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The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World | [A. J. Jacobs]

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

Early in his career, A.J. Jacobs put his Ivy League education to work at Entertainment Weekly. He emerged five years later knowing which stars have fake boobs, which stars have toupees, which have both, and not much else. This realization led Jacobs on a life-changing quest: to read the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica, all 33,000 pages, all 44 million words.
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Publisher's Summary

Early in his career, A.J. Jacobs put his Ivy League education to work at Entertainment Weekly. He emerged five years later knowing which stars have fake boobs, which stars have toupees, which have both, and not much else. This realization led Jacobs on a life-changing quest: to read the entire contents of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, all 33,000 pages, all 44 million words.

The mission began in October 2002, with the word "a-ak". The word launches hilarious misadventures through 32 volumes, as Jacobs accumulates useful and less-so knowledge, and along the way finds a deep connection with his father, examines the nature of knowledge vs. intelligence, and learns how to be rather annoying at cocktail parties.

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 obsessive quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.

©2004 A.J. Jacobs; (P)2004 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

"One of the book's strongest parts is its laugh-out-loud humor." (Publishers Weekly)
"Sidesplitting." (Time Out New York)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (469 )
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3.8 (205 )
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4.0 (203 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Charles L. Roberts Salt Lake City 12-16-04
    Charles L. Roberts Salt Lake City 12-16-04 Member Since 2002

    chasman

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very fun book"

    After reading all the negative reviews, I have to weigh in in favor of this book. This book is more introspection on the life of Jacobs than an academic discussion of the encyclopedia (thankfully). Jacobs is not beyond poking fun at himself while he examines his own life in an uninhibited way. I thought the narration was great -- the occasional mispronunciations didn't bother me. Cantor's great accents more than made up for them.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saud 04-25-12
    Saud 04-25-12

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hilarious Quest for Knowledge"
    Would you listen to The Know-It-All again? Why?

    Probably after some time has passed, it's an interesting journey through randomness.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It made me chuckle at multiple points. Not knowing what the next entry to be covered is makes for a highly entertaining read.


    Any additional comments?

    If you're looking for any substantial information or a concise, coherent story, this isn't your book. If you're interested in a lighthearted journey through the alphabetically arranged entries of the Encyclopedia Britannica, this is your book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron Sydney, Australia 02-21-11
    Ron Sydney, Australia 02-21-11 Member Since 2012

    Literary graduate and published columnist turned glorified grease monkey.

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    "thoroughly enjoyable"

    I found this book extremely informative and entertaining. The writer doesn't just list everything he read in the encyclopaedia.He recounts how the things he learned, directly affected his life. And he does so very well. His account is riddled with subplots and characters played by family members. I love how the knowledge he gains is put towards his desperate attempts to impregnate his wife. I enjoyed the effects this project had on his family and friends and even work colleagues. There is so much to learn from this book, a second read will help retain some of that knowledge. But the first time is very enjoyable none the less.
    The writer has a great sense of humour, a little bit cheesy at times, but that's expected considering his career. And it's always great when the writer narrates his own work. Over enthusiastic at times, but it works for the piece. Very entertaining and informative. Lots of fun, very clever, well wrapped up in the end, and you'll get a lot out of it. Nice one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan White Hall, MD, USA 11-21-04
    Dan White Hall, MD, USA 11-21-04 Member Since 2011
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    "Enjoyable through all the letters"

    Loved following Jacobs and his neuroses on his long journey from A to Z. As enjoyable as other NPR alums like David Sedaris and Jonathan Goldstein. Cantor did an engaging reading. If only Audible would offer an encyclopedia...

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Casey Sunnyside, NY, United States 11-07-09
    Casey Sunnyside, NY, United States 11-07-09
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    "Laugh outloud!"

    My husband and I listened to this on a road trip. It was laugh out loud funny as well as extremely informative. Very good read!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C Chestnuthill, MA, United States 12-04-04
    C Chestnuthill, MA, United States 12-04-04
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    "Forget it"

    It's true that there are laugh out loud moments. However I found myself disliking the author. Maybe it was partly due to the narrator who sounds kind of whiney, but the more I heard of the author's personal life (which was too much), the less I liked him and his family.

    7 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Noblesville, IN, USA 11-30-04
    Lisa Noblesville, IN, USA 11-30-04
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    "Awghh! My ears! My ears!"

    It's possible that there is someone in the world whose voice is more annoying than Geoffrey Cantor's... one of the animated chipmunks, perhaps, or Edith Bunker. But neither of them, notice, recorded audio books. Cantor's whining nasal voice, self-conscious delivery and frequent mispronunciations significantly impaired my tolerance for what was already a disappointing book. Author AJ Jacobs is a prat, and not in a good way. His writing tries hard for "I recognize and can laugh at my own failings" but instead comes off as "I'm so darn cute that even my flaws are adorable." I dare say to Mr. Jacobs' wife, adorable they may be...the rest of us would do better to save our time, disk space, and hearing for works by David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs instead.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandon MINERAL, VIRGINIA, United States 07-11-15
    Brandon MINERAL, VIRGINIA, United States 07-11-15 Member Since 2013
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    "It's a Journey, not a list of Facts"

    Jacobs takes us along on his journey through the alphabet, but it's not just a highlight real of the best facts in the Britannica. It's also about his experience. How the towering stack of completed books begins to grow, how he is able to apply his new knowledge, and the weird overlaps the articles have in his everyday life. Jacobs is funny, lovably neurotic, and much harder to put down than an actual encyclopedia..

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lo 02-20-15
    Lo 02-20-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Lover of Facts"

    If you don't enjoy random facts and learning, this book is definitely not for you... But I definitely loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Brown Ventura, CA USA 02-14-15
    D. Brown Ventura, CA USA 02-14-15 Member Since 2012
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    "just not that into this"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    just not for me.. who would like this? hmm... anyone who really loves woody allen monologues would be smitten with this work.


    Any additional comments?

    this book is that old friend who tries way too hard to be clever.. if you are yearning again for a long conversation with that friend, then you should get this book. if you are not, then you should pass.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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