Prisoner of Trebekistan by Bob Harris. Given that I grew up reading trivia books cover to cover, it will come as no surprise that I enjoyed this inside look at the game show “Jeopardy.” Harris was a middling comic in the 1990s when he becomes a contestant on the show after several failed attempts. He goes on to win a lot, lose occasionally and eventually write a funny and interesting book on his experiences. It is part autobiography, part game show insider (new Jeopardy clues appear on average every 12 seconds). Beyond the one-liners and trivia, it also includes sections on how people learn, how the brain and memory works and how much everything in our lives and on this planet is interconnected.
A similar, yet different, book touching on the topics of intelligence and how we learn is A.J. Jacobs’ The Know-It-All. This long-ago Christmas gift from my mom describes one Esquire editor’s quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and how this project takes over his life and affects his relationships with his wife, father and co-workers. Both titles are filled with factual trivia and self-indulgent descriptions of personal neuroses, but their individual circumstances also make for unique and entertaining stories.