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The Know-It-All

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the nyah-nyah dept.

Books 149

SDurham writes "Americans love trivia. From the bookish facts of Jeopardy! to the daily dose of ESPN Sportscenter, trivia is as much a part of our pop culture as hot rods or baseball. Few sources contain as much fact (or trivia) as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and in The Know-It-All, A. J. Jacobs chronicles his attempt to read this collection of knowledge. At 33,000 pages, Jacobs' task is not one to be taken lightly. Jacobs manages not only to complete this challenge, but to weave an engaging account of his year-long obsession in Know-It-All." Read on for Durham's review.

Jacobs is certainly suited to his task. A former editor at Entertainment Weekly and now a senior editor at Esquire, Jacobs' day-to-day work brings him into contact with a variety of American obsessions. After the first few chapters, however, it becomes clear that this is more than an account of consuming such a massive amount of information. The book is divided into chapters based on each section of the Britannica, and Jacobs' tale unfolds under headings that link his reflections to related Britannica entries. These reflections begin to reveal several themes that emerge throughout the book: Jacobs' struggle to match, or at least come to terms with, his father's accomplishments, the ongoing attempts of Jacobs and his wife to become parents, and the nature of intelligence and intelligent people.

Know-It-All reads easily, and Jacobs has a knack for humorous writing. Throughout the book Jacobs encounters a wide array of interesting, if not mildly eccentric, individuals. From Mensa members to the actual editors of the Britannica, Jacobs successfully humanizes many people normally viewed as stiff or uncharismatic. He tries to glean bits of wisdom as he goes, and these encounters best transmit Jacobs' message.

One recurring character in Jacobs' life often appears as his nemesis. Jacobs' brother-in-law Eric is described as a thoroughly knowledgeable Mr. Perfect, whose career -- from an Ivy League education to the U.S. Foreign Service to Wall Street -- constantly antagonizes Jacobs in some small way. With his newly acquired Britannica knowledge, Jacobs searches for ways to finally one-up Eric.

In one early encounter, he tries to apply what he has learned about aerodynamics in a tennis match against Eric. These encounters rarely end as Jacobs hopes, but they almost always provide humorous interludes between Jacobs' more serious discussions about the Britannica and its contents. This is not an overly serious book, however; Jacobs manages to infuse his humor into almost every entry in the book.

One theme within Know-It-All that is more serious in tone follows Jacobs and his wife's attempt to become parents. Even in this area of Jacobs' life he tries to apply his rapidly growing Britannica knowledge. Jacobs notices a plethora of fertility gods and goddesses as he reads through each volume, and the couple adopts a new one each week as a sponsor. Julie, Jacobs wife, describes herself as a 'Britannica widow' during Jacobs' project because of the hours he spends reading. It is in Julie that Know-It-All becomes a successful book. While readers may scoff at Jacobs' neglect of his wife (as he portrays it) during his project, the relationship between the two raises Know-It-All above a simple intellectual pursuit.

A surprising number of typographical errors are scattered through the book. Surprising, because Jacobs is an editor, and the book is clearly meant to appeal to an inquisitive, intelligent audience. These errors do little to detract from the overall experience of Know-It-All, however, and it is a solid, worthwhile read. For anyone who finds himself answering TV trivia questions in his head, or enjoys browsing through all sections of a bookstore, this book is a fun weekend read.


You can purchase The Know It All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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with WP, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436811)

he had to copy-edit the whole 33.000

But... (4, Funny)

Ariane 6 (248505) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436827)

Does it say "Don't Panic" in big, friendly letters on the cover?

Re:But... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437263)

Yeah... I finished the Encylopedia Galactica in a year, only to discover that my knowledge was out of date because the universe by then had been replaced by something infinitely more complex and inscrutable. Apparently, some fool went and Figured It All Out.

Someone is going to be introduced to the business end of my towel.

Gentoo?? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436840)

I use Gentoo; how does this affect me?

Re:Gentoo?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436935)

Well, know-it-all trivia buffs tend to be just as insufferably full of themselves as Gentoo users.

Re:Gentoo?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437143)

Gentoo rules!!!

Used to Know it all (3, Funny)

CypherXero (798440) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436848)

I used to know it all, and then I hit my head on a SPARC system.

Re:Used to Know it all (2, Funny)

PMJ2kx (828679) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436924)

That brings to mind "System Core Dump". :-)

Bullwinkle Part Deux (2, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437062)

Used to Know it all .. I used to know it all, and then I hit my head on a SPARC system.

What about Bullwinkle J. Moose, the original Mr. Know It All? [toonzone.net]

Re:Used to Know it all (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437504)

I used to know it all, and then I hit my head on a SPARC system.

Yeah, me too. Then I started reading slashdot and became a 1337 know-it-all

Kiss my ring.

As an editor... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436862)

A surprising number of typographical errors are scattered through the book. Surprising, because Jacobs is an editor, and the book is clearly meant to appeal to an inquisitive, intelligent audience.
As an editor, I'll point out that while I can, and do, readily spot the typographical errors of others, I often completely overlook my own.

I've always attributed it to the fact that when I read my own writing, I'm more likely to simply remember what I meant as I go along than take in new information, whereas when I read the work of others I don't have what was meant already in my head.

Re:As an editor... (3, Funny)

gnuLNX (410742) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437096)

Just out of curiosity do you have any particular techniques that you use to try and limit this? I also foudn I make many errors and then never catch them...probably as you suggest because when I re-read them I know what I wanted to say.

Re:As an editor... (1)

secretsquirel (805445) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437291)

I really don't see why people care that much, as long as you know what they're saying. We should just get websters to include all the common mispellings as synonyms so then you could all stop your bitching.

Re:As an editor... (5, Informative)

iocat (572367) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437407)

Read out loud (softly -- otherwise people will think you're a moron) and say every single word. As an editor, that's what I had to do when editing my own stuff. It's very slow, but you quickly realize just how many of your own errors you'd otherwise skip over.

Re:As an editor... (2, Interesting)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437907)

When I am able, I try to read things backwards. My brain doesn't remember the flow of the words that way, and will examine each word individually, and I go, "wait, I don't remember using the word fiend on that page..." Everybody's brain works different, so some experimentation with how you read is the best way to find what works for you. foudn.

Read it backwards... (2, Interesting)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437100)

I had this problem too. A friend of mine, who attended journalism school, advised me to proofread a paper backwards to find errors. That way, you do not get caught up in the flow of the writing, and miss the errors.

Re:Read it backwards... (2, Funny)

pclminion (145572) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437231)

Sounds like good advice, but it won't protect you from grammatical errors.

Sentence in this error an is there that tell you can? It studying without?

Re:Read it backwards... (1)

rco3 (198978) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437326)

Well, no, but Yoda doesn't need a proofreader.

Re:As an editor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437128)

Oh Lord yes - hear the cry of 10,000 authors saying "me too"

I do lots of writing: books, magazine articles and professional documents. All of them are riddled with typo's and grammo's.

Worst is my tendency to outline ideas in sketch form and then fill them in. Or to cut and paste text between paragraphs. In all thse cases I forget to fill in the gaps or to smooth the sentence joins.


Your guess is mine too: when you are too close to your work you know what you meant and so are blind to the actual variance.

I tend to do work and leave it to the following day. Review it and leave it another day. Review it and leave it another day. Give it to a friend or colleague and repeat the process. That works very well if you have enough time but often timescale prohibit this.

Re:As an editor... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437268)

a former roommate would use some mac program (simpletext?) to speak papers to him as a final method of proofreading.

Re:As an editor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437371)

As a design engineer, I keep begging for more thorough design reviews for this very reason. It is extremely hard to check your own work. Sadly, my company doesn't see the value, so all my mistakes show up during fabrication.

They wonder why we aren't making money...

Re:As an editor... (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437454)

Do you do all your writing in longhand? Otherwise, there's a "spell check" option in your word processor...using it generally eliminiates misspellings.

Re:As an editor... (4, Funny)

anagama (611277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11438336)


  • Do you do all your writing in longhand? Otherwise, there's a "spell check" option in your word processor...using it generally eliminiates misspellings.

I maid shore I spell-checked this sentence to insure its devoid spelling errors. Editors should be wear as the future of there jobs is in danger.

Re:As an editor... (1)

illest503 (130569) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437576)


Prior to the advent of ubiquitous spell-checking, I found it effective to read my own work backwards in a search for typos.

Even a sentence at a time, reading backwards would dissociate me from the content enough that I would catch things I missed having read it forward several times...

Re:As an editor... (1)

EvilNTUser (573674) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437977)

I'm not doubting your claim, but personally I've found that I'm somewhat likely to miss others' errors as my mind seems to do error correction in hardware (or something...).

When I write, however, I rarely make mistakes that survive longer than a few seconds - I virtually always catch them immediately. Has anyone else noticed the same tendency?

P.S. and slightly off topic: I used to be able to spell any word instantly, but am now sometimes confused just because I've seen the wrong spelling on the internet so many times. Annoying as hell.

Re:As an editor... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11438122)

That's a well known "problem".

And why you should have proofreaders for your books. :-)

Re:As an editor... (1)

DeepHurtn! (773713) | more than 9 years ago | (#11438197)

I'm no editor, but I do TA and mark undergrad papers, and I think you're spot on. I've handed in papers before that have had typos and ambiguous sentences in them, even after proofreading, but when I mark I catch everything. When you read your own stuff, you really are reconstructing it -- memory is doing half the work.

the obvious (0)

myukew (823565) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436863)

Here he is, brain the size of a planet and they want him to write a book about it. Call that job satisfaction? 'Cause he doesn't.

Saw him on BookTV on C-Span (4, Informative)

gaber1187 (681071) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436880)

This guy is pretty funny actually. I saw him on cspan bookTV talking about his book... he is pretty nerdy sounding, but also pretty smart...

I definitely don't think reading the encylopedia set makes you smart, but I think it does make you knowledgeable in history and art because those areas often are more related to memorizing facts rather than building upon one equation after another. As such most technical areas of the EB are pretty simplistic and often a little out of date...

Re:Saw him on BookTV on C-Span (2, Funny)

Lordrashmi (167121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436944)

Anyone who watches bookTV on cspan shouldn't be making comments about sounding nerdy ;)

america is a vector (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436889)

struggling desperately however with the fact that spain is not in south america, and other such geographical crimes. for such a young country, and surrounded by so much water, it's no wonder they are only good at knowing about themselves. they forget that 'america' comes from the name of a cartographer, just another place on the family map.

what? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436904)

So this guy reads books, and writes a book about it? Maybe I need to write a book about the hours I spend reading /.

Re:what? (1)

Zardus (464755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437492)

Nah.. Set up a blog and blog about reading slashdot.

What a freak (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436918)

Get a life, dude.

Re:What a freak (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437871)

Says the AC troll posting to /. Back under the bridge, please.

Good guy (2, Informative)

MSG (12810) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436926)

We bring authors to RealNetworks from time to time, and I had the chance to meet Mr. Jacobs a short while ago. He was running a few minutes late (he was supposed to talk at noon), and tried to excuse himself by explaining that they used to adjust hours according to the day so that an hour was shorter during shorter days of the year. That's a good anecdote, but I pointed out that noon would be at the same time anyway.

We all had a laugh. I haven't read the book yet, but I may at some point. He's an interesting guy.

Maybe he was late... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437475)

because he was using a clock powered by RealPlayer and it kept buffering every few seconds, thereby making him late.

Americans love trivia... (3, Funny)

Exluddite (851324) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436929)

"I'll take people with way too much time on their hands for 1000 please, Alex."

Re:Americans love trivia... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437081)

"Who is 'the parent of this post'?"

Re:Americans love trivia... (1)

Mad_Rain (674268) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437209)

Who is Exluddite [slashdot.org] ?

hmmmm, there appears to be something ironic here.

Re:Americans love trivia... (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437623)

Am I the only one who thinks that Alex Trebek would be a kickbutt trivial pursuit player? Imagine all the questions and answers he has heard over the years (thought perhaps he hasn't absorbed much of it, I dunno).

Re:Americans love trivia... (1)

nebaz (453974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437851)

I remember being in France for a semester in College. They had a program over there called "Questions for a Champion", quiz show, not exactly Jeopardy, but same idea.

The host of this show was a celebrity contestant on a celebrity quiz show, and got some questions wrong.
The other celebrities ribbed him, the guest host even saying, 'See, it's easy when you have the cards'.

speaking of encyclopedias.. (2, Interesting)

hitchhacker (122525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436931)


wikitrivia anyone?

-metric

Re:speaking of encyclopedias.. (1)

deathcloset (626704) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437121)

Hmm. OK. But trivia with Wikipedia seems pretty easy; since so much knowledge is available. Let's play something more like...counter-trivia. yeah, that sounds good.

Here is the challenge: Name 10 common, generic, everyday things that are NOT in Wikipedia.

Here's one: "mouse click [wikipedia.org] "

GO! ;)

Re:speaking of encyclopedias.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437270)

then put a better definition in there.

Re:speaking of encyclopedias.. (1)

deathcloset (626704) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437339)

I guess the question is, can one really play that game at all?

Tough question, I have an idea! Lets Debate It! [debatepoint.com]

A. J. Jacobs (1, Funny)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436933)

a.k.a. "Anonymous Coward."

Important knowledge. (3, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436942)


Does he know the identity of the goatse.cx guy? No? Then he doesn't know everything.

Re:Important knowledge. (1)

Antonymous Flower (848759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437028)

Does he want to?

Re:Important knowledge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437354)

I hear Goatsex guy is doing a cameo in the next Star Teck film.

As is Cowboy Neal.

Come to think of it, have you ever seen the two of them at the same time? Mmm

Re:Important knowledge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437113)

Kirk Johnson.

Don't ask how I know, damnit! I'm trying to burn it from my memory!

Re:Important knowledge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437120)

I know that was just a joke, but many people have tried to figure out who he is. The best guess is some guy named Kirk. From the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] :

A series of pictures by a man identified as Kirk Johnson contains the precursor images to hello.jpg and some following. At this point, it is highly likely that Kirk Johnson is the "Goatse Man". Kirk Johnson is a regular poster to the newsgroup alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.male.anal, among others, and a rather simple analysis confirms this; it is unlikely that there is another practitioner of anal stretching with the same mole on the upper-left edge of his anus. Furthermore, both the gap.zip (see below) pictures and Kirk Johnson's pictures show the same large yellow buttplug being used.

Re:Important knowledge. (1)

jxyama (821091) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437185)

it must be him... so he *does* know everything... but we can't be told...

Question (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436949)

This brings up an interesting question. Does Intelligence increase wisdom? or do they work independently from each other? I have met many people who were "Know it all" people, but lacked the wisdom to direct their knowledge or focus their minds.

I find that the word 'wisdom' doesn't mean... (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437987)

...what people think it means. Mostly it's a way for people who aren't very smart to make themselves feel better by saying things like "he's smart but he lacks wisdom" so as to make themselves somehow seem less unintelligent, or at least somehow morally superior.

Not particularly difficult.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11436963)

Reading 33,000 pages in a year means 90.41 pages each day. This is hardly a monumental feat; I know several people who regularly read over a hundred pages per day.

Re:Not particularly difficult.... (1)

Dorothy 86 (677356) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437078)

yeah... but can you imagine reading 90.41 pages a day out of the Encyclopaedia Britannica? It'd be tough for me to do that anyways, even though I read well over that on most days.

Re:Not particularly difficult.... (1)

penguin_asylum (822967) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437147)

But, I presume, he tried to remember all of the details from it. I doubt that these people whom you know could, after reading at that rate for 33,000 pages could tell you all of the things that happened in what they read.

Re:Not particularly difficult.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437424)

I can barely remember what was in the last post I read. Luckily, the "reply to" page quotes the "replied to" message...

Re:Not particularly difficult.... (1)

maxpublic (450413) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437794)

I agree. The "Wheel of Time" series has got to be getting pretty close to that number by now, and for the life of my I couldn't tell you what the hell's going on or who did what, or why.

Max

Re:Not particularly difficult.... (1)

anonymous_wombat (532191) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437298)

Reading 33,000 pages in a year means 90.41 pages each day. This is hardly a monumental feat; I know several people who regularly read over a hundred pages per day.
Yes, but there is not plot, unless it's: God did it.

Re:Not particularly difficult.... (1)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437622)

When I was even much younger than you whelps, I decided to read 3 books a day - sometimes more. My total books read now exceed 20,000 - some folks say it has done nothing more than made me an extremely annoying person.

But - I have also traveled widely, taken a few dozen odd jobs, spent eight years as an artist, twenty years in IT, and am a proud father. I enjoy helping people, and the vast knowledge available in books has helped me in this.

Of course, sometimes I refer to myself as a "vast land mine of useless information."

Re:Not particularly difficult.... (1)

michaeldot (751590) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437673)

Yes, but there is not plot, unless it's:
God did it.

That'd be the Creationist Britannica. One page long, all you need to know!

Evolution is just a silly atheists' theory, dinosaurs chased Adam & Eve out of Eden, and vote for Bush because homosexuals are evil.

See, I'm the smartest man in the bible belt already!

Re:Not particularly difficult.... (1)

anonymous_wombat (532191) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437731)

I thought that Adam and Eve ate the dinosaurs after they shoved apples in their mouths.

Similar Goal (5, Interesting)

Pentrant (700080) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436975)

I've actually set out to do something similar, albeit with somewhat different methods. As a New Year's Resolution, I promised to read a book every month on a subject I knew little about, in addition to the normal sci-fi and computer science related reading I tend towards.

For the month of January, I've nearly finished a commentated version of Sun Tzu's Art of War, and have found that it has helped me gain new insight into a few situations, insight that would never have occured to me prior to starting this project.

Becoming the master of one trade/knowledge area is a great goal, but I've found enjoyment in just the little branching out I've done. Bravo to this guy for daring to reach out and learn new things... it certainly keeps life interesting!

Sun Tzu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437009)

Americans love Sun Tzu. Duh

Re:Similar Goal (1)

INetEngineer (816350) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437033)

My New Year's resolution was to read my quote book, "20,000 Quips & Quotes" by Even Esar. I've always been one to enjoy Harper's Index http://www.harpers.org/MostRecentIndex.html [harpers.org] rather than read the daily news.

Re:Similar Goal (1)

anonymous_wombat (532191) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437331)

I tried doing this with the electronic version of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I was planning to do this over about 20 years. I got as far as "ac".

More interesting at least for me is reading a range of books. Taking the list of 101 interesting books from, "The Readers Guide to Good Literature" seems to me to be a more interesting project.

Re:Similar Goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437663)

Wow, 20 something slashdotter discovers the value of a (pseudo-)liberal education!

Re:Similar Goal (1)

DrCode (95839) | more than 9 years ago | (#11438182)

Mine was to read the dictionary, but it was too wordy. Then I tried the phone book: Lots of characters, but not much of a plot.

So, once he learns all there is to know... (1)

TexVex (669445) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436976)

Is he going to destroy the entire universe? Does anybody have a quantum bomb handy to send this guy into an alternate universe before he can carry out his evil giant brain plan?

Re:So, once he learns all there is to know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437140)

Just remember that Scooty Puff Junior Sucks.....!

Good Futurama reference- I think that episode was called "The Why of Fry".

Re:So, once he learns all there is to know... (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437244)

they just showed it last night. or the night before, or something, I don't know what night it was but it was this week sometime.

Weekend Read?! Weeks to read... (1)

INetEngineer (816350) | more than 9 years ago | (#11436985)

I tried reading that book and returned it to the library owing dollars in late fines, having finished 1/5 of the story... I suppose it was entertaining. But, I'd rather read the Britannica. I'm sure it's like sports... Spectator vs. Participant. I don't like watching. Besides, Jacobs probably wouldn't read his book either.

Sound Interesting (1)

TekMonkey (649444) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437037)

Very nice review! I might just have to get this book (when I finish reading all the other books on my list :/).

I tried this... (1)

John3 (85454) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437038)

When I was about six or seven my parents purchased a set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Seemed to be the thing to do back then for parents that wanted their kids to do well in school, and of course it looked real impressive on the bookshelves in the living room (like all my O'Reilly books over my desk at work). I decided that I was going to learn everything there was to know so I started to read the first volume with the goal of reading the entire encyclopedia (and the annual Book of the Year update!). I got about three pages into the thing and gave up. Pretty dry reading the encyclopedia so props to Mr. Jacobs for getting through it.

Re:I tried this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437563)

Make it intresting, read it drunk.

Only 33k pages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437055)

Let me know when he finishes Robert Jordan's books, then I'll be impressed.

Re:Only 33k pages? (1)

starrsoft (745524) | more than 9 years ago | (#11438341)

Let me know when he finishes Robert Jordan's books, then I'll be impressed.

Robert Jordan has written approximately 117,000 pages.

How much can you retain (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437098)

If you did set out to read encyclopedia britannica, how much of the information could you actually retain. I'm sure 75% of the subjects discussed are boring to any one person. Especially in trying to read it in a year. You'd probably have to devote 4 or 5 hours a day to it.

I checked this book out from the library (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437151)

...because I thought it would be cool to read it, but now that it's on the front page of /. I'm not so sure anymore.

Our Wonderful World (0)

Caractacus Potts (74726) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437164)

I did this 20 years ago with a set of encyclopedias called "Our Wonderful World". Anybody remember those? It was about 2/3 the shelf length of EB, with entries in no particular order and plenty of pictures. Took me three years to read them, but they definitely made me a know-it-all. So, when I say I've forgotten more than most of you guys know, I'm serious.

Re:Our Wonderful World (1)

Jiggily (834042) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437876)

Using that thinking, and considering everything I've ever learned and forgot; I've forgotten more than I know....

What's the big deal? (0, Flamebait)

donour (445617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437181)

When I was growing up my father spent lots of his spare time reading britannica. I think he read three full sets (~1960, ~1980, ~1995). That's something like 50 volumes. I know of several other people who've done the same. It's reading them that big of a deal?

Re:What's the big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437318)

Should that be "is it"? Or "It is a big deal; reading them", or even "Vodka is great, fuck everything else".

Nice for a laugh, not much else (2, Informative)

dmccarty (152630) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437236)

I got the book for a Christmas gift. It's a cute book from the parts that I've read, but I'll be taking it back for something a little more interesting.

The book is actually an executive overview of the EB, and each snippet is interwoven with his experiences in that point of his life. Some parts are hilarious, but it's not much deeper than a casual read.

FWIW, of course. YMMV.

Re:Nice for a laugh, not much else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437290)

As a very very drunk dyslix, it took me many minutes to work out your sig.

It is not really all that funny or orginal.

Drunk Dyslix.

Good book. . . (3, Informative)

jhobbs (659809) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437254)

I read this book last fall. It is a good book with a humorous take on trivia and some dime store psychology about its possible relationship with intelligence.

The book is also a very indepth analysis of the author's own personal neuroses.

Actually, that is the reason I keep hiding the book from my partner. I also consider a eventful evening a trip from the sofa to the fridge. I certainly don't need to offer up any amunition to my partner.

All in all, it is a take on information overload, and those people who belive that simply knowing a lot means they are intelligent.

But what about the Wikipedia challenge? (2, Interesting)

Krik Johnson (764568) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437283)

This page lets you read Wikipedia pages in order [wikipedia.org] . With over 450,000 articles and over 150 million words, this is a monster! Even Slashdot [wikipedia.org] 's inside!

Re:But what about the Wikipedia challenge? (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437434)

True! Wikipedia is a great source for trivia! For instance, in-depth discussions of Slashdot trolls, the censorious tendencies of political extremists, pseudo-historic conspiracy theories forwarded by Russians, random pieces of misinformation put in obscure articles, and conflicting "facts" standing side-by-side in the same paragraph!

creators' planet/population rescue short of funds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437328)

fortunately, the whole thing runs on newclear power.

also fortunate (deepending on who you are/yOUR motives), is that the daze of the felonious corepirate nazi execrable are #ed/WANing into coolapps, at the (sometimes slow) speed of right.

lookout bullow.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators, disempowering unprecedented evile, & restoring (&/or wiping out) civilizations since/until forever. see you there?

I'll take the easy way... (1)

Mikmorg (624030) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437359)

Wouldn't it be easier to build a computer intertwined with our brains directly linked to an all-knowing database? :)

Yeah, this bugs me (2, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437363)

Sometimes people who meet me think I'm an asshole because I like to quote random facts. They think I'm trying to "show off" how smart I am.

First of all, knowing a bunch of facts is not equivalent to being smart. Second of all, I am not doing it to impress you, I'm doing it because I like random facts and I want to share something with you that I enjoy. Every once in a while, I encounter somebody else who also knows a bunch of random stuff, and we end up having really fun conversations.

People also seem to think it's magic. It isn't magic, it's about reading stuff. When I was little, when I was in the bathroom I would read the ingredient lists off the back of shampoo bottles. Did you know that most shampoos contain a compound called methylchloroisothiazolinone? I have no idea what it is, but I remember how to spell it :-)

My mom bought me a periodic table placemat. I stared at that thing every morning while eating my cereal for two years. Now I know every chemical element by name, symbol, and atomic number. I'm no genius, I just stared at a placemat for hours.

Re:Yeah, this bugs me (1)

Praetor11 (512322) | more than 9 years ago | (#11438088)

I think I know what you mean, but I also know people who spout off random facts-- and sometimes it can annoy me to no end. Perhaps you do like sharing knowledge; just be sure that others enjoy HEARING random knowledge... Some of us enjoy being blissfully ingorant!

Ha, that's nothing (1)

atomm1024 (570507) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437425)

I'm still working on reading every article in the English Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , all 450,000 [wikipedia.org] of them. When I'm done, I'll make sure to write a book and alert Slashdot, assuming it's still around a few centuries from now.

The know-it-all (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11437479)

I thought maybe this book was about the typical Slashdot reader, or maybe Alex Trebeck, or perhaps Al Gore or John Kerry, people that claim themselves to be know-it-alls?

Re:The know-it-all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437626)

Yeah, why vote for a guy like Gore or Kerry? They seem too much like they might know things, and we'd sure hate to have someone like that as President! Much better to vote for the candidate who doesn't let things like facts, figures, and basic realistic constraints affect them.

33000 pages, thats nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437836)

just wait till Robert Jordan finishes the Wheel of Time Series

MATCH OF THE CENTURY!!! A.J. vs. K.J.! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11437874)

...Ken Jennings, anyone?

after reading... (1)

tq_at_sju (218880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11438025)

After reading part of the encyclopedia jacobs quiped, "the letter l really sucks"......
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