Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Know It All One Man's Humble Quest To Become The Smartest Person In The World” as Want to Read:
The Know It All One Man's Humble Quest To Become The Smartest Person In The World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Know It All One Man's Humble Quest To Become The Smartest Person In The World

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  23,942 Ratings  ·  2,429 Reviews
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 d

...more
Hardcover, Large Print
Published January 1st 2005 by Thorndike Press (first published January 1st 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Be the first to ask a question about The Know It All One Man's Humble Quest To Become The Smartest Person In The World

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Amanda
Jun 09, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This book chronicles snarky rich kid (he is actually 35) A.J. Jacob's quest to read The Encyclopedia Brittanica from A-Z, in an attempt to become "the smartest person in the world". Jacobs breaks the book into alphabetical chapters and free-associates on the entries that he finds interesting. This book was by no means dull, but it was interesting in the way that flipping through the encyclopedia or the dictionary yourself is interesting-- as you scan the pages you find weird little tidbits that ...more
Meredith Holley
This was a little more like actually reading the Encyclopedia Britannica than I was really prepared for. I think it took me longer to read this book than it took Jacobs to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, too. So, I’m not sure what that says about my reading stamina. It took Jacobs something like a year to read the encyclopedia? I think it took me two years to read this book. Although I don’t really get how it’s possible that it took him a year because I feel like way more than half of t ...more
Edward
Mar 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this dude in person talking about his newer book ("The Year of Living Bibically"): he seemed quirky, intelligent, curious, funny, and overall quite interesting. In time I saw that he used the same one-liners in every medium available and he was kind of obnoxious, but this was before that. He cast quite a spell on me and I knew I wanted to buy one of his books then. He had just talked about "The Year", it was newer, and honestly it just seemed a lot more interesting than a book about readin ...more
Mark
Sep 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, humor
What a thoroughly enjoyable book!

When Esquire editor A.J. Jacobs sets out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, you can guess you're going to get lots of interesting trivia tidbits from the world's leading compendium of knowledge.

But what makes the book far more rewarding is that A.J. Jacobs is flat out funny. And after suffering through all the authors who attempt to write humor and do it badly, it is so good to be able to say that. I found myself laughing out loud every couple of pages.
...more
Jan
Jul 26, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who scoffs at the world book
Shelves: 2007reads
first of all, since when is "i spent a year ________ing" a trendy model for a book? seems like they're all over the place now, but i don't remember seeing quite the plethora before. my friend beth spent a year following the advice of self-help gurus; a.j. jacobs read the entire encyclopedia brittanica. and then there's that me & julia cooking lady; karaoke nation; the dishwasher book; self-made man (the gal who posed as a dude); early bird (the guy who spent a year at a retirement community ...more
Louis
Oct 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
I loved this book.Reminds me of when I was a child and would read the encyclopedia because there was nothing else in the house.Extremely funny, one of the only books to actually make me laugh out loud no matter where I was.
Eliza
Oct 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I laughed out loud repeatedly through this book. I even made my husband read it
Roy Lotz
May 23, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This book was given to me as a gift on two separate occasions, which I think is says a lot about my behavior...
Laura Singleton
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-the-best
I've read this book three times. Jacobs is funny and fantastic. Read anything of his.
Anne
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book by the author who wrote The Year of Living Biblically, which I read last month. In this one, Jacobs decides to become the smartest person in the world by reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica from beginning to end. Jacobs has a separate chapter for every letter, and within the chapter he divides the sections out by subjects within that letter - highlighting important facts for us, and throwing in stories about how this quest is affecting his personal life - mostly making him ...more
Kaethe
Mar 31, 2010 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I decided to clear my rating. I didn't find it particularly amusing, but it didn't repulse me or anything. The thing is, a lot of us bookish kids back in days of yore did find ourselves at some point sitting down and reading encyclopedias. So, as far as I'm concerned, Jacobs is way late to the game.
Jay Daze
An annoying book about reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica that I was compelled to finish. Humour is subjective and I found Jacobs' nebbish, hypochondriac, regular Jewish guy persona to be pretty fake and forced (as well as pretty old, Woody Allen did it much better). (He's an Esquire editor, roomed with a Kennedy in college, goes on fab vacations, all while trying to portray himself as a bumbling oaf. If he had just fessed up to being an elitist with some intellectual pretensions I would ...more
Caroline
Jul 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely food for you brain, but upon purchasing this book I wasn't aware the chapters of the book went from "A-Z" each chapter containing his favorite words/definitions, mixed in with narrative of his life. I liked the author, but sometimes he could really get on my nerves..if i heard one more mention of visiting his parents in "East Hampton" and countless mentions of being an "upper middle class New Yorker" writing on his "white Macintosh lap book", or his complaining about how he couldn't g ...more
Julia
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nova-lit-chicks
I could have done without reading this book. I thought it was cleverly compiled, but realistically, who wants to read a book with a listing of definitions? The only parts that made me want to keep reading were AJ's adventure on Millionaire and his journey to having a child. A novel concept, but not worth the 300+ pages of reading.
Michael
A.J. Jacobs has noticed an ever widening gap left from graduating from an Ivy League education. His solution, to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, from A to Z. Follow A.J. as he works his way through all 32 volumes, that’s 33 thousand pages and 44 million words. His wife thinks it’s a waste of time, his friends believe he has lost his mind, but follow this unconventional task in this memoir.

I have read an A.J. Jacobs memoir before; I read “Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Ques
...more
Bryce
Dec 04, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What started out as a clever and funny tale of an epic chore -- reading the entirety of the Encyclopedia Britannica in one year -- quickly devolved into a study of one of the most annoying people I can imagine.

I read Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible last year and found it fairly enjoyable. Enjoyable enough to pick up his first book. Jacob came across as slightly neurotic but basically curious and endearing in Living Biblic
...more
Stephanie
As anyone who knows me can attest, I generally spout information to anyone who will listen to me. Most conversations begin: I heard on NPR the other day . . . For example, did you know there's a marsupial species in Australia whose male population only lives 11 months, the last month of which is spent obsessed with procreating or that a cockroach can live up to ten days without a head? Just one of the many useless bits of knowledge I have tucked away. AJ Jacobs wrote "The Know-It-All" as a quest ...more
Charity
Nov 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Author A. J. Jacobs' informative and hilarious romp through the Encyclopedia Britannica. Quite the page-tuner (unlike the complete Encyclopedia Britannica, I'm guessing).
Rick | Another Book Blog
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Absolutely everyone
As much as I enjoyed A.J. Jacobs' newest book, The Year of Living Biblically, I think that it doesn't hold a candle to the book that preceded it: The Know-It-All. After reading these two books, along with a handful of his articles for Esquire (he's the magazine's Editor at Large), I've developed such an appreciation for the man that I am currently debating ordering one of his older works, The Two Kings: Jesus and Elvis, which analyzes the eerie similarities between the two figures. That I'm even ...more
Lisa
Aug 03, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone I loathe
I can no longer force myself to read this. I started reading it in August and have only gotten 46% of the way through. It clearly isn't happening, and there is absolutely no reason to continue. I'm really disappointed, because out of all of his books, this is the one that appealed to me the most. Also, I read The Year of Living Biblically by him and really enjoyed it. The problem with this is that it really does read like a condensed version of the Britannica. I expected it to be more interestin ...more
Aneel Trivedi
I picked up “The Know-it-All” immediately after finishing Jacobs’ more recent book, “The Year of Living Biblically”. I really enjoyed “Biblically”, and figured what worked for the bible would work for the encyclopedia as well.

In “The Know-it-All”, Jacobs aspires (tongue-in-cheek) to become the smartest person in the world by reading every word in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Jacobs does a great job mixing quirky/interesting/funny stories retold from the encyclopedia with stories from his life du
...more
Bibliotropic
May 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Trivia nuts, those who like Jacobs's other writings
Shelves: nonfiction
(Reread in October 2015, because I wanted to. Review below is from my first read of the book.)

Words cannot properly express how much I enjoyed reading this book. I read it not too long after reading Jacobs's A Year of Living Biblically, and I loved his writing style in both books. He's got a wonderful sense of humour, nicely balancing self-deprecation and personal anecdotes in a way that really allows you to get inside his head.

This book is written in sections much like encyclopediae, with the t
...more
John Wiswell
A seriously abbreviated edition of the 2002 Encyclopedia Britannica - following a writer who tried to read the entire thing in a year. Most entries are under half a page long, making this optimal bathroom or laundry room reading. Very few go more than two pages, and most of the information is either framed humorously or ties into the narrative of the year of Jacobs’s life away from the Britannica. Almost by hearsay you pick up what’s been going on; family events, work at magazines and parties co ...more
Embee
Jun 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I purchased this book as a birthday present for my husband. I mean, look at the title... It has his name on it! (Sorry hon, you know I mean well.) While reading the book my husband would share with me funny little tid-bits and upon completion, told me he thought I'd really enjoy it... Why? Because I'm a 'Know it All' too? No, that can't possibly be true!

Anyway, this book is Great Fun! I know it sounds like the story of a guy recounting his foray into reading the entire library of Encyclopedia Br
...more
Larry H
I picked this up in the airport the other day and devoured it on a flight to California. What a great book! While I've never even thought of reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica from A to Z (or even one volume), as profound trivia fanatic I can totally identify with A.J. Jacobs' quest to make himself smarter. This book is part trivia lover's dream, part philosophical musing on one's insecurities as you get older and wonder about your place in the world. Jacobs is a terrifically self-deprecating ...more
Sherry Wittman
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was awesome! Kind of like a hilarious, abbreviated version of a set of encyclopedias!

It's found under humor, but is sort of a memoir? The guy complains his brain is turning to mush because the only information he takes in lately is regarding pop-culture. Why can he name all the members of N'Sync, yet forgets major historical events? So he sets out on a quest for knowledge and commits to reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

This book includes author-deemed high-points of the encycloped
...more
Lynda
Nov 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected more. I was one of those weird kids who actually read two different encyclopedias . Read one the summer after 5th grade and another in 7th grade. The 1st was the world book and I continued to read the update volumes until I went away to college.

I expected less personal anecdotes and more interesting knowledge.
Monet
A stimulating, fascinating read. This book will, in the least, teach you a thing or two. What makes it such a good read is the authors sense of humor and how he creates a story around this seemingly nonsensical quest to read the encyclopedia. Each chapter filled with useless facts, fun life applications and a good laugh or two. I thoroughly loved this book.
Lisa Nelson
Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A.J. Jacobs had me laughing out loud again. I love his awkwardness, his vulnerability and his ease at being able to constantly make fun of himself. I enjoyed his, " The Year of Living Biblically," a bit better because I found the subject matter more interesting. But, this is still such a fun book.
Sarah McAleer
Feb 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: me
I'm excited to read this book. I like books that talk about process in an unconventional fashion. The stuff between the headlines and big news stories. The mustard stain on the super model's t-shirt.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: The Know-It-All - AJ Jacbobs - 2* (Decathlon part 1) 5 19 Mar 22, 2018 08:06PM  
Which Jacobs book is better? 11 92 Apr 05, 2013 07:16AM  
Epilogger Book Club: The Know-it-All 1 7 Oct 02, 2012 01:31PM  
  • Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs
  • The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me about Christopher Columbus: What Your History Books Got Wrong
  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason
  • The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University
  • The Ridiculous Race: 26,000 Miles, 2 Guides, 1 Globe, No Airplanes
  • Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages
  • mental floss presents Condensed Knowledge: A Deliciously Irreverent Guide to Feeling Smart Again
  • Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World
  • Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library
  • Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players
  • Conservatize Me: How I Tried to Become a Righty with the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith, and Beef Jerky
  • So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading
  • Bibliotopia Or, Mr. Gilbar's Book of Books & Catch-all of Literary Facts And Curiosities
  • Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World
  • Found II: More of the Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World
  • An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn't
  • Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America
1,306 followers
A.J. Jacobs is a New York Times bestselling author, Esquire editor and human guinea pig.

Among Jacobs’ life experiments:
--The Know-It-All. The bestselling memoir of the year he spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a quest to become the smartest person in the world.
--The Year of Living Biblically. The bestseller about his life as the ultimate biblical man. He followed every rule of th
...more
More about A.J. Jacobs

Nonfiction Deals

  • Hope and Other Luxuries: A Mother's Life with a Daughter's Anorexia
    $19.99 $2.99
  • Manic: A Memoir
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
    $19.99 $1.99
  • Without a Doubt
    $5.99 $2.49
  • The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Paris Letters
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm
    $13.74 $1.99
  • My Cross to Bear
    $11.24 $1.99
  • The Warrior Ethos
    $6.99 $1.99
  • A Chance in this world
    $5.99 $0.99
  • It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness
    $13.99 $1.99
  • A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Everyday Zen
    $11.24 $1.99
  • In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Somebody Else's Kids
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Maude
    $2.99 $1.49
  • Here Is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food (Revised Edition)
    $13.99 $1.99
  • The Rational Optimist (P.S.)
    $14.49 $2.99
  • Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive & Creative Self
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Of Wolves and Men (Scribner Classics)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • God: A Story of Revelation
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book
    $10.95 $1.99
  • The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000 BC - 1492 AD
    $13.99 $2.99
  • I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
    $11.74 $1.99
  • Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed
    $9.99 $2.99
  • I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Things I've Been Silent About
    $4.99 $1.99
  • GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love
    $8.49 $2.99
  • The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Dharma Punx: A Memoir
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings
    $10.99 $1.99
  • This Life I Live: One Man's Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed It Forever
    $9.99 $2.99
  • An Appeal to the World: The Way to Peace in a Time of Division
    $9.99 $1.99
  • How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists
    $8.99 $2.49
  • The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes: Harnessing Our Power to Change The World
    $7.74 $1.99
  • Catch Me If You Can
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone
    $15.99 $2.99
  • We Are Not Such Things: The Murder of a Young American, a South African Township, and the Search for Truth and Reconciliation
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Lab Girl
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
    $12.99 $3.99
  • American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Chancers: Addiction, Prison, Recovery, Love: One Couple's Memoir of Beating the Odds
    $10.99 $1.99
  • In a Different Key: The Story of Autism
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Pastor: A Memoir
    $9.99 $1.99
  • To Have or To Be?
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Happy Accidents
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Bridge of Spies
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II
    $12.99 $2.99
  • The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Working with Emotional Intelligence
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis
    $13.99 $1.99
“Scrabble - The game is available in Braille. That’s a nice fact. This makes me feel better about humanity for some reason. I can’t really explain why.” 19 likes
“I can’t help but notice that you keep writing love poetry to my wife. Well, you see, I married her, which makes her my wife. You know what you might want to try? Writing some poems about the sunset. The sunset isn’t fucking married.” 15 likes
More quotes…