The category is books by former champion players of the long-running game show Jeopardy! This entry may be the most astute yet under that growing rubric.
Just a month behind Braniac (2006), a sizable lesson in trivia by big winner Ken Jennings, this cleverly executed volume displays the obligatory acumen and erudition, as well as considerable wit and writing ability. After all, Harris has been a stand-up comic, a radio humorist and a TV crime-show writer. His text reports on how he won, lost and played the game a decade ago. Harris did frequent finger exercises, the better to hit the buzzer like a Jedi. He assiduously studied reference works jammed into apartments shared with supportive girlfriends. He memorized state flowers and national capitals, obscure body parts and foreign film directors, vice-presidents of the US and read the novels of E.M. Forster. He explored geographical mysteries and brushed up on his Shakespeare. He became a five-time winner (the limit at the time) and went on to play other champions at several tournaments. Harris dramatically sets forth each game, complete with detailed green-room byplay and views from the contestant’s lectern. It’s the epic tale: Appearing on Jeopardy! was a defining moment in the author’s life. Yet here, he goes beyond backstage information and tips on mnemonics to build a substantive memoir of family and growth. It’s about love and a burgeoning devotion to history and science, to fun and facts and connections. For his next report, we look forward to his departure from Trebekistan.
Of natural interest to Jeopardy! buffs, but solid entertainment as well for readers who don’t tune in.