The Know-It-All by A. J. Jacobs
What’s it about? The Know-It-All is a memoir of the year one man spent reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica from A to Z (or, more precisely, from a-ak to zywiec). The alphabetical arrangement of his book allows Jacobs to share the funniest, most fascinating, and most profound facts he uncovers within the 33,000 pages of the encyclopaedia. He complements this endeavor with a series of intellectual adventures, including competing in a crossword-puzzle tournament, going on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and attending a Mensa convention. Along the way we learn a lot about Jacobs: his career at Esquire, his relationship with his wife, their on-going fertility troubles, his playfully combative relationship with his brother-in-law and his relationship with his dad.
Is the narrator any good? I found Geoffrey Cantor’s nasal voice to be perfectly suited to a memoir that juxtaposes quirky, sardonic wit with oddball trivia. I particularly enjoyed the many different voices he does. This being said, some reviewers on Audible were annoyed by the voice so listen to the sample before buying the audio book.
The verdict? Let’s face it, an audio book about a guy who’s reading the encyclopedia could be a real snoozer (unless you really love your trivia). Instead, Jacobs’ self-deprecating humor, and willingness to discuss how his eccentric endeavor affects his life and vice versa, makes for great, often laugh-out-loud listen.