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33,000 pages
44 million words
10 billion years of history
1 obsessed man

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.
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, shall we say, 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 soul-searching, ultimately touching struggle between the all-consuming quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.

Topics: Marriage, New York City, Essays, Creative Nonfiction, Based on a True Story, Funny, Witty, Informative, Contemplative, Irreverent, Lighthearted, Fathers, Family, Infertility, Goals & Aspirations, Language, and First Person Narration

Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9780743272605
List price: $13.99
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I loved this book! Jacobs set a lofty goal for himself and writes about it with humour and insight. The sections involving his father were favourites for me as well as the (internal) competition he created with his brother-in-law who really is a Know-It-All. I highly recommend this book.more
It should really be called "The Insufferable Know-It-All Who Thinks He's Funny".more
As insufferably annoying as the title implies, but it had at least two genuinely amusing scenes that kept me reading in hopes of more. Alas, it was not to be.more
After deciding to read through an entire set of the Encyclopedia Britannica in a quest for knowledge, a man shares his thoughts of what he learns in A to Z format. Discover the bizarre, mundane and humorous tidbits gleaned from a wealth of information.more
I liked this book because I have a head for (sometimes) useful information and would pull an encyclopedia off the shelve when I was younger to read bits and pieces. Like a previous book of his, The Year of Living Biblically, he writes with humor and honesty.more
I read “The Year of living biblically” before, from the same author, and had a blast, so I had big expectations about this book. My boyfriend read it a couple of months ago, and just like me with “Lamb” he would laugh out loud and read me excerpts from it. Needless to say, I was craving to read it myself and I was in for a treat.I think I can now say with confidence that I really like the way Jacobs writes, to be honest I have never read anything else from him, but these 2 books have been entertaining and even better full of new knowledge.His quest to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica starts actually with his father, who also tried to read the whole thing, but couldn’t pass the B section (I think I wouldn’t be able to finish the A, but never mind that). Also, because Jacobs is starting to feel dumber, which I can relate to, feeling like a lot of knowledge just escapes from you and there is nothing you can do. Actually, if I’m completely honest, I feel related to a bunch of character traits from Jacobs, although I wouldn’t consider myself as a germaphobe. But since this is not an essay (BTW, this I learn with the book, this word was coined by using the French term “essai” which means try. I had no idea) about my similes with Jacobs, let’s just say that I feel REALLY awkward in a crowd (more than 10 people is a crowd to me), I totally understand his fear of losing his intelligence, and like Julie, I am bit of a order freak…The book is written the same way as the encyclopedia, every chapter is a letter. But is not a copy-paste of definitions but mostly a compilation of ha and hum moments about everyday things and not so everyday situations. At the same time, the words sometimes fall appropriately in moments of Jacobs’ life. Another quest is going on in his life…being a father. You cross your fingers every time, hoping that this will be the moment when Julie (his wife) becomes pregnant. But off course there is more side stories, the constant rivalry with Julie’s brother, Eric, a know-it-all in himself, not afraid to gloat and even correct the EB (yes, he did it). Jacobs encounters with Mensa, he joining and then feeling not so good about it. Wanting to go into Jeopardy!, meet Alex Trebeck and then learn that because of this he cannot longer compete! (Another thing I didn’t know). Also, he has all this movie ideas (Young Ghandi for example, I am sure would be a hit!).At the end, he goes to How to be a Millionaire and I’ve been looking for that video all over the internet, with no success. I won’t tell you how far he goes, because for me that was a moment of stress. I think a book is really good, when you can feel the same emotions of the main character, either fiction or non-fiction. When the author manages to make you feel through words…is just that magical moment that you have than involves every single inch of what you are. Talking about words…his final words to his dad, they were ever so touching, that I was glad I was done with my work day, so no one actually saw me teary eyed.I’m happy to say that there’s another book coming from the same author (Available in April), called Drop Dead Healthy. In the mean time, I while look for My life as an experiment, a book that promises to be as entertaining as the last two.more
I read “The Year of living biblically” before, from the same author, and had a blast, so I had big expectations about this book. My boyfriend read it a couple of months ago, and just like me with “Lamb” he would laugh out loud and read me excerpts from it. Needless to say, I was craving to read it myself and I was in for a treat.I think I can now say with confidence that I really like the way Jacobs writes, to be honest I have never read anything else from him, but these 2 books have been entertaining and even better full of new knowledge.His quest to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica starts actually with his father, who also tried to read the whole thing, but couldn’t pass the B section (I think I wouldn’t be able to finish the A, but never mind that). Also, because Jacobs is starting to feel dumber, which I can relate to, feeling like a lot of knowledge just escapes from you and there is nothing you can do. Actually, if I’m completely honest, I feel related to a bunch of character traits from Jacobs, although I wouldn’t consider myself as a germaphobe. But since this is not an essay (BTW, this I learn with the book, this word was coined by using the French term “essai” which means try. I had no idea) about my similes with Jacobs, let’s just say that I feel REALLY awkward in a crowd (more than 10 people is a crowd to me), I totally understand his fear of losing his intelligence, and like Julie, I am bit of a order freak…The book is written the same way as the encyclopedia, every chapter is a letter. But is not a copy-paste of definitions but mostly a compilation of ha and hum moments about everyday things and not so everyday situations. At the same time, the words sometimes fall appropriately in moments of Jacobs’ life. Another quest is going on in his life…being a father. You cross your fingers every time, hoping that this will be the moment when Julie (his wife) becomes pregnant. But off course there is more side stories, the constant rivalry with Julie’s brother, Eric, a know-it-all in himself, not afraid to gloat and even correct the EB (yes, he did it). Jacobs encounters with Mensa, he joining and then feeling not so good about it. Wanting to go into Jeopardy!, meet Alex Trebeck and then learn that because of this he cannot longer compete! (Another thing I didn’t know). Also, he has all this movie ideas (Young Ghandi for example, I am sure would be a hit!).At the end, he goes to How to be a Millionaire and I’ve been looking for that video all over the internet, with no success. I won’t tell you how far he goes, because for me that was a moment of stress. I think a book is really good, when you can feel the same emotions of the main character, either fiction or non-fiction. When the author manages to make you feel through words…is just that magical moment that you have than involves every single inch of what you are. Talking about words…his final words to his dad, they were ever so touching, that I was glad I was done with my work day, so no one actually saw me teary eyed.I’m happy to say that there’s another book coming from the same author (Available in April), called Drop Dead Healthy. In the mean time, I while look for My life as an experiment, a book that promises to be as entertaining as the last two.more
Surprisingly funny book about one man reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica.Interwoven with various tidbits from the EB are autobiographical snippets from the authors everyday life.more
Surprisingly funny book about one man reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica.Interwoven with various tidbits from the EB are autobiographical snippets from the authors everyday life.more
Surprisingly funny book about one man reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica.Interwoven with various tidbits from the EB are autobiographical snippets from the authors everyday life.more
A screamingly funny observance of an obsession. Jacobs sets out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from beginning to end. If you enjoy good writing, or are one of those people who goes to the dictionary to look up a word and finds yourself, thirty minutes later, reading the dictionary, this is a book for you.more
A screamingly funny observance of an obsession. Jacobs sets out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from beginning to end. If you enjoy good writing, or are one of those people who goes to the dictionary to look up a word and finds yourself, thirty minutes later, reading the dictionary, this is a book for you.more
A screamingly funny observance of an obsession. Jacobs sets out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from beginning to end. If you enjoy good writing, or are one of those people who goes to the dictionary to look up a word and finds yourself, thirty minutes later, reading the dictionary, this is a book for you.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Not only did I laugh out loud (snorted a couple times too), but I learned some interesting trivia, who knew abalones had five poopers? Jacobs' journey reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, or EB, and how he tries to fit what he has learned in to every day life is funny and entertaining. Haven't we all had that awkward moment when we just knew people would be wowed with our bit of knowledge, only to get the head tilt and stare of a dog look? Can't wait to read The Year Living Biblically!more
Not only did I laugh out loud (snorted a couple times too), but I learned some interesting trivia, who knew abalones had five poopers? Jacobs' journey reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, or EB, and how he tries to fit what he has learned in to every day life is funny and entertaining. Haven't we all had that awkward moment when we just knew people would be wowed with our bit of knowledge, only to get the head tilt and stare of a dog look? Can't wait to read The Year Living Biblically!more
Not only did I laugh out loud (snorted a couple times too), but I learned some interesting trivia, who knew abalones had five poopers? Jacobs' journey reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, or EB, and how he tries to fit what he has learned in to every day life is funny and entertaining. Haven't we all had that awkward moment when we just knew people would be wowed with our bit of knowledge, only to get the head tilt and stare of a dog look? Can't wait to read The Year Living Biblically!more
Not only did I laugh out loud (snorted a couple times too), but I learned some interesting trivia, who knew abalones had five poopers? Jacobs' journey reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, or EB, and how he tries to fit what he has learned in to every day life is funny and entertaining. Haven't we all had that awkward moment when we just knew people would be wowed with our bit of knowledge, only to get the head tilt and stare of a dog look? Can't wait to read The Year Living Biblically!more
Read all 118 reviews

Reviews

I loved this book! Jacobs set a lofty goal for himself and writes about it with humour and insight. The sections involving his father were favourites for me as well as the (internal) competition he created with his brother-in-law who really is a Know-It-All. I highly recommend this book.more
It should really be called "The Insufferable Know-It-All Who Thinks He's Funny".more
As insufferably annoying as the title implies, but it had at least two genuinely amusing scenes that kept me reading in hopes of more. Alas, it was not to be.more
After deciding to read through an entire set of the Encyclopedia Britannica in a quest for knowledge, a man shares his thoughts of what he learns in A to Z format. Discover the bizarre, mundane and humorous tidbits gleaned from a wealth of information.more
I liked this book because I have a head for (sometimes) useful information and would pull an encyclopedia off the shelve when I was younger to read bits and pieces. Like a previous book of his, The Year of Living Biblically, he writes with humor and honesty.more
I read “The Year of living biblically” before, from the same author, and had a blast, so I had big expectations about this book. My boyfriend read it a couple of months ago, and just like me with “Lamb” he would laugh out loud and read me excerpts from it. Needless to say, I was craving to read it myself and I was in for a treat.I think I can now say with confidence that I really like the way Jacobs writes, to be honest I have never read anything else from him, but these 2 books have been entertaining and even better full of new knowledge.His quest to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica starts actually with his father, who also tried to read the whole thing, but couldn’t pass the B section (I think I wouldn’t be able to finish the A, but never mind that). Also, because Jacobs is starting to feel dumber, which I can relate to, feeling like a lot of knowledge just escapes from you and there is nothing you can do. Actually, if I’m completely honest, I feel related to a bunch of character traits from Jacobs, although I wouldn’t consider myself as a germaphobe. But since this is not an essay (BTW, this I learn with the book, this word was coined by using the French term “essai” which means try. I had no idea) about my similes with Jacobs, let’s just say that I feel REALLY awkward in a crowd (more than 10 people is a crowd to me), I totally understand his fear of losing his intelligence, and like Julie, I am bit of a order freak…The book is written the same way as the encyclopedia, every chapter is a letter. But is not a copy-paste of definitions but mostly a compilation of ha and hum moments about everyday things and not so everyday situations. At the same time, the words sometimes fall appropriately in moments of Jacobs’ life. Another quest is going on in his life…being a father. You cross your fingers every time, hoping that this will be the moment when Julie (his wife) becomes pregnant. But off course there is more side stories, the constant rivalry with Julie’s brother, Eric, a know-it-all in himself, not afraid to gloat and even correct the EB (yes, he did it). Jacobs encounters with Mensa, he joining and then feeling not so good about it. Wanting to go into Jeopardy!, meet Alex Trebeck and then learn that because of this he cannot longer compete! (Another thing I didn’t know). Also, he has all this movie ideas (Young Ghandi for example, I am sure would be a hit!).At the end, he goes to How to be a Millionaire and I’ve been looking for that video all over the internet, with no success. I won’t tell you how far he goes, because for me that was a moment of stress. I think a book is really good, when you can feel the same emotions of the main character, either fiction or non-fiction. When the author manages to make you feel through words…is just that magical moment that you have than involves every single inch of what you are. Talking about words…his final words to his dad, they were ever so touching, that I was glad I was done with my work day, so no one actually saw me teary eyed.I’m happy to say that there’s another book coming from the same author (Available in April), called Drop Dead Healthy. In the mean time, I while look for My life as an experiment, a book that promises to be as entertaining as the last two.more
I read “The Year of living biblically” before, from the same author, and had a blast, so I had big expectations about this book. My boyfriend read it a couple of months ago, and just like me with “Lamb” he would laugh out loud and read me excerpts from it. Needless to say, I was craving to read it myself and I was in for a treat.I think I can now say with confidence that I really like the way Jacobs writes, to be honest I have never read anything else from him, but these 2 books have been entertaining and even better full of new knowledge.His quest to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica starts actually with his father, who also tried to read the whole thing, but couldn’t pass the B section (I think I wouldn’t be able to finish the A, but never mind that). Also, because Jacobs is starting to feel dumber, which I can relate to, feeling like a lot of knowledge just escapes from you and there is nothing you can do. Actually, if I’m completely honest, I feel related to a bunch of character traits from Jacobs, although I wouldn’t consider myself as a germaphobe. But since this is not an essay (BTW, this I learn with the book, this word was coined by using the French term “essai” which means try. I had no idea) about my similes with Jacobs, let’s just say that I feel REALLY awkward in a crowd (more than 10 people is a crowd to me), I totally understand his fear of losing his intelligence, and like Julie, I am bit of a order freak…The book is written the same way as the encyclopedia, every chapter is a letter. But is not a copy-paste of definitions but mostly a compilation of ha and hum moments about everyday things and not so everyday situations. At the same time, the words sometimes fall appropriately in moments of Jacobs’ life. Another quest is going on in his life…being a father. You cross your fingers every time, hoping that this will be the moment when Julie (his wife) becomes pregnant. But off course there is more side stories, the constant rivalry with Julie’s brother, Eric, a know-it-all in himself, not afraid to gloat and even correct the EB (yes, he did it). Jacobs encounters with Mensa, he joining and then feeling not so good about it. Wanting to go into Jeopardy!, meet Alex Trebeck and then learn that because of this he cannot longer compete! (Another thing I didn’t know). Also, he has all this movie ideas (Young Ghandi for example, I am sure would be a hit!).At the end, he goes to How to be a Millionaire and I’ve been looking for that video all over the internet, with no success. I won’t tell you how far he goes, because for me that was a moment of stress. I think a book is really good, when you can feel the same emotions of the main character, either fiction or non-fiction. When the author manages to make you feel through words…is just that magical moment that you have than involves every single inch of what you are. Talking about words…his final words to his dad, they were ever so touching, that I was glad I was done with my work day, so no one actually saw me teary eyed.I’m happy to say that there’s another book coming from the same author (Available in April), called Drop Dead Healthy. In the mean time, I while look for My life as an experiment, a book that promises to be as entertaining as the last two.more
Surprisingly funny book about one man reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica.Interwoven with various tidbits from the EB are autobiographical snippets from the authors everyday life.more
Surprisingly funny book about one man reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica.Interwoven with various tidbits from the EB are autobiographical snippets from the authors everyday life.more
Surprisingly funny book about one man reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica.Interwoven with various tidbits from the EB are autobiographical snippets from the authors everyday life.more
A screamingly funny observance of an obsession. Jacobs sets out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from beginning to end. If you enjoy good writing, or are one of those people who goes to the dictionary to look up a word and finds yourself, thirty minutes later, reading the dictionary, this is a book for you.more
A screamingly funny observance of an obsession. Jacobs sets out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from beginning to end. If you enjoy good writing, or are one of those people who goes to the dictionary to look up a word and finds yourself, thirty minutes later, reading the dictionary, this is a book for you.more
A screamingly funny observance of an obsession. Jacobs sets out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from beginning to end. If you enjoy good writing, or are one of those people who goes to the dictionary to look up a word and finds yourself, thirty minutes later, reading the dictionary, this is a book for you.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Much like his book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs manages to open your eyes to things you just plain don't KNOW, all while making you laugh. One would think that a man reading the entire encyclopedia wouldn't make for any sort of good read. But in between the random facts on planets, playwrights and plants, Jacobs honestly and humorously describes his life as a writer, future father, and son to a man who may, in fact, be the smartest man in the world.more
Not only did I laugh out loud (snorted a couple times too), but I learned some interesting trivia, who knew abalones had five poopers? Jacobs' journey reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, or EB, and how he tries to fit what he has learned in to every day life is funny and entertaining. Haven't we all had that awkward moment when we just knew people would be wowed with our bit of knowledge, only to get the head tilt and stare of a dog look? Can't wait to read The Year Living Biblically!more
Not only did I laugh out loud (snorted a couple times too), but I learned some interesting trivia, who knew abalones had five poopers? Jacobs' journey reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, or EB, and how he tries to fit what he has learned in to every day life is funny and entertaining. Haven't we all had that awkward moment when we just knew people would be wowed with our bit of knowledge, only to get the head tilt and stare of a dog look? Can't wait to read The Year Living Biblically!more
Not only did I laugh out loud (snorted a couple times too), but I learned some interesting trivia, who knew abalones had five poopers? Jacobs' journey reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, or EB, and how he tries to fit what he has learned in to every day life is funny and entertaining. Haven't we all had that awkward moment when we just knew people would be wowed with our bit of knowledge, only to get the head tilt and stare of a dog look? Can't wait to read The Year Living Biblically!more
Not only did I laugh out loud (snorted a couple times too), but I learned some interesting trivia, who knew abalones had five poopers? Jacobs' journey reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, or EB, and how he tries to fit what he has learned in to every day life is funny and entertaining. Haven't we all had that awkward moment when we just knew people would be wowed with our bit of knowledge, only to get the head tilt and stare of a dog look? Can't wait to read The Year Living Biblically!more
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