By: A.J. Jacobs
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Who Should Read This Book: If you have a thirst for knowledge of random facts and also need a good laugh, this book is for you. Jacobs’ attitude towards life and outlook on all things Britannica is quite hilarious and well written.
A.J. Jacobs decides to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. He literally reads word for word, A to Z, start to finish. Jacobs gets the idea for his quest to become the smartest man from his dad who had tried once and gave up before even getting half way through. This book follows Jacobs journey step by step, from having his friends tell him he is insane, to his interview with Alex Trebek from Jeopardy, his stint on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and his awkwardness with other people when stating facts that no one else would have dreamed of knowing.
I found myself laughing out loud quite a few times while reading this book. One gentleman on the metro I was riding wanted to know what was so funny, and I constantly kept interrupting my roommate in whatever she was doing so I could read a passage I thought she might find interesting or funny. Reading this book is best described as a miniature encyclopedia. Jacobs dedicates each chapter to the letter of the alphabet he is reading, which provides him the ability to include various random facts or incorporate stories of what was going on in his life at that time.
One of the aspects of the book that I liked the most was how much I learned. I found myself marking pages with sticky tabs so that I could go back later on and read them again. I enjoyed the way that Jacobs broke down each topic by stating the term he was reading in the Britannica and then giving the synopsis of whatever it was while including his own opinion and how it was incorporated into his life. For example, did you know that the phrase “going berserk” came from the Middle Ages when Savage Norse soldiers went into battled naked? Or how about this fact: the reason that a marathon is 26 miles is because back in 1908 the Brits Olympic committee wanted the run to go from Windsor Castle to the Royal Box in London Stadium.
Near the end of the book I was a little overwhelmed with all of the information. I found myself wanting it to end because I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to hold any more knowledge, which made me 100 times more impressed with Jacobs who actually read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. A reader has to be ready and want to try and shove hundreds of facts in their head, but it is definitely worth it. This book was filled with random facts that the reader won’t remember in 20 minutes to ones that they will find themselves quoting or stating matter-of-factly at dinner parties years from now.