This was a little more like actually reading the Encyclopedia Britannica
than I was really prepared for. I think it took me longer to read this book than it took Jacobs to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica
, too. So, I’m not sure what that says about my reading stamina. It took Jacobs something like a year to read the encyclopedia? I think it took me two years to read this book. Although I don’t really get how it’s possible that it took him a year because I feel like way more than half of the book was about Jacobs and his wife trying to get pregnant, but then she was seven months pregnant when the book was over. Maybe he just read a lot more during the first half of the year. Or maybe it took him more than a year. I can’t go back and check. Anyway, writing a review of this book is pretty meta because the book itself is basically a goodreads.com review of the encyclopedia. Ambitious. So this is a review of a review of the encyclopedia.
I am terrible at retaining factual knowledge long term, and I’d have to say I probably kind of avoid learning trivial facts – dates, names, places. I guess, using the word “trivial” is wrong because it sounds like they are less important than other facts, but what I mean is that systems and theories make more sense to me, and I’m not good with factual data. It’s probably because of that that Jacob’s Year of Living Biblically was more entertaining to me. Know-It-All
is basically about whether there is value in knowing a lot of facts, where Biblically
is about the value of religion. Both have this OCD intensity, combined with a charming humility. It’s very disarming, but at the same time disconcerting in some way. Obviously, he cares enough about these projects to follow through with them, but at the same time, most of the books are about him being self-conscious about the fact that he’s doing the projects, but he’s also proud enough of them to publish books about them. I guess it’s good that he recognizes the projects are unusual.
Jacobs writes the kind of review here that not everybody likes – it’s filled with personal anecdotes about how the encyclopedia affected him and what he was doing when reading sections of it. I find that interesting, but it is not for everyone. There is also a lot of trivia in here that relates to random legal facts and stories that I learned this past year in school – like the three-mile rule and the Bird in Space story. That was cool. I guess, again, Biblically
made more sense to me because I’ve spent a lot of time considering the value of religion and of interpretations of spiritual texts, where I’ve always been pretty comfortable with my cursory decision that reading an entire encyclopedia is of no interest to me. That’s just a personal preference, and you could feel the opposite.
Anyway, I have a crush on A.J. Jacobs. He’s charming and smart, but still has some perspective. His wife is probably a saint, and she seems pretty charming, too. Maybe I have a little crush on their whole family. That adds a little sparkle to my read of his stories.