Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs

Reading time: 7 hours
New knowledge 7/10
Need to pay attention 3/10
Emotional connection 5/10
Unquantifiable satisfaction7/10
Overall 8/10

A.J. Jacobs' first foray into writing a non-fiction novel follows his year-long quest to read The Encyclopaedia Britannica in its entirety. The book is structured by letters of the alphabet, with him pointing out the most interesting tidbits he comes across (from history of fashion to Renee Descartes' love for cross-eyed women). Alongside quoting the most fascinating of trivia, A.J. allows us into his personal life to show how his newfound knowledge is changing his relationship dynamics and his life philosophy. As we learn about gods of fertility in many cultures we also watch as A.J. and his wife struggle to conceive a child. As we read about learned scholars and their hapless relatives, we watch A.J. try his hand at Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

This is a handy book to have for those who have short periods of free time during which to read. With no plot to speak of, you only need to concentrate on the entry at hand, which range from a paragraph to several pages. A.J. is an extremely likable narrator and we learn to love him and his idiosyncrasies early on. You will emerge from this book knowing a lot about a lot without feeling overwhelmed, because the entirety of the greatest encyclopaedia in the world has been filtered through a man who writes fluff pieces for Esquire.

The Know It All on Amazon


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