The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

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Simon & Schuster, Sep 21, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 400 pages
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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Borrows-N-Wants - www.librarything.com

This book is hilarious. Jacobs is very entertaining and has a wonderful sense of humor. As an added bonus, you get to learn a lot of useless trivia that you will be tempted to work into every day conversations-- though hopefully you will be more successful than Jacobs was :) . Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - witchyrichy - LibraryThing

A.J. Jacobs decides to read the Encyclopedia Britannica in an effort to "know it all." His memoir of this feat takes us through the process as he attempts to find ways to show off his new-found ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
1
Section 2
7
Section 3
21
Section 4
31
Section 5
53
Section 6
68
Section 7
91
Section 8
104
Section 14
234
Section 15
247
Section 16
276
Section 17
282
Section 18
297
Section 19
322
Section 20
336
Section 21
343

Section 9
140
Section 10
165
Section 11
174
Section 12
191
Section 13
221
Section 22
357
Section 23
363
Section 24
370
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

A.J. Jacobs is the author of The New York Times bestsellers The Year of Living Biblically, My Life as an Experiment and The Know-It-All. He has been called "inspired and inspiring" (Vanity Fair), "entertaining" (New York Times) and "hilarious" (Time). He is the editor at large of Esquire magazine, a contributor to NPR, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in New York City with his wife Julie and their children. Visit him at AJJacobs.com and follow him on Twitter @ajjacobs.

Bibliographic information