The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs

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Stars: *****

My brother bought this book and showed me that he was reading it. I was so interested I got it from the library to read myself. I love knowing facts, being book smart I guess. A.J. Jacobs read through the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica and this book is about his quest, and his fulfilling it. It’s written like an encyclopedia itself, with notes on some of the things he’s read and what he thinks of them.

Even though it’s written like an encyclopedia, it’s far from dry and boring. He still writes about his life including wife, brother, father, work, trying to get pregnant, attempting to join Mensa and be on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire etc…. I got into the “story” just like any other book, like a memoir, internally sighing or cheering as different things unfolded.

Jacobs is also very funny. I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit actually.

Allow me to quote my favourite part, from the entry Fux, Johann on page 103:

“I’ve learned about The Golden Ass (a book by a Platonic philosopher) and the Wild Ass’ Skin (a novel by Balzac.) I’ve read about the half ass (a type of mule in Asia) and Buridan’s ass (an animal in a philosophical parable.) But it goes way beyond asses. Asses are just the start. You can also take a trip to the river Suck (in Ireland), where you could fish for crappies (a freshwater bass) while you drink some Brest Milk (the town in Belarus is known for its dairies). If you’re bored, you can have a stroke-off (while playing bandy, a version of ice hockey) and fondle a bushtit (a small bird). If you’re feeling smart, you might want to argue the impact of Isaac Butt (an Irish leader) or debate the merits of the Four Wangs (Chinese landscape painters), who might have been collected by the Fuggers (an art-loving family). Or else, just take a flying Fokker (a German airplane.)”

You have to admit that’s all pretty hilarious! The write up under Earth and Ectasy are pretty funny too. Jacobs makes quite a few cracks at celebrities too.

Finally I even found some useful things to try in the book such as pg 116 where he tells us:

“I’ve figured out a secret, which I share with you now: if you put on the closed captioning and press fast forward on the VCR or TiVo, you can still read all the dialogue. I read sitcoms in eight minutes flat. “

I’ve learned quite a few facts in this book, I only wish I could remember them all. However I have found times throughout my own life when a fact I learned in the book came in handy. I think this is an awesome book and that A.J. Jacobs is an awesome man to have undertaken this quest, which is anything but humble. It was a great read, possibly the best of the year.

A.J. Jacobs is also the author of The Year of Living Biblically and his newest book The Guinea Pig Diairies (which I’d love to read!)

About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.