Saturday, January 5, 2008

BOOK: Brainiac by Ken Jennings

Brainiac by Ken Jennings

Cardathon Challenge, in their shoes

Answer: Brainiac
Question: What's a really good book I got for Christmas?

Sorry, I had to do that.

Not only did I get this book for Christmas from my sister, I gave the same book to my sister for Christmas. She was reading it while she was over for a visit, and reading out questions and quotes, intriguing us. I couldn't wait to get started. And I started using the Book Darts she gave me while reading this book. Thanks sis.

Some people apparently have a sponge-like brain that sucks up information and detail almost from birth, through some perfect-storm coalescence of curiosity, compulsiveness, and innate talent. These people are indiscriminate information gourmands, driven by inexplicable urge to scrawl every scrap of knowledge that comes their way onto their blank chalkboard of a brain. We did not choose trivia. Trivia chose us. p 7

I should confess my trivia history: we are a trivia (trivial?) family. We love trivia: my husband and parents and I played in a bar league before the children were born, and we won one season. In university, my roommate and some fellows from the boy's dorm had an ongoing Trivial Pursuit game until we knew all the questions before they were even read. Jeopardy! of course is still very big: we keep the daily calendar in the bathroom. My husband's siblings and their spouses are perennial champions at the Blueberry Festival annual summer Trivia Contest held in the local rink. So Jennings is preaching to the confirmed here. We Love Trivia!

The book follows Jennings' improbable run of winning 74 games on Jeopardy! but more than that, he investigates the rise of trivia games, the history of the popularity of trivia. Each chapter, titled for example What is Audition? (the applying for Jeopardy! process) or What is Composition? (writing good questions) also include about ten questions in them, with answers at the end of each chapter. Jennings has a very winning style, and is very funny. If you haven't been reading his blog, Confessions of a Trivial Mind you are missing out on an amusing read.

From the first trivia books, to the first radio and television shows, to the College Bowl games, to the town of Stevens Point annual 54 hour radio trivia contest, all manner and types of trivia are analysed. I particularly liked Jennings telling of his Jeopardy! experience, not revealing anything he couldn't - legal confidentiality clauses, but his winsome, charming, self deprecating manner makes this book a wonderful, overall, enjoyable read.

I'll leave with my trivia questions I throw out to my classes when time is short:

What is Chef Boyardee's first name? Hector
What three words best describe the Grinch? stink, stank, stunk
Where do you find the Sea of Tranquility?the moon
highlight the space after the question for the answer.


  1. I didn't know Ken Jennings even wrote a book. I enjoyed watching his stint on Jeopardy. Maybe you should apply to join the show!

    =) Jill

  2. jill - you should check out his blog. That's how my sister and I knew we wanted the book to read.

    I'd never apply, I'd rather know, from the comfort of my chair, that I could win.:)
    I'm happy enough playing/winning in local trivia contests.

  3. Can I answer the questions? I know 2 of the 3. :)

    It was a really interesting read. He has a great style, or maybe it's just that our brains work in similar ways. Though he's a much bigger trivia geek.

  4. ctoan- did you try signing in with lj? That option should be there now. The answers are there is you look hard enough.
    I think you're right, our brains work in similar ways. Much bigger geek!

  5. I have this at the ready for The In Their Shoes Challenge, but after reading your review, I want to move it closer to the top. Thanks!

  6. bybee - it was funny and also a quick read. Jennings seems like a guy it would be fun to know.

  7. Jennings got me interested in Jeopardy again.

    Love the way you had the answers posted, btw.

  8. john - I think he did that for everyone.
    I'm so sneaky with the white font!

  9. great review, raidergirl! (i also loved the book.)

    white font, huh? i wondered how you did that!

  10. Wonderful review - loved the questions. Thanks for listing the Jennings' website. I didn't know about that. I enjoyed the book, too. His charming personality was evident, don't you think?

    I think I mentioned that I heard him speak. He signed his book, "Who is . . . Ken Jennings?" Cute, huh?

  11. Forgot to mention hooray for the bookdarts. I would go absolutely crazy without them. My daughter gave me a great idea that I'll pass along to you. (You're probably smart enough to figure this out on your own, but I didn't even tho I had used bookdarts for years.) Anyway, Aly puts some darts on the first page of the book so she doesn't have to carry the tin around with her.

  12. alison - white font, eh? pretty cool

    booklogged - glad to give you the link, it's a great blog. He is very charming, in a real, not smarmy way. Authentic may be the word I want to use for him. And he signed your book? awesome

    I did not think of that for the book darts! Excellent idea. I too wondered how feasible it was to carry the tin around. Smart daughter you have there.


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