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Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge    by Susan Aldridge, Elizabeth King Humphrey & Julie Whitaker order for
Know It All
by Susan Aldridge
Order:  USA  Can
Readers Digest, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In their Introduction, the Know It All authors suggest that 'filling your memory banks with snippets of general knowledge is its own reward.' Their goal, they inform us, 'is to bring you "just the facts" in a concise and entertaining way.' To make it more fun, each chapter ends with a quiz and there's a final exam at the end. The authors suggest using their book as a springboard to further explore topics that catch a reader's interest.

The volume's 256 pages and 9 chapters cover: Understanding the Universe; The Story of the Earth; The Story of Life; Exploring the World; Invention and Discovery; Conflicts of the Modern Age; The Structure of Society; Religion and Thought; and Artistic Endeavor. The layout is engaging, with provocative section headings like Volcanoes: Builders and Demolishers. Text is interspersed with photos, diagrams, and sidebars with titles such as In Fact, Key Player, Conversation Starter, and In the Know.

Read Know It All cover to cover or simply delve into chapters of interest when you have time to spare. You'll learn all sorts of things, like the fact that 'insects make up a whopping 80 percent of the world's animal species'; that Alfred Nobel's younger brother died in an explosion when an experiment went wrong; what an international poll voted the Seven "New" Wonders of the World; that the longest-serving world capital is Paris; why Hindu god Ganesh has the head of an elephant; and much more.

Though I found Know It All somewhat US-centric - e.g. Conflicts of the Modern Age starts with the American Civil War - it's an intriguing overview of Essential Knowledge that most of us would like to know better than we do, and in more depth.

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