Thursday, January 24, 2008

GoodReads, Meet The Know-It-All

Let me start with the disclaimer that I am certainly not a know-it-all, although I admit that when it comes to certain topics, I sometimes aspire to be one. I imagine that it would increase my confidence when debating such sticky issues as religion as an excuse for bigotry, or warfare, or stem cell research. On second thought though, confidence often straddles a fine line with smugness, so perhaps it is just as well that I am not smug in the face of these often deeply personal debates. As for the good reads part, while I have yet to publish a book, I do hope that my books are someday described as at least "easy-to," "interesting," or "entertaining" reads. And perhaps I will even make enough of an impact that I will someday be an entry in the good old Encyclopedia Britannica.

For those of you like me that want to increase your knowledge, but don't want to read all 33,000 pages of said encyclopedia, you can vicariously enjoy the ride by reading about someone else who did. In The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, author, A.J. Jacobs recounts his experience tackling the 44 million words contained within the pages of the Britannica with self-deprecating humor and alternating bouts of Britannica-induced hypochondria, intellectual superiority, and poignant reminders of our connections to the rest of humanity.

While A.J. may not have measurably changed the world with his endeavor, he certainly learned more about it, which is indeed one of the first steps towards solving any crisis or dilemma. My friend Robin's brother Gus recently put it like this, "I think that reading a book is the best thing you can do with your time." And what struck me most about this statement was the surety of his tone. He offered no qualifications or disclaimers, and he was not afraid to issue his now seemingly unconventional view in the age of text messaging, instant messaging, and broadcast messaging. Perhaps, then, it is no coincidence that Gus (and his sister Robin, who follows this advice), is one of the smartest people I know.

So what would it be like if we all made a little more time to read a book? Many of you may already have a stack of books at the ready from numerous gluttonous trips to your local bookstore (yes, that's me too). Thanks to Robin the Reader, as I will dub her for now, I have upgraded my bibliophilia to the Internet Age through Goodreads offers a free service where you can keep track of the books you are reading (and want to read), read writer recommendations and reviews, and share your literary pearls of wisdom with friends. Basically, regular visits to this site will not only improve your literary IQ, they will also ensure that you never go book hungry again - So what are you waiting for smarty pants? Go feed that brain!

Gus & Robin - The Smartiest of Pantses

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