Get local news delivered straight to your phone

TUESDAY

We can't make City Paper without you

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

When I was a wee child, I loved to curl up with selections from my parents’ dusty, many-volumed World Book Encyclopedia. Mostly, I would read the “semaphore” entry over and over again, because you really can’t beat a communication system that involves holding flags at jaunty angles. (Also, the “semaphore” entry is pretty close to the “sex” one.) A.J. Jacobs wasn’t as strategic or selective as I was, though he was a bit more savvy. The Esquire editor wrangled a book deal out of reading the 32-volume, 33,000-page, 44-million-word Encyclopædia Britannica. His nerdtastic tell-all, The Know-It-All, is a snappy autobiography arranged in the form of a mini-encyclopedia. Jacobs’ alphabetical entries veer from quick, jokey references (Aaron is the “Frank Stallone of ancient Judaism”) to a meeting with Alex Trebek, his family’s struggle to conceive a child, and an encounter with an old high-school English teacher who tells him that, from the Buddhist perspective, he’s actually getting dumber. Either way, readers benefit: Jacobs reveals that Charles Darwin, Edgar Allan Poe, and Rachmaninoff married their cousins; that Dalmation pee is remarkably similar in constitution to human pee; and that there are very important personages named Isaac Butt and Johann Fux. Jacobs’ yuk-a-minute style occasionally grates, but if nothing else, The Know-It-All makes a great bathroom resource. Unless, that is, you already have the Encyclopædia Britannica in there. Jacobs reads at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Josh Levin)