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The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (2006)

by A. J. Jacobs

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,9101622,312 (3.75)169
"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"--Book description.… (more)
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» See also 169 mentions

English (158)  German (3)  Dutch (1)  All languages (162)
Showing 1-5 of 158 (next | show all)
Enjoyable tale of one man’s quest to read the encyclopedia and lord his knowledge over the rest of mankind, and how it backfires on him and lea es him both wiser and humbler. Lots of neat little trivia and factoids to enjoy throughout and a good deL of humor as well ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
A.J. Jacobs definitely earns Five Stars for his original idea, effort, humor woven into
tons of information, and the A to Z ending,
with Good News about the upcoming Baby.

After reading his book, I bribed my rfeluctant daughter and nephew into going to his
Madison, Wisconsin,
workshop many years ago - they ended up buying autographed copies of his new book! ( )
  m.belljackson | Oct 1, 2022 |
Like Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me" experiment, I kept reading this book, bemoaning "Why didn't I think of this????"

Nicely woven concept that educates the reader while drawing you into the author's personal life during the process.

This book could've been a clunker if mishandled, but Jacobs has an alchemist's touch, blending humor and heart along the encyclopedic journey. ( )
  TommyHousworth | Feb 5, 2022 |
An interesting read, but not altogether life changing. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
I figured I'd go back and read the book that started them all and, boy, does having a child change you. His vocabulary has sure mellowed some this first book. Still funny, still AJ, but I prefer his others. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 158 (next | show all)
Corny, juvenile, smug, tired. Jacobs -- a poor man's Dave Barry; no, a bag person's Dave Barry -- has a modus operandi: to drift through the encyclopedia he supposedly read, yank out an entry, tear open his Industrial-Strength Comedy Handbook and jerry-build a lame wisecrack.
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
A. J. Jacobsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cantor, GeoffreyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meerman, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my wife, Julie
First words
I know the name of Turkey's leading avant-garde publication. (introduction)
a-ak. That's the first word in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Quotations
That's where the real appeal lies [of the 1911 edition]--nostalgia for a world where it all made sense, where all was knowable, where one point of view was the correct one. . . . the world of the EB is still one that treats everything rationally and sensibly, that still believes in the overall progress of civilization.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

"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"--Book description.

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