Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Know-It-All by A. J. Jacobs

The Know-It-All is a wonderful book that charts the progress through the author's life one year of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica set. Aside from imparting some of the knowledge he is picking up from the books, he lets us into his life as well (a lot happens as he works his way through the alphabet.) His sense of humor is self-effacing and infectious. I haven't laughed so much in a while (I need to get out more, apparently.)

A couple of years ago, my wife talked me into giving away my set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I really hadn't touched them since high school, but did have an emotional attachment to them. My parents bought them for me when I was a kid, to help me out in school. That was when EB had door to door salesmen peddling them. I guess they represented my parents' support for me, their willingness to do whatever it took to help me out, because the set wasn't cheap. And we weren't rich.

I actually had the idea of reading the whole set at one time. I think I must've gotten the idea from the movie, Dr. No, when the character of Honey Rider, played by Ursula Andress, told Bond that she had started reading the encyclopedia from A-Z when she was 8. But of course, I never did. There aren't too many goals in my life that I have actually followed through on, so no surprise there. But reading this book makes me wish I had.

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