Friday, July 11, 2008

The Know It All: One Man's Quest to Become the Smartest Person In the World

A.J. Jacobs set out to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in 2003 and the wrote this memoir documenting the experiment. About one third is traditional memoir, recounting he and his wife's attempts at having a baby, his job as an editor at Esquire magazine, and his family. The rest is devoted to various Britannica entries that make an impression on him (such as the fact that many famous people including Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Darwin married their cousin), and some adventures he would not have embarked on but for the Britannica project, most notably appearing on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire". He ruminates a lot on the difference between intelligence and knowledge and generally gives the impression of guy who's bright, but also able to realize he's not THE brightest and to feel inadequate in the presence of those who outshine him. I enjoyed it, especially as the encyclopedia style entries were perfect reading for the last few nights when I was suffering from insomnia.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

David Sedaris is a sure thing in my book. This is his latest collections of essays and five minutes after I got the email announcing it, I had ordered the audiobook version. This isn't quite as heart wrenching as Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim or as funny as David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall
(which should carrying a warning about the danger of car accidents due to laughter). It is still a great book and made me laugh harder than I have in a long time. The two discs are one piece, about traveling to Japan to quit smoking and possibly the highlight. Listen to it rather than read it, at least the first time.