Ken Jennings

Brainiac

[Image of Brainiac book cover]

Villard Books, September 2006

Ken's first book is titled Brainiac, and lest you think the title immodest (or an infringement upon long-standing DC Comics trademarks), it also bears the unwieldy subtitle Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs.

In the wake of his record-breaking Jeopardy! experience, Ken became fascinated with trivia—its history, its appeal, and its ubiquity in 21st-century American life. He spent the next year criss-crossing the country, trading questions and answers with America's most die-hard trivia subcultures. Brainiac traces that journey, from the slightly soused trivia faithful of Boston's Irish pubs to the hotshots and hotheads of the academic quiz bowl circuit, from a weekend quiz marathon spent with the radio-trivia-mad residents of tiny Stevens Point, Wisconsin, to a backstage peek at Ken's six-month streak on America's top-rated quiz show. Ken also tells, for the first time, the 300-year story of the rise of trivia, from the coffeehouses of 17th-century London to the Trivial Pursuit and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire fads of recent years. Along the way, he also grapples with more philosophical questions: Why do we love trivia so much? Is trivial knowledge the same as intelligence? And is trivia just a waste of time, or does it serve some loftier, not-so-trivial purpose after all?



Purchase Brainiac online from a selection of fine retailers.

Signed and personalized copies of Brainiac (as well as of all Ken's other books) can be ordered nationwide from Seattle's Third Place Books. Contact Third Place for more information.

Read Excerpts

From Chapter 1: What is Ambition?
From Chapter 7: What is Composition?
From Chapter 13: What is Tradition?

Praise for Brainiac

"Brainiac is Ken Jennings's personal tour through the wide world of trivia—insightful, informative, and written with a strong dose of humor and humility. Good quiz questions, too. I loved this book."

Will Shortz, crossword editor, The New York Times

"We all know Ken Jennings is the smartest person in the world. But who knew he was also a funny and engaging writer? Imaginative and informative, Brainiac appeals to the trivia-loving geek in all of us."

A. J. Jacobs, author of The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

"I haven't watched Jeopardy! for twenty years, but I loved this book. Jennings is smart, funny, and fantastically obsessed. Best of all, he can write."

Mark Obmascik, author of The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession

"Brainiac is much more than a behind-the-scenes memoir by America's quiz-show king. It's a thoughtful and lively exploration of a subculture where knowledge actually is power—and no detail is ever too small."

Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players

"A very charming, insightful writer. . . . There's something touching about the world of trivia."

Time

"Brainiac hooks you with its charming self-deprecation."

Entertainment Weekly

"A highly entertaining, fast-paced read."

Publishers Weekly

"Jennings is thoroughly grounded in a subject he both loves and respects—yet refreshingly lighthearted about its limited importance in the world. . . . A great, fun circus of a book."

Rocky Mountain News

"Witty, well-researched, and stylishly written."

Newark Star-Ledger

"A funny and engaging book . . . Jennings shows a pleasantly nerdy sense of humor throughout. And, just like watching Jeopardy!, you don't have to know all the answers to be entertained."

BookPage

"America's preeminent trivia apologist, the defender of all things geekazoid . . . (brings) a sharp and pleasingly tart perspective on popular culture and his own unstable place within it . . . Brainiac impresses with its diligence and its restless curiosity."

Louis Bayard, Salon

"Fascinating and entertaining. Even more importantly, I found Jennings himself to have a wonderful voice as a writer."

Orson Scott Card

"Alex Haley's Roots for the fact-retentive. It is a connection to a tribe, trivia-worship as history, social phenomenon and human condition—in short, a journey to the heart of dorkness."

Toronto Sun

"Keen characterization, pithy commentary, and pop-culture associations . . . make Brainiac a sharp and witty read."

Philadelphia Inquirer