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The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 21, 2004
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44 million words
10 billion years of history
1 obsessed man
Part memoir and part education (or lack thereof), The Know-It-All chronicles NPR contributor A.J. Jacobs's hilarious, enlightening, and seemingly impossible quest to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica from A to Z.
To fill the ever-widening gaps in his Ivy League education, A.J. Jacobs sets for himself the daunting task of reading all thirty-two volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His wife, Julie, tells him it's a waste of time, his friends believe he is losing his mind, and his father, a brilliant attorney who had once attempted the same feat and quit somewhere around Borneo, is encouraging but, shall we say, unconvinced.
With self-deprecating wit and a disarming frankness, The Know-It-All recounts the unexpected and comically disruptive effects Operation Encyclopedia has on every part of Jacobs's life -- from his newly minted marriage to his complicated relationship with his father and the rest of his charmingly eccentric New York family to his day job as an editor at Esquire. Jacobs's project tests the outer limits of his stamina and forces him to explore the real meaning of intelligence as he endeavors to join Mensa, win a spot on Jeopardy!, and absorb 33,000 pages of learning. On his journey he stumbles upon some of the strangest, funniest, and most profound facts about every topic under the sun, all while battling fatigue, ridicule, and the paralyzing fear that attends his first real-life responsibility -- the impending birth of his first child.
The Know-It-All is an ingenious, mightily entertaining memoir of one man's intellect, neuroses, and obsessions and a soul-searching, ultimately touching struggle between the all-consuming quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.
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Active Table of Contents for each letter chapter.
You can browse chapter to chapter with one click.
Formatting is nice and simple to read.
Index available but is neither clickable or page numbered which makes an index useless.
What readers want to know:
This is a narrative of one man's adventure in reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. For select entries, the author expounds on the content and history and its application in his world (his wife, his job, etc.).
It is humorous, enlightening, and fun. If you are a trivia or reference book enthusiast than this is your comfort reading! It has hilarity and heart. And even I, a reference book junkie learned a thing or too! The narrative is pleasant and makes the effort more enjoyable than just reading about entries.
Jacobs has brought stunt authoring to the academics... or at least Jeopardy watchers! It makes you want to go back when information searching began with sifting through pages of a heavy set of leather bound books.
The book spans the alphabet from A to Z, full of interesting tidbits about historical figures, etc. but A.J. sprinkles the pages with comings & goings from his own life. Although an interesting read, about half-way thru I wanted it to be OVER. Interestingly the hard cover copy I bought has several typos thruout--curious coming from an editor of Esquire magazine.
His sense of humor comes thru the pages as strongly as in his other works, but I didn't enjoy this one as much as "The Year of Living Biblically".
I had to get used to the author's style, which initially I found a bit snarky, but after several pages I tuned into his vibe. I'm glad I adjusted because I ultimately enjoyed quite a few belly laughs. My favorite was the bit about his dad's favorite drink being Yellow Lightening.
This is definitely light reading, great to read on a vacation, but with a creative flair that sets it apart from the genre.
The basic story is interesting, as Jacobs embarks on a quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Brittannica, but the quest is a self-centered one, and it is difficult to read the inconveniences suffered by Jacobs' wife and other family members when the reader knows that even Jacobs doesn't seem convinced that his pursuit has a worthwhile goal. As the book progresses, though, Jacobs matures as a storyteller and presents beautiful studies of intelligence and wisdom, along with honest struggles with infertility and with his larger-than-life father. By the end, this is a truly wonderful book, and I highly recommend it.