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Jennings had always been ...
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
*** Albert Brooks
From the Hardcover edition.
1 Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife"
2 144 is as well
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted March 30, 2011
My brother found this book at a local library. I found Jennings to be a better than expected writer and a person you probably would enjoy hanging out with. Part autobiography and part a history of trivia, this book is worth reading for those interested in quiz games, contests, and shows.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 3, 2010
Yes, I have watched Jeopardy most nights my life. No, I am not a trivia expert. Of course, I watched all of Ken Jennings' shows. At first, he struck me as a washed-out nerd. Then he started to grow on me until by the end, I thought he was super-cool. Despite what he says, I think he threw the last game. Anyway, I didn't know he was such an excellent writer and probably he didn't either. This book is great! There's a lot of humor. I loved all his personal asides as he's interviewing much-nerdier-than-him and often bordering-on-the-insane trivia experts. Of course, he's completely self-deprecating, which makes him feel like he's just one of us, although clearly his IQ points put him on a different planet. He even discusses whether knowing trivia means you're more intelligent. Maybe no, as he argues, but yes in his case. So, it was loads of entertainment to read this book from someone who is generally only amused chick lit.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 2, 2009
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I met Ken Jennings at a movie theater a year or so ago. I had already read Brainiac and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ken's book is a reflection of himself: funny, approachable, smart and self-deprecating. As odd as it is to say about a trivia book, my lasting impression is that the book tells a good story. Trivia, geek-dom, Jeopardy run, curriculum vitae, the history and future of trivia(l) knowledge; it is all highly readable and entertaining. This book will not disappoint you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.