Book Review: The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs

Author: A.J. Jacobs
TitleThe Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
Narrator: Geoffrey Cantor
Publication Info: Highbridge Audiobooks (2004)
Books Read by the Same Author: The Year of Living Biblically

A.J. Jacobs sets out to “become the smartest person in the world” by reading the Encylopedia Britannica in its entirety from A-to-Z.  If you think this is a book about a man reading an encyclopedia and listing the facts he learns, well that’s exactly what it is.  But to be fair many of the facts are interesting and/or funny.  In between encyclopedic entries, Jacobs narrates his personal life.  This includes his relationship with his wife as they try to conceive a baby.  Then there’s his absolutely hilarious father who is also greatly interested in learning.  And Jacobs has a nemesis in his brother-in-law who is an even bigger – and more confident – know-it-all.  Along the way Jacobs attends adult education courses on speed reading and memorization, visits the Britannica publishing offices in Chicago, and appears on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?   I expect that Jacobs might be a tad bit annoying if you met him in person, but in his writing he is funny and charming and this is an enjoyable book for nerds like me.

Recommended booksThe Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester, Book Lust by Nancy Pearl, Dishwasher by Pete Jordan and Because I Said So! by Ken Jennings
Rating: ****