March 11th, 2008

earthsea

March Books 19) The Know-It-All

19) The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest To Become The Smartest Person In The World, by A.J. Jacobs

I have no idea who recommended this to me or why - possibly one of the robots from Amazon or LibraryThing - but it was a good call. This is a great book, ostensibly about Jacobs' resolution to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from beginning to end, but in fact with a lot of reflection on what it means to be clever, on his own (mostly good-humoured) rivalry with his father, on his shifting of his work-life balance (he and his wife are trying to have a baby). Basically it is the narrative of someone who suspects (with some reason) that he and his career are superficial and shallow, and he reads the entire Britannica to try and inject some depth. And by the end of the book, he appears indeed to have acquired some depth, but from other sources. It also has some very funny moments.