The Know-It-All

The Know-It-All Cover

The Know-It-All

One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

By A. J. Jacobs

Simon & Schuster, Paperback, 9780743250627, 389pp.

Publication Date: October 10, 2005

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.
33,000 PAGES
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 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 struggle between the all-consuming quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.

About the Author
A.J. Jacobs is the author of the "New York Times" bestsellers "The Know-It-All, " "The Year of Living Biblically, "and "The Guinea Pig Diaries". He is the editor at large of "Esquire" magazine, a contributor to NPR, and has written for "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", and "Entertainment Weekly". He lives in New York City with his wife and kids. Visit him at

Praise For The Know-It-All

"The Know-It-All is a hilarious book and quite an impressive achievement. I've always said, why doesn't someone put out a less complete version of the encyclopedia? Well done, A.J." —Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show

"Tender....Entertaining....This book really does seek a working definition of what it means to be smart."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"A.J. Jacobs turns the act of reading the entire Britannica into a hilarious memoir....It's the stunt of the book itself that allows the funny, touching memoir to be so stuffed with nutritious bits of trivia that you feel smart for reading it."—Joel Stein, Time


"The Know-It-All is funny, original, and strangely heroic. I found myself rooting on Jacobs's quixotic, totally endearing quest."—Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated