Friday, August 7, 2009

The Know It All

33,000 pages
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.

This was my second time reading this book. I found it hilarious and educational the first time around, and I'm happy to say that the second read was for entertainment proposes only. I needed a laugh! And I got it, too.

I love the author's sense of humor, his energy and his dedication to the task of reading the whole Encyclopedia Britannica. I would have given up within the first month.

Loved it! And it's going back to my shelf until the next time I am in the need of some laughs.

The Know It All by A.J. Jacobs (Re-read) Non-fiction; Simon & Schuster (9/2004); 2009 100 + Reading Challenge (96);


Kailana said...

Oh, yes, I keep forgetting about this book! I must read it one of these days.

Anonymous said...

I'd not heard of this, but I added it to my wish list immediately. Sounds like fun.