Mar 14, 2013


Haha, I write about watching TV last week and then Huruta's power grid goes black for four days. I found myself watching the candle melt just to watch it at times. Surprisingly, I did that a couple of times while ignoring the book in my hands. :/

Needless to say, I did a lot of reading ^_^. And quick reading. Finished a book in half a day.

And I figured, hey, I am reading more than I did in the States, I have no excuse to not at least be talking about what I'm reading. Maybe give a review here or there. Or warn people off a book if need be. Not all those free Kindle books my sister got for me deserved to be read. (Might leave that for a Goodreads review though)

So, starting this month (but skipping next due to the A-Z Challenge), I'll do my best to review one book that I recently read.

Review of The Know it All:One mans humble quest for knowledge by AJ Jacobs

As a child, Jacobs knew he was the smartest boy in the world. Despite his Bs on tests. But eventually he lost that mental title and just became a regular Joe in a family filled with smart people. Talk about a rough gig.

It didn't help that years after college Jacobs realized something; his knowledge was slipping. He used to be able to talk about, or at least know of, theories and facts and laws. Now, all his mind was filled with was pop culture.

Honestly, I feel a little of the same here in Ethiopia. My frustration and patience are tested more often than my intelligence, and I'm drastically looking for ways to exercise my brain. I choose to study for the GMATs and do sudoku, Jacobs decided to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Know -it-All is a stream of consciousness writing about entries Jacobs read. From his wonder of the age of Mozart when he started composing to his horror at learning about mass deaths that had escaped his knowledge for years, it's a book that teaches just as much as it entertains.

And sometimes that entertainment is painful. Jacobs tells story after story of trying to prove himself with his new knowledge, from attending a MENSA convention to trying to one up an 11 year old cousin. All are painful embarrassments, but understandable. No one likes a know-it-all, but Jacobs wants proof that his just over a year venture was worth it despite so many people, including intelligence scholars, telling him it isn't.

Jacobs's novel is above all funny, mainly because of his awkwardness in social situations, but it's also very real. He knows the Britannica has too much information for him to absorb it all, but he does notice quite a few trends. There's a strange link between French philosophers and crossed eyes. The book is more raunchy than he expected. Six-degrees of separation isn't limited to people.

It's a down to earth, quicker read than you would expect, and Jacobs's thoughts overlapped with my own in many cases. I can see myself reacting similarly to some entries and also test the benefit of such a quest by trying out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Not that I would read the EB myself (Primus knows I have the time here, but I seem to be missing the Kindle file), but you have to admit that while a crazy quest it certainly has a heft to it. There are probably more people who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro than have read every EB volume cover to cover. And honestly, reading Jacobs's book will probably give you the same results and conclusions as if you had read it yourself. You might have remembered other facts than Jacobs highlights (such as marshmallows were originally made from marshmallow roots or that Gandhi was a hooligan as a teenager), but you'd probably lose it quickly. There's only so much space in the brain, and I'd much rather know how to tell kids here shouting is rude or how to make awesome tagabeno.


  1. That sounds like an awesome book. I definitely have to look up that one.

  2. Huh how interesting. I have a character in one of my mss who's schooled from Britannica. Guess it wasn't such an original idea after all. lol :)