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

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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 the way, it also explores his newly conquered kingdom: the world of trivia itself.

Jennings had always been minutiae-mad, poring over almanacs and TV Guide listings at an age when most kids are still watching Elmo and putting beans up their nose. But trivia, he has found, is centuries older than his childhood obsession with it. Whisking us from the coffeehouses of seventeenth-century London to the Internet age, Jennings chronicles the ups and downs of the trivia fad: the quiz book explosion of the Jazz Age; the rise, fall, and rise again of TV quiz shows; the nostalgic campus trivia of the 1960s; and the 1980s, when Trivial Pursuit® again made it fashionable to be a know-it-all.
Jennings also investigates the shadowy demimonde of today’s trivia subculture, guiding us on a tour of trivia hotspots across America. He goes head-to-head with the blowhards and diehards of the college quiz-bowl circuit, the slightly soused faithful of the Boston pub trivia scene, and the raucous participants in the annual Q&A marathon in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, “The World’s Largest Trivia Contest.” And, of course, he takes us behind the scenes of his improbable 75-game run on Jeopardy!

But above all, Brainiac is a love letter to the useless fact. What marsupial has fingerprints that are indistinguishable from human ones?* What planet has a crater on it named after Laura Ingalls Wilder?** What comedian had the misfortune to be born with the name “Albert Einstein”?*** Jennings also ponders questions that are a little more philosophical: What separates trivia from meaningless facts? Is being good at trivia a mark of intelligence? And is trivia just a waste of time, or does it serve some not-so-trivial purpose after all?

Uproarious, silly, engaging, and erudite, this book is an irresistible celebration of nostalgia, curiosity, and nerdy obsession–in a word, trivia.

* The koala
** Venus
*** Albert Brooks

From the Hardcover edition.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published September 12, 2006

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About the author

Ken Jennings

25 books421 followers
Kenneth Wayne Jennings III 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 Tournament of Champions). Jennings held the record for most winnings on any game show ever played until the end of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions (first aired on May 25, 2005), when he was displaced by Brad Rutter, who defeated Jennings in that tournament.

After winning, he began working on a book, Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, which explored American trivia history and culture. Ken also appeared as a member of the mob sitting in podium #13 from the new game show 1 vs. 100 in 2006, and in 2007 Jennings was the champion of the first season of the US version of Grand Slam.

Jennings was selected to co-host Jeopardy after the death of Alex Trebek.

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5 stars
767 (24%)
4 stars
1,453 (46%)
3 stars
767 (24%)
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92 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 444 reviews
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,509 reviews454 followers
January 29, 2018
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 2004 (wow, it’s been that long, scary how time moves) and 74 wins. Defeated in the final game by Nancy Zerg and a Final Jeopardy question so easy, I figured it out right away. But then again no one’s heard of Zerg (or me for that matter) and Ken Jennings remain a legend. At least among the trivia lovers who are the subject of and the target audience for this book, Jennings’ recollection of his time on Jeopardy and his travels in the land of random knowledge geeks, something of a memoir, something of a love letter, entertaining, informative and laden with fun facts readers can try to puzzle out. Jeopardy’s been around for a long time, it’s a veritable institution and with tv getting progressively dumber, it has always been the shining light of major broadcasting. Trivia isn’t as popular in the US as it is in UK or some other countries, then again this is the land that actually sees stupidity as a sort of folksy virtue and among all the rampant anti intellectualism, it’s always such a pleasure to tune in and see a few bravely smart souls and test your knowledge against them. I mean, it’s one thing to suspect you’re kinda smart and entirely another to have it be confirmed by national television and the national treasure that is Alex Trebek. Sure, trivia doesn’t precisely equate with intelligence, but as Jennings puts it, they certainly live in the same neighborhood. I’m decent at trivia, Jennings has made himself a millionaire through it, a feat positively magical in its improbability. That’s genuinely awesome as in awe inspiring. Of course, I’d wanna read a book he wrote. In fact did in the past, the one about maps, a very good one. No idea what took me so long with Brainiac. The guy can actually write pretty well, he’s erudite and funny and pleasantly self effacing, not just a witty face, forgive the terrible attempt at a pun. Plus it was fascinating to peek behind the proverbial curtain at one of my all time favorite shows, check out how the it all works (warning…it’s a pretty disappointing experience, far from a romanticized version one might have in mind). But still…so interesting. And Jennings went on to have a fun life, it seems like, and a decent career as an author. Wish he’d write more books for adults, though. Surely kids’ ones are easier, quicker and financially lucrative, but selfishly I would just love to read more of his books. There’s something very enjoyable about the way he writes, probably because his passion for his subjects and general geekiness comes through so plainly. If you don’t care about Jeopardy or trivia, this isn’t for you. But for those who get the thrill of knowledge for the sheer sake of knowledge and excitement of storing and producing at the opportune times random facts about random things this is a must. Very enjoyable read and a great way to spend a rainy Sunday.
Profile Image for Alina Rozhkova.
158 reviews7 followers
May 22, 2021
(мем где ДиКаприо тычет в экран телевизора, когда показывают его самого)
Очень захватывающе и приятно. Человек осуществил свою мечту, которая близка и понятна мне и всему моему кругу общения. У меня несколько десятков знакомых таких Кенов Дженнингсов
Давно не была в таком приподнятом настроении и умиротворении после книги
Profile Image for Jess.
9 reviews6 followers
December 9, 2007
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, there are trivia questions throughout every chapter answered in the endnotes: interactive fun for those of us who grew up with dads that alternately challenged us to yell out more correct answers than they could and vocally abused Mr. Trebek in ways too obscene to repeat here.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 109 books532 followers
March 3, 2019
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 decades, and how it is celebrated in various forms today. I found the early portions on the history of trivia to read as slow--but perhaps that was also my impatience to find out more about Jeopardy--but I really enjoyed the insights at the end about Stevens Point Wisconsin's massive trivia weekend and how bar trivia developed in recent years.
Profile Image for Eh?Eh!.
367 reviews4 followers
April 4, 2008
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 endorsed by Will Shortz.
Profile Image for Diane.
Author 4 books25 followers
August 25, 2009
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 sprinkled throughout the narrative, so you can test your knowledge.
Profile Image for Igor.
104 reviews14 followers
June 14, 2021
Цікава розповідь про квізи та телевікторини в США на тлі спогадів про знамениту серію перемог Кена Дженнінґза в Jeopardy. Як виявилось, любителів "свояка" та інших задротів вистачає і в усіх інших країнах світу, хоча ми про це дуже мало знаємо.
Profile Image for M.liss.
77 reviews2 followers
May 26, 2015
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 of trivia from its fact-book beginnings, following the development of newspaper trivia columns like “Answers to Questions,” huge radio trivia contests like the one at Stevens Point, and the ebb and flow of TV trivia game show trends (and their varying levels of greasiness). He also reveals his childhood obsession with trivia: The Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, The World Almanac, and esoteric encyclopedias stacked on his boyhood bedside table. In his awkward teenage years, he confesses, as a form of social damage control, he shied away from his nerdy first love. By college, however, he gave in to his desires and represented Brigham Young University on their Quiz Bowl team.
This book is full of interviews with people from all walks of trivia. Jennings helps out at a Quiz Bowl competition at Carleton College, talking with the host and coach about the history of college team trivia, the characteristics of good trivia, and how questions are constructed. (The chapter “What is Composition?” outlines how most trivia questions fit into one of several templates.)
Returning to his childhood love of trivia, Jennings looks up Fred Worth, author of The Trivia Encyclopedia, and gets his take on how the makers of Trivial Pursuit ripped off his book to create questions for the game and how SCOTUS decided that trivia is outside of the bounds of copyright law.
Jennings plays along with the massive Stevens Point game, joins a team for a round of pub trivia, and covers the development of those electronic quiz systems found in bars (formerly NTN, now known as Buzztime.) It is his immersion that makes this book interesting; it is a story told from the inside.
He asks what distinguishes trivia from simple facts, and decides that it is not simply that the facts are little-known. To be true, capital-T Trivia, the fact must contain some glimmer of joy, something inherently interesting, unique, or surprising.
So what is the point of trivia? Why bother with these esoteric details? Ken Jennings says trivia can bring people together. He laments the erosion of the commonality created by a shared set of general knowledge: “We lost something the more we specialized – it started to drain away this vast pool of information that everybody knew. Knowledge was what connected us, and now it distinguishes us (141).
This shit is worthwhile! So go watch Jeopardy! with people you care about and yell answers at the TV together! Go play Quizzo!
Profile Image for Yury.
177 reviews6 followers
February 20, 2015
Очень интересно. На фоне побед автора в Jeopardy! описан мир американских интеллектуальных игр, из которого мы знаем только верхушку айсберга. Этот мир значительно больше похож на мир ЧГК, чем кажется. Многие вещи удивительно узнаваемы. Играющим в ЧГК - must read, для остальных может быть менее интересно. Отдельно хочется похвалить Илью Бера за перевод.
Profile Image for Abtin.
28 reviews
July 1, 2020
Ken Jennings is a charming author, and this is a fun book for trivia/jeopardy fans that remember his historic run.

Ken takes the opportunity in this book to give a history of "trivia." Why it appeals to some people and what those people have in common; what makes for good "trivia" as opposed to "who cares" knowledge; how questions are written to lead to a satisfying AHA moment when the figure out the answer. He also explores the various forms trivia competitions take in society--- game shows, college quiz bowls, pub quizzes, board games, and annual city-wide 50hour trivia marathons!

He also provides just enough behind the curtain info about his jeopardy run. How he applied, the tests they have to take, the travel schedule, the secrecy, the physical and psychological advantages of being a returning champion, and odds and ends that would exhaust anyone making 75 appearances --- Do you have 75 interesting stories and factoids to talk to Alex about during the post commercial break chit-chat?

One thing that I enjoyed was a description of his mental gymnastics to breakdown a daily double clue and arrive at the correct response. I think that section beautifully shows the human mind at work as well as the terrific clue writing by Jeopardy. If you want to play at home, the clue was: "The film title Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes from a poem about these ill-fated Medieval lovers"

All in all, a very nice trip down memory lane.
15 reviews
May 20, 2022
This book was due to be pulped after being in our inventory for 3 years, so I decided to save it from the big bookstore in the sky and take it home. Paul and I have been watching Jeopardy pretty consistently since covid began, and I became really fond of Ken Jennings as the new host. Mayim Biyalik is decent, but Ken is so much more charming.. It was a cute read, Ken has a great sense of humor, he’s a good writer, and his stories about his time competing were fun to read about. The trivia history / trivia trivia was moderately interesting, some parts more than others for sure. I like that he seemed to put a lot of effort into this book, and that he didn’t want it to just be a cashout celeb memoir. It was sweet when he talked about wanting to represent Mormons well on TV, and his shyness around Alex Trebek and wanting to know if Alex liked him, and not realizing the standing ovation when he finally lost was for him and not the person that beat him. Humble guy!

I don’t even have a trivia brain- facts just do not stay in my mind. I never was interested in quiz bowl or debate. But I love that type of person, and I of course love Jeopardy, so I enjoyed it ! Though I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re obsessed with jeopardy, quiz bowl, or trivia. Kind of goes without saying I guess.
359 reviews22 followers
July 13, 2016
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 Brainiac is an interesting story, well presented. The content is the story of Jennings's audition for Jeopardy, his narrow victory in the first game, his long successful run, and his ultimate loss. Along the way, Jennings provides some backstory--his interest in trivia since childhood, his participation in college contests, and his maniacal preparation for the show. He also throws in history of trivia, references to other famous game shows of the early TV era, some local trivia competitions in bars and schools, the Trivial Pursuit craze, and meetings with some idiosyncratic trivia fanatics. There's a lot more content to chew on than you might expect.

And the entire story is very well told. Jennings has an easy going, conversational style with some humor, self deprecation, and odd trivia tossed in. Somehow, although the outcome is generally well known, he is able to create a sense of drama without overdoing the game-by-game analysis. Throughout, I felt Jennings was having a casual chat with me, not just about trivia, but also about the nature of knowledge, the excitement of competition, and the pressures of fame.

So if "Enjoyable Reads" is the category and Alex says, "This 2006 book is an interesting story, written in a very approachable style by a computer programmer," I'd press the buzzer and say, "What's Brainiac?"
Profile Image for Amanda.
70 reviews27 followers
June 14, 2012
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 appreciated that Jennings peppered the whole thing with trivia, and included the answers at the end of each chapter.
Profile Image for C.
210 reviews30 followers
June 16, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Lea.
4 reviews
October 30, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Andrea.
53 reviews
February 13, 2021
I really enjoyed reading this book! As a frequent viewer of Jeopardy and a minor trivia nerd, how could I not? It was fun to hear about Ken Jennings' experience during his historic run on Jeopardy, but it was nice that the book wasn't just that. The history of trivia was fun to read about as well. This book was written just a few years after Ken Jennings' initial appearance on Jeopardy, so I wish that he would come out with a new edition that included his experiences during champion tournaments, producing, and guest hosting the show. Great read!
Profile Image for Diana.
331 reviews
June 25, 2021
Very enjoyable recounting of Jennings’s streak on Jeopardy, and of the popularity of trivia in general, with lots of trivia questions (and answers) and some laughs mixed in. He really has a great sense of humor, and it comes through in his writing.
Profile Image for Malin Friess.
675 reviews20 followers
October 25, 2017
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. ) Always double check your math..it has happened in final jeopardy that someone lost because they bet the wrong amount. Jennings of course prefers when games are locked--that is when you have more than double your competitors at time of final jeopardy. Ken once had 17 locked games in a row. You are not allowed to tell anyone (except your spouse) the results of the show (often it is not on TV for another 3 months). Jennings (a computer programmer who lives in SLC and attended BYU) had to make elaborate stories for why he was missing work and flying to LAX every Wednesday. You can study for jeopardy--know your presidents, world capitals, and mixed drinks (even if you are Mormon).
Halfway through Jennings run..the producers became nervous and wondered if ratings would fail if Jennings just kept winning. They changed the buzzer system. Jennings felt like returning champions have a large advantage knowing just when to "ring in"-- watch the light not the words--when it flashes wait just a moment and then hit the button like crazy.
Jennings also felt that within Jeopardy there was some gender preference (Jeopardy almost always has one female playing each game) even though trivia buffs are mostly men. Jennings tried out and it took 10 months to get on the show..it usually took female competitors about one month.

The book also highlights other trivia competitions..it turns out Carleton College (my father's alma mater) is known to be annual trivia champions. For fun Jennings intersperses 10 trivia questions in each chapter for fun: Papua New Guinea is the only country besides Australia with Kangaroos. The philtrum is between the mouth and nose. Barbie's full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts.

5 stars. Fun book at Jennings comes across unassuming and very likable. I started watching Jeopardy again when Austin (a quirky bartender from NYC) went on a good run. I'm not sure how I missed Jennings streak--maybe I had no TV or cable at the time. Did anyone else watch Jenning's run..it would have been captivating. I wonder if it will ever happen again.
Profile Image for Kristen.
473 reviews4 followers
June 18, 2008
"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 entertaining writer. Several times, I found myself laughing out loud as he poked fun at himself and his self proclaimed geekiness. That being said, I also discovered that he is just an average guy, and Mormon to boot!

I also loved to read about Jeopardy!: the audition and tsting process, and the way the show is run. I was surprised to see the level of non-comraderie that exsisted between Jennings and Trebek. I always thought that they were so buddy buddy.

I loved the book, though for some reason it took me quite a while to finish. It was so fun to answer the questions that were scattered throughout the book. For example, did you know that Descartes had a fetish for cross-eyed women? Did you know that opossums have 13 nipples? Did you know that Benjamin Franklin invented the flexible urine catheter? Did you know that the carrot was bred by Dutch growers to honor their royal family, the House of Orange? Did you know that California, not Utah consumes more Jell-O than any other state? It was also quite exhilarating to find that I knew the Final Jeopardy answer that finally caused Jennings's elimination after more than six months on the show. (You'll have to read the book to find out what it was.)

Anyway, the book is great and I think all you geeks out there should give it a try. Enjoy!!!
Profile Image for Marlene.
390 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2009
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. I like to see close games, a real contest, not a one-man show.
I thought this book would be about his stint on Jeopardy so, as I was reading it, I kept thinking that there was a lot of fill in this book. To be fair, the book was about Trivia, and, dispersed throughout, was about his stint on Jeopardy. Still, there was a lot of fill. In each chapter, there were questions to which the answers were at the end of the chapter. He did a very good job with the answers so you did not have to go back and find the question to know what it was. Thank you, Ken.
My feelings for Ken Jennings (I always thought of him as a bit smug) and for the book went back and forth as I read. There were some very interesting parts. Trivia buffs are a breed unto themselves. It is interesting to read and realize the life of a trivia buff.
Profile Image for Gary.
128 reviews4 followers
October 9, 2009
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 "trivia" to refer to esoteric but interesting facts.)

I found in Jennings own experience an echo of my own propensity to collect bits of information, not because I want to win on a game show, but because such things might come in handy some day (and also because I just can't help myself). I had a colleague of mine in the English department accuse me of just making stuff up (am I the Cliff Clavin of the English Department?) but honestly I'm not. I just have a lot of what Dave Barry calls "brain sludge."

This book is well written, which I'm pleased to see, since Ken Jennings is a graduate of BYU's English Department. (We are still waiting for those big donations to our writing program.)
2 reviews1 follower
January 9, 2008
This is a memoir from Ken Jennings- the guy who won Jeopardy! a record 74 times in a row. He won over $3 million total. (10% went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints) "Brainiac" is the very well written and entertaining chronicle of his amazing achievement. Throughout the book he switches between recounting his Jeopardy! experiences and delving into the history and appeal of trivia. He discusses the process of writing trivia questions and the quest to separate the clever stumper from the useless fact. He also inserts trivia questions into the story, using them as a writing device and providing the answer in end note format following each chapter. I learned that Koala bears and humans have indistinguishable fingerprints. I am a huge trivia geek, so naturally I loved this book, but given Jennings' writing style,and the fact that it is kind of an ode to a nerdy obsession, I would recommend this to geeks of all types.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cevin.
108 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2012
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. Finally, the book asks the reader to consider some broader philosophical questions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. Are there really such things as useless facts? Does trivia serve some purpose? Maybe it's just because I'm a nerd, but I really enjoyed this book.
Profile Image for Billy.
44 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2013
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 generally short and contain a number of trivia questions throughout with answers following the chapter. I enjoyed it quite a bit and would re-read if the call from Culver City comes.
Profile Image for Denise Spicer.
Author 14 books61 followers
February 24, 2016
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 might enjoy this tidy reference list. Worth the read, not only for followers of the Jeopardy! TV show but for everyone who loves learning.
Profile Image for Vince Snow.
200 reviews21 followers
January 23, 2019
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 such a long streak.
Profile Image for Joy.
281 reviews34 followers
August 7, 2016
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 so long.
Profile Image for Cami.
824 reviews59 followers
May 8, 2008
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
Profile Image for Sarah.
103 reviews5 followers
June 8, 2010
I liked learning about Ken Jennings' trivia journey specifically, as well as the world of trivia in general.
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