Dive into the world of trivia with Ken Jennings in Brainiac: Adventures in the curious, competitive, and compulsive world of trivia buffs

Dive into the world of trivia with Ken Jennings in Brainiac: Adventures in the curious, competitive, and compulsive world of trivia buffs

Talia Winiarsky, Staff Writer

Even though we’ve never met, I suspect Ken Jennings and I would be great friends. In his book Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, he manages to be unapologetically nerdy without the usual pretentiousness of know-it-alls.

Jennings, the winner of Jeopardy!’s recent Greatest of All Time Tournament (GOAT) and holder of the longest winning streak on the show (74 games!) is hilariously self-aware. Reflecting on his childhood, he acknowledges that he “spent a little too much time in the library to ever hope to climb too high on the cafeteria-table totem pole.”

You would think the Jeopardy! GOAT would boast, or perhaps see himself as superior, but he doesn’t. Rather, he views trivia players from an outside lens, which means he has to poke just a little fun at fellow players. His humor is sharp, as I would expect, making his playful insults effective. He jabs at college trivia tournaments: “Gentle, witty self-deprecation is about as rare at these tournaments as a steady girlfriend.”

You don’t have to be a trivia expert to read the book—Jennings is aware of his diverse audience and tries to make his writing accessible. At times he takes the view of an outsider mocking the trivia world. While explaining his hiatus from trivia during college, he writes, “I’d started to see trivia mavens the way society at large sees them: as drips, oddballs, conversation killers.”

To read the book, however, it certainly helps to know trivia. He drops in references to academic topics like Cavalier poetry, Heisenberg, and the GI Bill to embellish sentences. While it can seem forced at times, it provides a way to learn about random academic topics that you’ll probably never need to know again, unless, of course, you’re on Jeopardy!

While the book can make the reader drowsy at times with its chapters about the history of trivia, Jennings more than makes up for this by sprinkling ten trivia questions into the substance of each chapter. Although this book may not appeal to everyone, if you want to learn more about the history of facts or are a Jeopardy! fan, I’d recommend this light, funny read.