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

When I was bored as a kid my parents would give me a letter from the World Book to read. I was fascinated by the amount of stuff that you could find out, especially really weird stuff, and could waste several hours looking through the books. So when this book arrived, I knew I would have to read it.

A. J. Jacobs decides that the best way to make him feel smarter around his family would be to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from start to finish. Part of his motivation is to outdo his father who started to read it but never made it past the A’s. Of course, most of his friends and family don’t believe he will finish it, but this only adds to his determination. As he reads, he finds out many things both trivial and important. Part of the fun in the book is the sheer randomness of the topics he is reading about, and how he can relate it to what is happening in his life. Much of what he reads is unrelated to anything at all, though. And the stranger, more obscure, or more morbid the fact is, the more Jacobs is interested in it.

The author also becomes interested in how knowledge, facts, and learning relate to intelligence. He meets with professors to discuss methods and theories of education. He also becomes engrossed in the cross word puzzle world, joins Mensa, and competes on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. One of the most important things Jacobs learns as he progresses is how annoying inserting unwanted facts can be. Friends and family start to avoid him at parties, and the author starts to notice their eyes glazing over as he wanders off topic. Finally, his wife begins to fine him a dollar for each time his trivia is unrelated to the topic they are discussing. Jacobs organizes his book from A to Z (Aa – Zywiec) so you can follow him through the set as well as the year. Readers of all ages will enjoy this book and may even learn a thing or two. It’s kind of sad to know that the habit of picking up the encyclopedia and browsing is going away, though. This year the Encyclopedia Britannica announced they would no longer be putting out their printed volumes. They will only be available online in the future. Luckily, you can access this resource through the library’s Research page, by clicking on OneSearch.

Find and reserve this book in our online catalog.


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