The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs: A man decides to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover. This was not quite the book I thought it was going to be. I expected it to be a lot of commentary on the information itself and the layout of the Britannica. And it was, in part, but it was also about Jacobs’s relationship with his father; his attempts to get on trivia game shows; enthusiasts of “intellectual” pursuits like crosswords, speed-reading, and Mensa; he and his wife’s difficulties conceiving; one-upping his perfect brother-in-law; and the constant connections he finds between his life and what he’s just read about in the encyclopedia. It was very readable and sometimes quite funny, but in the end it’s basically the diary of a magazine editor who decides to do something bizarre. He never says anything of the sort, but I could not shake the feeling that writing this book was a significant part of his motivation behind the project. Still, I did enjoy the random trivia shared here and there. If nothing else, it convinced me that I have exactly no desire whatsoever to read the Encyclopedia Britannica myself. So Jacobs has saved me a whole bunch of time.

P.S. – The back cover refers to “10 billion years of human history”. Um. Humans have been around less than a million years; latest estimates say about 200,000.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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