The Know-it-All, by A. J. Jacobs

knowitallEven though I hold A.J. Jacobs largely responsible for spawning an entire sub-genre of non-fiction (people who do something odd for a year and then blog and/or write a book about it), I have to admit I love his writing. I thoroughly enjoyed The Year of Living Biblically, and have finally gotten around to reading his earlier book, The Know-it-All, in which Jacobs attempts to make himself smarter by reading through the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

While this volume lacks the spiritual reflection of Living Biblically, many of the same trademarks are there — Jacobs’ self-deprecating humour and his avid curiousity.  He may never become the “smartest person in the world” (as the book’s subtitle suggests)  but he will always be one of the most interested and interesting.  The story of his year of reading and learning is interspersed with odd and often hilarious facts Jacobs picked up from the Britannica, which add to the enjoyment.  Definitely a good read.

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3 Comments

Filed under Nonfiction -- general

3 responses to “The Know-it-All, by A. J. Jacobs

  1. AJ Jacobs

    Thanks Trudy! Your post popped up when I self-Googled (terrible habit). And sorry about the sub-genre!
    AJ

  2. It’s OK, AJ, I self-Google all the time too! And I don’t hold you fully responsible for the sub-genre (most of which I enjoy reading — see my reviews of Benyamin Cohen, Kevin Roose, and Nadia Bolz-Weber) … just seems to be such a trend lately!! Anyway, honoured to have you post on my blog.

  3. I think I need to read this book. I spent hours as a kid poring through World Book encyclopedias and National Geographic magazines (and continue to this day with Smithsonian), which has made me the receptacle for a ton of useless, but potentially interesting information. Interesting to me, but maybe not so much to everyone around me who can expect to be blitzed with factoids at any given moment. I think I’m growing out of it – and tend to keep the facts inside my head (people simply aren’t interested, and are prone to think you a know-it-all even when you are naively thinking they will be as entranced by facts as you are…)…FYI, did you know that a baby seal gains a pound every five hours?

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