The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
A. J. Jacobs
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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.
44 MILLION WORDS
10 BILLION YEARS OF HISTORY
1 OBSESSED MAN
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 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 struggle between the all-consuming quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.
has apparently just lost a lot of money--I guess it's supposed to be amusing, but it just increases my frustration. The prime time version--the one with Regis Philbin--has long since been canceled. I'm just trying to get on the syndicated version--the one that runs in the afternoon every day, around Oprah time, and is hosted by a woman named Meredith Vieira, who doesn't shout nearly as much as Regis. Finally, after several weeks, the agonized man face is gone. Auditions! Here in New York! I
have it good. I don't remember ever being allowed to snack during class, even if I snacked silently. The kids, like those in my other classes, know a lot, and not just about Russell Crowe's character. They know about Assyrian kings and Virgil's Aeneid and several other things that I should know but don't. Though I did get a round of applause by saying what res publica means. So I give myself a C+. In conclusion--that's how I ended my elementary school essays, so I figure it fits--I came away
applicants. I couldn't believe how wonderful everything at the school was. "I love this cafeteria! This is the most beautiful cafeteria I've ever seen. And this baked ziti--this is fucking delicious! You get to live in these dorm rooms? They're palaces. And your library carrels are so well designed. What beautiful fluorescent lighting! God, look at that pile of bricks in the yard. That's the most gorgeous pile of bricks at any college I've ever seen." I think I gave out about fifteen hugs to
noticed it when my fellow Esquire editor Andy "Hammering Homunculus" Ward mentioned this in the pages of our magazine, but the Britannica drives the point home. What happened to names like Cool Papa Bell (a baseball player in the twenties)? Or the Bounding Basque (a tennis pro) or the Galloping Ghost (Red Grange)? Why can't we come up with nicknames like the Game Chicken (an 19th-century prizefighter)? Nowadays, we've got A-Rod and Shaq and "Hey, dildo!" They've got all the spunk and appeal of
producers announced that after 7,485 performances on Broadway, Rum Tum Tugger was going to that kitty-litter box in the sky. I think I probably used that phrase, come to think of it. But my most significant Andrew Lloyd Webber memory has to do with a play even campier than Cats: Starlight Express. For those who missed it, Starlight Express was the one about trains. The characters had names like Rusty and Dinah the Dining Car, and the actors played the trains by zipping across the stage on roller