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

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

A. J. Jacobs

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0743250621

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

33,000 PAGES
44 MILLION WORDS
10 BILLION YEARS OF HISTORY
1 OBSESSED MAN

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 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 struggle between the all-consuming quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.

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waiter would laugh and slap Peter merrily on the back. Then Peter would turn back to us as if nothing had happened. No translation. What the hell was he saying? I worried it was some variation on "Did you notice that the guy I'm with is a hairy little Jew? Check it out. It's true." As is customary in Italy, we spend a lot of time eating. We sit for hours in restaurants on various piazzas, with Sam, their baby boy--just six weeks old--alternately attaching himself to Sharon's breast and speaking

"That's fascinating." Peter is genuinely intrigued, and seems happy that I taught him something. He is, clearly, far more evolved than me. number games It can be a desolate trek, this encyclopedia reading. Yes, I know: I signed up for it voluntarily, which makes it tough to elicit sympathy from friends and family. But it's still a lonely mission. I'm on the bed in the hotel, an hour after Julie has gone to sleep, reading in silence, no music, no TV, just the Britannica and me, as I wade

Spike Lee lives in the building next to yours." That kind of thing. And every couple of weeks or so, I run into someone who confesses to being an encyclopedia dabbler. One man told me how his mom stashed the Britannica in the kids' bathroom growing up. She was hoping to fill her children's minds while they voided other parts of their bodies. Problem was, this guy would remain seated on the toilet reading about Faulkner and flamingos and flounders for hours, while his siblings banged on the door

angstrom of your life. The stuff that freaks me out is the biology. I haven't thought this much about the workings of my seventy-five trillion cells since high school. I probably should be in awe at the miracle that is my life. But instead I'm terrified. Last week, I spent ninety minutes lying awake in bed, worrying about my bodily organs. Especially the heart. Mine beats at seventy beats per minute. Seventy beats per minute seems so many--not as many as canaries, with their thousand beats, but

many secrets to success, Dave says. Go with your first instinct when answering clues. And be passionate about knowledge--you should never think of studying as a chore. Facts are your friends. Speaking of facts, he's got plenty more: "You know, at one time there was only one bathroom in the White House and the president had to wait his turn if someone was in there." When I get back to my office, I start to think about Dave's eight years of auditions. Jesus. I figure I better start now. So I call

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