Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Know-It-All

I don't read books very often. It's not something I like to admit. I read lots of things (websites, newspapers, etc.), and I amass knowledge from other sources, but I never really sit down with a book and go from cover to cover. This just wasn't a virtue instilled in me in high school, although my mom reads all the time. When I do, it's nonfiction over fiction. But I decided to try out The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs.

The topic seemed interesting to me. Mr. Jacobs decides, in an effort to become the "smartest person in the world," that he will read the 2002 Encyclopaedia Brittanica cover to cover, A-Z. I've kinda wanted to take on a project like this myself. Not particularly involving an encyclopedia, but something substantial that I would have to commit to like Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days or cooking everything in the Julia Child cookbook ala Julie & Julia. But, I've not yet decided on a project (although I'm debating something like watching and reviewing every Best Picture winner or something like that), so for now I have to live vicariously through Mr. Jacobs.

I thought the book was a lot of fun. It is set up encyclopedically (word?), with each chapter covering a different letter of the alphabet, broken down into specific topics that appear in the EB (that's the lingo). He incorporates fun facts about the topics he chooses - Rene Descartes had a fetish for cross-eyed women, opossums have 13 nipples, there's really no historical proof that Salieri was Mozart's archnemesis, etc - and personal stories into the book. He covers everything from him and his wife's struggles to conceive, to trying out for Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. You read it, and you laugh, but you learn something too. It's 370 pages, so it's not a super quick read, but I think if you like trivia, you'll love the book.

At some point, I'm also going to read his The Year of Living Biblically and The Guinea Pig Diaries. I'm now a little motivated to go watch some 30 Days on Hulu.

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