Sitzbook: “The Know-It-All” by A.J. Jacobs

I’ve been working hard (well, reading hard) lately, trying to finish this year’s Sitzbook book-a-week project. I’ll probably be OK, even though I’m just at number 42 so far. The middle of the year was a great time, but it wasn’t a great time for reading.

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I’d been meaning to do a review or at least some kind of quote post about each of the books I read. I’m not sure if I’ll actually get that done, at least without combining a bunch of books, but I’m still going to try. And since I need to start again somewhere, I’ll start with this book by A.J. Jacobs, since it’s been sitting on my desk for the past 5 or 6 months.

I borrowed the book from my sister Di; she’d also loaned me The Year of Living Biblically, which I read a few years back. Jacobs is a really interesting author, and I definitely dig his “project” mindset. In a way, Sitzbook and my Pictures of the Day are done in the same spirit.

In this book Jacobs reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, which is something like 30,000 pages. Pretty huge. He includes a chapter on the interesting bits from each letter, but goes on many a tangent about his personal life and other things that occur to him while reading. It’s surprisingly entertaining.

I don’t have too many quotes, since most of what he’s writing is responding to what he’s read. However, I do like an exchange in the “F” chapter talking about wisdom. Jacobs’ friend tells him a fable; basically, the point/moral of the story is “This too shall pass.” Jacobs says:

It’s a good story. And it’s got some good wisdom, too: ‘This too shall pass.’ So far, the Britannica has backed that sentiment up. The Black Plague passed, the Hundred Years’ War passed, the vogue for codpieces passed. Maybe Bob’s sentence is, in fact, the secret of life. I wonder if I’ll be able to come up with anything better by the end of my journey. What will be my mind-blowing one-sentence distillation of all knowledge?

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Anyhow, I’d definitely recommend the book, although you don’t necessarily have to read it uninterruptedly. Just go for a letter or two at a time and it’s more enjoyable.

Has anyone else read this?

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Sitzman

Errand-Running Monkey at Sitzblog
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