Friday, March 14, 2008

Review: Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac

Sister read my review of Aquaria and told me that I should do more reviews. She even went so far as to accuse me of having good taste. So I thought I might go ahead and review the book I'm reading, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac.

In case you were living under a rock during 2004, Ken Jennings entered the public consiousness with a 74-game winning streak on the syndicated game show Jeopardy!. Of course, when he got done making approximately $34,000 an hour, he was approached to do the obligatory cash-in-your-15-minutes book about his experience. Instead, he wrote Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, which is only partly about his experience, and partly about the world of trivia fanatics in general. (A great read, by the way. Maybe I'll review it as well at some point.)

In the course of writing Brainiac, Jennings unsurprisingly accumulated even more trivia. He figured he'd write another book, this time a full-fledged trivia book, and get all that stored-up trivia an outlet. (He calls it a “trivia enema.”) The result is the Almanac. Each page is devoted to a day of the year, giving one or more events that occurred on that day, followed by a bunch of trivia questions relating to that event in some way. The blurb on the back cover explains it better than I can:

For example—February 21: In 1912, on this day, Teddy Roosevelt coined the political phrase “hat in the ring,” so Ken Jennings fires off a series of “ring” questions. What two NFL quarterbacks have four Super Bowl rings each? What rings are divided by the Cassini Division? Also on this date, in 1981, the “goth” music scene was born in London, so here's a quiz on black-clad icons like Darth Vader, Johnny Cash, and Zorro. Do you know the secret identities of Ivanhoe's Black Knight or Men in Black's Agent M?

The title of each quiz section is often pretty clever and funny. One of my personal favorites appears at the head of round of trivia on mediocrity: “It's Raining Meh.” Anyway, I'm still slogging through October, but it's one of the most enjoyable slogs through a book that I've ever had, and back in the February section I'd seen enough to heartily recommend it.