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

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Random House Publishing Group, Sep 12, 2006 - Games & Activities - 288 pages
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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 PursuitŪ 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.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MartinBodek - LibraryThing

Fun book. He alternates between trivia history and his own Jeopardy experience. I wouldn't have minded less of the former and more of the latter, but my nerd gene was definitely tickled. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - LynnB - LibraryThing

I was one of many glued to the television set to watch as Ken Jennings won 74 games of Jeopardy! and took home around $2.5 million. In this book, Mr. Jenings uses that experience to explore the world ... Read full review

Contents

Authors Note
What is AMBITION? 2 What is AUDITION? 3 What is ERUDITION? 4 What is AMMUNITION? 5 What is COMPETITION? 6 What is IGNITION...
What is COGNITION? 11 What is JUXTAPOSITION? 12 What is REPETITION? 13 What is TRADITION?
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About the author (2006)

Ken Jennings was born in Seattle but spent much of his childhood in Seoul, South Korea. A graduate of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, he worked as a computer programmer until becoming an unlikely celebrity due to his unprecedented record-breaking streak on the television quiz show Jeopardy! He lives outside Salt Lake City with his wife and son. For more information, visit www.ken-jennings.com.

To schedule a speaking engagement, please contact American Program Bureau at www.apbspeakers.com  


From the Hardcover edition.

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