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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 (438 )
5 star
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3.8 (184 )
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4.0 (182 )
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2 star
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1 star
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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
  •  
    Katy DeKalb, IL, United States 12-17-10
    Katy DeKalb, IL, United States 12-17-10 Member Since 2015
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    "Slugging my way through it"

    Listening to this book is very similar to the authors experience with reading the encyclopedia-sometimes interesting, but a lot of useless knowledge and way too much name dropping. A.J. clearly comes from a family of privilege, so it's not so much "average man tries to rise above" as it is "Well educated and pampered guy spends weekends at his parents in the Hamptons being a little bit obnoxious"
    I really wanted to like this book....I really did, but it's just not doing it for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C Chestnuthill, MA, United States 12-04-04
    C Chestnuthill, MA, United States 12-04-04 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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 10 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
  •  
    Lisa Noblesville, IN, USA 11-30-04
    Lisa Noblesville, IN, USA 11-30-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Van Antwerp 07-17-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Hilarious and informative book!!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Know-It-All the most enjoyable?

    The smart wit, and Geoffrey Cantor's narration was on point! I was laughing so hard my roommates thought I was crying hah!


    What other book might you compare The Know-It-All to and why?

    The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner for writing style and wit. But I only read Geography, never listened to it.


    What about Geoffrey Cantor’s performance did you like?

    His animation is great, and his accents cracked me up!! AJ Jacobs is an incredible and hilarious writer, and Cantor's delivery really did the audiobook justice!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Oh yeah, I could NOT get enough. And now all my friends are on board with it, it only took a few minutes of listening for them to get hooked!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig 01-05-14
    Craig 01-05-14 Member Since 2012

    I like to listen to business, self-development, behavioural and books that challenge my perspective

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    "Great story"
    What did you like about this audiobook?

    It was an enjoyable story that also taught me some tidbits - would recommend


    How has the book increased your interest in the subject matter?

    Not that I plan to read the entire Britannica it does continue to make me interested in facts


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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