You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Know-It-All

The Know-It-All:One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, by A. J. Jacobs, is basically a memoir of his attempt to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica. He intersperses facts from the encyclopedia with events from his life. We learn about his competition with his father, who also started reading the encyclopedia but gave up in the B's. We hear about he and his wife's trouble getting pregnant. He also provides a few forays into what intelligence is (apart from just knowledge), including joining Mensa and conversing with some actual smart people.

The book works as a memoir. You have to not take it too seriously and enjoy the personal bits. The parts that were related to the encyclopedia were good too, and humorous, but I could have stood a little more depth. The author comes off as a litle bit shallow, especially when he tries to show off a little bit. I couldn't tell whether this was entirely humor or if he really thought rattling off facts about the death penalty in a debate was a good idea (for example). He does get an inside look at the editors for the EB, which is interesting.

I could have used a little more weight to the actual entries. He does tie some things together. I think if I read the EB, I could find some more interesting facts to write about. And, I think I'd pepper my friends and acquaintances with trivia (and non-trivial facts). I found it interesting how he would swing from hope and amazement to misery and despair, based on reading a particularly uplifting or depressing entry. His summary at the end, while good, is a bit cursory.

Grade: B.


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