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?
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"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"A very charming, insightful writer. . . . There's something touching about the world of trivia."
"Brainiac hooks you with its charming self-deprecation."
"A highly entertaining, fast-paced read."
"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."
"Witty, well-researched, and stylishly written."
"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."
"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."
"Fascinating and entertaining. Even more importantly, I found Jennings himself to have a wonderful voice as a writer."
"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."
"Keen characterization, pithy commentary, and pop-culture associations . . . make Brainiac a sharp and witty read."