September 13, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Prisoner of Trebekistan

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Bob Harris
publisher
Crown
genre
Nonfiction
We gave it a B+

Five-time Jeopardy! winner Bob Harris’s Prisoner of Trebekistan is a surprisingly touching memoir filled with nuts-and-bolts answers to questions casual Jeopardy! fans may have. (Remarkably, it appears simultaneously with another good Jeopardy!-inspired book, Brainiac by Ken Jennings, who ran off an unprecedented 74-game, $2.5 million winning streak on the show in 2004.)

For Harris, an L.A.-based serial dater who’s written for CSI, being on Jeopardy! meant entering ”Trebekistan,” a mental state where ”art and math and geography and science stop pretending to be separate subjects and converge in a glorious riot.” He also explored the fascinating subculture of trivia champs, earning hundreds of thousands in nontelevised contests.

The book has its own trivia-detail pleasures — Harris coins ”Trebekkies” for fans of host Alex Trebek. And Harris’ jokes can be wearily cute (Trebek sports a ”Magnum, P.I. moustache and laser-sharp suits”).

Like Jennings, Harris includes a mother lode of tips on strategy if you so much as daydream about trying out for the show. Both men come off as decent and generous — Harris even calls Jennings, with whom he’s exchanged e-mails, ”humble and kind.” And so, again in Jeopardy! form: ”An honest grade.” What is B+?

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