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Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,749 ratings  ·  397 reviews
One day back in 2003, Ken Jennings and his college buddy Earl did what hundreds of thousands of people had done before: they auditioned for Jeopardy! Two years, 75 games, 2,642 correct answers, and over $2.5 million in winnings later, Ken Jennings emerged as trivia’s undisputed king. Brainiac traces his rise from anonymous computer programmer to nerd folk icon. But along t ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Villard
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Bandit
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve had on and off love affair of the mind with Jeopardy for ages. I always enjoy it, but don’t always watch it for practical uninteresting reasons, although this year I’ve watched every episode thus far. I play along on Jeopardy.com and once a year completely mess up the Jeopardy test due to inexplicable inability to perform under strict time limit. The pinnacle of this decades long passion has certainly been Ken Jennings, the player extraordinaire with his uncontested 75 appearances back in 2 ...more
B Schrodinger
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, trivia
Cross-posted from my blog The Periodic Table of Elephants

Ken Jennings stamped himself onto my psyche with 'Maphead', a book about geography and geo geeks, which I read last year. I adored this book for many reasons and I connected with Ken's sentiments about learning, obsession and being a nerd. I've now gone back to a previous book of his, 'Brainiac' which deals with the history and obsession of trivia and the events that made Ken a household name in the U.S.

For those of you not from the U.S. o
...more
Jess
Dec 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I found Ken Jennings a positively delightful author (despite the fact that I was predisposed to love him with the loyalty of someone who watched nearly all of his JEOPARDY! appearances). This work is far more than the 15 minutes of fame bargain book dead weight it could have easily been. Instead, Jennings has carefully penned a masterful (yes masterful) overview of Trivia in American pop-culture and interspersed the narrative of his JEOPARDY! experiences in a clever and un-assuming way. Plus, th ...more
Eh?Eh!
Mar 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: babble-added
Learn about Ken Jennings and the subject of trivia! Jennings' gentle, nerdy, self-deprecating humor is a soothing balm for an overexposure to Chicago snarkiness (present Chicago buds excluded, of course :o). He reads like I fear I sound, although I don't have close to the knowledge base he draws upon. Good grief, I hope I'm not as know-it-all as that. Entertaining look into the history of trivia, it's current forms and festivals, and a behind-the-scenes viewpoint of Jeopardy!. Enjoyable read and ...more
Beth Cato
I've watched Jeopardy throughout my life and Ken Jennings's spectacular run fascinated me in 2004 and still does so today. I always enjoy seeing him return for new bouts. I found Brainiac to be an overall interesting read. There was less behind-the-scenes info on Jeopardy than I expected, though I understand why there isn't more. His long run blurred together for the most part.

Much of the book is about the nature of trivia itself--how it became a thing, how the fad has ebbed and flowed over the
...more
Diane
Aug 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you're any kind of a Jeopardy geek, this is required reading, as uberwinner Ken Jennings tells the tale of how he came to be on the show and win his historic 74 games.

But beyond that, Brainiac is a thoroughly entertaining history of trivia - or, of the universally-addictive pastime of asking and answering obscure general knowledge questions. Jennings did great research, and writes with a densely-packed brevity and wicked sense of humor.

And best of all, there are great trivia questions sprinkl
...more
M.liss
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Yes, it’s about Jeopardy! and Ken Jennings’s experience on the show and how it affected his life, but it’s not going to teach you how to study in the way that Bob Harris’s book does. Jennings touches on his study habits (study broadly, use a makeshift buzzer, create mnemonics), and gives some tips for auditioning (know the game and its rules, present yourself as affable and funny), but what makes Brainiac stand out is that it’s really about trivia in a broader sense.
Jennings traces the history
...more
Mac
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm no Jeopardy fan though I did watch every minute of several shows when IBM's Watson took down former all-time champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. However, then I was more interested in the computer's prowess than in acquainting myself with the game. What's more, my trivia knowledge is mixed; in Trivial Pursuit I used to move around the board fairly comfortably only to grind to a permanent standstill on "Geography" or "Entertainment." So why did I enjoy Brainiac so much?

That's because Brai
...more
C
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it
He talks about trivia a lot. I guess that makes sense, it wasn't really a memoir. Maybe I thought it'd be more memoir. Some of the trivia sections are good, some are way too clearly bought and paid for by Trivial Pursuit. My editor usually asks "Are they paying you?" when somebody uses a corporations name in their work. Ken Jennings was definitely getting paid.

Kinda a funny dude though.
Lea
Oct 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
While the trivia of trivia was interesting at first, I grew tired of it and found myself wanting to fast forward to the "Ken Jennings story" parts. Ok, I admit it. I actually did skip some of the trivia blah blah blah! All that said, Jennings is a surprisingly good and humorous writer.
Malin Friess
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In 2005 Ken Jennings won 75 games in a row on Jeopardy, answered 2,642 questions correctly, and won $2.5 million dollars. He is the King of Trivia.

This book takes you behind the fascinating scenes of Alex Trebec and the Jeopardy subculture. 5 shows are taped all in one day. Jennings barely had time to catch his breath between shows..oh and put on a new outfit to look like it is a new day (Alex is very good at saying --"Yesterday our champion Ken won $28,000" when really it was 5 minutes ago. ) A
...more
Kristen
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Adam
"Brainiac" by Ken Jennings has been at the top of my list for over a year and I was on the waiting list at the library for almost as long. Why? Because I idolize the man. Only Ken Jennings would understand my need for a daily fix of trivia. I wasn't disappointed by the book, although I did find myself skipping large portions about the history of trivia and college quiz bowl formats, etc. I was delighted to find that my Ken jennings was every bit as intelligent as I imagined, and an incredibly en ...more
Marlene
Feb 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I must admit that I never would have bought this book. It was given to me to read. I got so sick of seeing Ken Jennings on Jeopardy that I never wanted to hear from or see him again. That is not to blame Ken Jennings, but it is like watching the New York Yankees win the world series every year. I want to say, "Just give them the trophy and let the other teams compete!" So with Ken Jennings. Jeopardy became the Ken Jennings show. I rued the day that Jeopardy decided to take the 5-game limit away. ...more
Gary
Sep 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I received this as a birthday gift from my mom, which says that she that she probably thinks of me as a "trivia buff" of some sort. That's flattering, particularly since she hardly ever buys me stuff because she's so uncertain of what I'll like.

I liked this book a lot, because it's not just about Ken Jennings experience as a Jeopardy champ. It's really a historical and cultural study of trivia. (The books includes a "trivia timeline" and the end, even indentifying the first use of the word "triv
...more
Del
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Trivia nerds and game show freaks
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cevin
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Remember Ken Jennings, the guy who won 75 consecutive games on Jopardy!and over $2.5 million dollars in the process? Well, this is his story. But it's more than just the story of how he got onto the show and won; its a history of trivia. From the quiz books of the Jazz Age to the college bowls of the 1960s to Trivial Pursuit in the 1980s, it's all here. And guess what? Ken is a funny guy! This was actually enjoyable to read. An added bonus are the trivia questions interjected into each chapter. ...more
Amanda
Read most of this on a trip for work, and it was great airplane reading, very chill. I'm a huge fan of trivia and play pub quiz regularly, so I liked Jennings' history and investigation into trivia in America; it really is great to read it coming from a guy who loves trivia and is respectful of all the other kinds of folks who do, too. Jennings's story of playing Jeopardy! is also a fun, interesting frame. He's a quippy, fun writer, and his casual style was great to read.

As a trivia hound, I app
...more
Billy
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, quick read by Ken Jennings describing his historic run on Jeopardy! as well as presenting a general chronology of trivia and its continued popularity. May contain a little less about the how-to a would be Jeopardy! contestant would want (see Bob Harris's Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!), but there's a feeling that the commonality of curiosity makes us more alike than different.

The conversational tone belies the amount of information presented. The chapters are general
...more
Denise Spicer
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This fun book and quick read is written by a trivia expert and record setting Jeopardy! winner. The chapters are organized cleverly, using Jeopardy!-style answers – What is Ambition, What is Audition, Competition Recognition, Redefinition, etc. outline the author’s experiences in achieving his life-time goal of appearing on the popular game show. He includes massive amounts of trivia history and features lots trivia celebrities and farms. The book ends with a trivia timeline for readers who migh ...more
Vince Snow
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really loved it. Some of the parts about trivia groups around the US got a little dry, but a lot of them were fascinating. I found the parts comparing trivia knowledge to intelligence very interesting. Kind of in the same vein as Moonwalking with Einstein comparing memory to intelligence. Not the same thing, but they live in the same neighborhood.
Of course I really loved all of the sections on Jeopardy, giving a better context on background of the game, and why Ken has been the only one to have
...more
Joy Schultz
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Jennings is amusing and informative about the history of trivia production and consumption (a history that grows ever less familiar under the shadow of Google). I'm particularly fascinated by the idea that the boom-and-bust cycle of trivia fads reflects economic cycles - and, having had family and friends involved in NAQT contests and Jeopardy!, I was interested to hear Ken's perspective on question varieties, what constitutes the quintessence of trivia, and what it's like to play Jeopardy! for ...more
Cami
May 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: trivia buffs, Jeopardy fans
Recommended to Cami by: the library
Shelves: trivia
As one of those who obsessively watched Ken Jennings meteoric rise to nerd-envied fame on Jeopardy, I thought I'd give this book a shot.
It was really great and entertaining. He tells the tale of his Jeopardy experience, obsession with trivia, the history of trivia and trivia and more trivia and it's a really fun ride. There are parts to skim more quickly than others certainly, but overall, I really enjoyed. 3.5 stars
Sarah
May 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Molly
Shelves: jeopardy, trivia
I liked learning about Ken Jennings' trivia journey specifically, as well as the world of trivia in general.
Nick Black
my high school academic bowl team gets mentioned! a must-read for all academic bowl fiends.
Bridgette Redman
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Who knew? Amongst Ken Jennings' mastery of trivia and all things Jeopardy!, the man can also write—and is as skilled at that as he is at buzzing in on answers.

This month saw the release of the 74-game Jeopardy! champion's book, Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, a look at his Jeopardy! experience and at the subculture of trivia. It's a fascinating book that clues us into just why we're so taken with trivia—whether it's in the form of game shows,
...more
Kevin English
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Now that Ken Jennings has won the “Greatest of all time” Jeopardy championship and he stands on the throne of the nerd heroes, it was time for me to crack open one of his books.

This book is a fun, deep dive into the world of trivia. It explores its history and traditions. Jennings most interesting thesis, which he doesn’t explore enough, is that trivia and the “useless facts” fads are an essential precursor to Google and the larger Information Age.

Of course, the most interesting parts of the boo
...more
Wendy
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve been on a Jeopardy kick so it was interesting to read about Ken Jennings experiences on the show, as well as the background on trivia in general. The author weaved several trivia questions into every chapter and provided the answers at the end of each chapter which made for a very entertaining read.
Marsh
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Light reading about trivia, it’s history Ken Jennings on Jeopardy and some throwbacks to the annual trivia contest at UW- Stevens Point! Loved it.
Aldrin
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Answer: This computer programmer from Utah holds the record for the longest winning streak in Jeopardy!.
Question: Who is Ken Jennings?

Since its inception, contestants on the popular television game show, Jeopardy!, were limited to only five consecutive appearances, that is, a player, win or lose, was to leave the show and return home after playing five episodes. But on September 2003, this rule was scrapped, finally allowing contestants to continue playing and increasing their pot money until de
...more
YoSafBridg
May 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
don't you wanna be a brainiac too?
I'm not so sure that i do, at least not if you're defining "brainiac" by the terms of the trivia-buffs encountered in Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings the greatest champion in Jeopardy! history (so far). Jennings, as you may or may not remember, spent six months in a 75-game winning streak on the game show Jeopardy!. Brainiac isn't so much a behind the scenes account of his Jeopardy! experien
...more
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Kenneth Wayne Jennings III (born May 23, 1974) holds the record for the longest winning streak on the U.S. syndicated game show Jeopardy! Jennings won 74 games before he was defeated by challenger Nancy Zerg on his 75th appearance. His total earnings on Jeopardy! are US$3,022,700 ($2,520,700 in winnings, a $2,000 consolation prize on his 75th appearance, and $500,000 in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tour ...more

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