to an imaginary dinner party. Nope, not even if one of the other guests pretended not to show up.
It's true this book doesn't provide in-depth information on any topic. It isn't meant to be a reference book or a substitute for a presidential biography. But I was impressed by the eclectic selection of facts and stories. Did you know that Alaska is both the westernmost and easternmost state? (Apparently a couple of the Aleutian islands cross the 180th parallel). Or that Isaac Newton had "pronounced psychotic tendencies" and used to send creepy, paranoid letters to John Locke? And while you probably knew that, technically, a tomato is a fruit, did you know that (botanically speaking) a strawberry is not a berry at all, but a pumpkin is. Yep, bananas too. (My eight year old got a big kick out of that one).
So the facts alone are good fun. Random, yes, but never dull. And then there's the quest itself. Let's face it; reading about a guy who's reading the encyclopedia could be a real snoozer. Instead, Jacobs self-deprecating humor, and willingness to discuss how his eccentric quest affects his life and vice versa, makes for great, often laugh-out-loud reading.
There's a parallel quest too. While Jacobs seeks to acquire knowledge (by reading the entire Britannica from A-Z), he also examines the relationship between knowledge and intelligence, and the nature of intelligence itself. Don't get me wrong, this is no philosophical tome, but he puts his reporting skills to good (and highly entertaining) use here, my favorite being his mini-feature on a Mensa convention. I won't spoil it, but I'm still chuckling about the stickers.
Bottom line: you don't have to be a trivia freak to appreciate this book. Great gift for the curious, and a super fun read. I might even give it to my husband.