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About Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings was an anonymous Salt Lake City software engineer in 2004 when he became a nerd folk icon almost overnight via his record-breaking six-month streak on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! In his 75 appearances on the show, Ken won 74 games and $2.52 million, both American game show records. Barbara Walters named him one of the ten most fascinating people of the year. The Christian Science Monitor called him "the king of Trivia Nation" and Slate magazine dubbed him "the Michael Jordan of trivia, the Seabiscuit of geekdom." ESPN: The Magazine called him "smarmy (and) punchable," with "the personality of a hall monitor," thus continuing America's long national struggle between jocks and nerds.
Since his Jeopardy! streak ended, Ken has become a best-selling author. His books include Brainiac, about the phenomenon of trivia in American culture, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, the biggest American trivia book ever assembled, and Maphead, about his lifelong love of geography. His latest book is Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down Its Kids.
Ken currently lives outside Seattle, Washington, with his wife Mindy, his son Dylan and daughter Caitlin, and a deeply unstable Labrador retriever named Banjo. For more information, visit www.ken-jennings.com.
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Is any of it true? If so, how true? Ken Jennings wants to find out if parents always know best. Yes, all those years you were told not to sit too close to the television or swallow your gum or crack your knuckles are called into question by our country’s leading trivia guru. Jennings separates myth from fact to debunk a wide variety of parental edicts: no swimming after meals, sit up straight, don’t talk to strangers, and so on.
Armed with medical case histories, scientific findings, and even the occasional experiment on himself (or his kids), Jennings exposes countless examples of parental wisdom run amok. Whether you’re a parent plagued by needless concern or a kid (of any age) looking to say, “I told you so,” this is the anti– helicopter parenting book you’ve been waiting for.
The witty and exuberant New York Times bestselling author and record-setting Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings relays the history of humor in “lively, insightful, and crawling with goofy factlings,” (Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go Bernadette)—from fart jokes on clay Sumerian tablets to the latest Twitter gags and Facebook memes.
Where once society’s most coveted trait might have been strength or intelligence or honor, today, in a clear sign of evolution sliding off the trails, it is being funny. Yes, funniness.
Consider: Super Bowl commercials don’t try to sell you anymore; they try to make you laugh. Airline safety tutorials—those terrifying laminated cards about the possibilities of fire, explosion, depressurization, and drowning—have been replaced by joke-filled videos with multimillion-dollar budgets and dance routines. Thanks to social media, we now have a whole Twitterverse of amateur comedians riffing around the world at all hours of the day—and many of them even get popular enough online to go pro and take over TV.
In his “smartly structured, soundly argued, and yes—pretty darn funny” (Booklist, starred review) Planet Funny, Ken Jennings explores this brave new comedic world and what it means—or doesn’t—to be funny in it now. Tracing the evolution of humor from the caveman days to the bawdy middle-class antics of Chaucer to Monty Python’s game-changing silliness to the fast-paced meta-humor of The Simpsons, Jennings explains how we built our humor-saturated modern age, where lots of us get our news from comedy shows and a comic figure can even be elected President of the United States purely on showmanship. “Fascinating, entertaining and—I’m being dead serious here—important” (A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically), Planet Funny is a full taxonomy of what spawned and defines the modern sense of humor.
“Insightful, informative, and written with a strong dose of humor and humility. . . . I loved this book.”—Will Shortz, crossword editor, The New York Times
Ken Jennings is trivia’s undisputed king—and as he traces his rise from anonymous computer programmer to nerd folk icon, he explores his newly conquered kingdom: the world of trivia itself.
Trivia, he has found, is centuries older than his childhood obsession with it. Whisking us from the coffeehouses of seventeenth-century London to the Internet age, Jennings chronicles the ups and downs of the trivia fad: the quiz book explosion of the Jazz Age; the rise, fall, and rise again of TV quiz shows; the nostalgic campus trivia of the 1960s; and the 1980s, when Trivial Pursuit® again made it fashionable to be a know-it-all.
Jennings also investigates the shadowy demimonde of today’s trivia subculture, guiding us on a tour of trivia across America. He goes head-to-head with the blowhards and diehards of the college quiz-bowl circuit, the slightly soused faithful of the Boston pub trivia scene, and the raucous participants in the annual Q&A marathon in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, “The World’s Largest Trivia Contest.” And, of course, he takes us behind the scenes of his improbable 75-game run on Jeopardy!
But above all, Brainiac is a love letter to the useless fact. (Who knew that there’s a crater on Venus named after Laura Ingalls Wilder? Ken Jennings, that’s who.) Engaging and erudite, Brainiac is an irresistible celebration of nostalgia, curiosity, and geeky obsession—in a word, trivia.
With this Junior Genius Guide to Greek mythology, you’ll become an expert and wow your friends and teachers with all the best ancient stories: how Prometheus outsmarted the gods, how Achilles’s heel led to his death, and how we mere mortals always seem to get mixed up in so many misadventures. With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes to test your knowledge, this guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status in no time!
With this book about the amazing human body, you’ll become an expert and wow your friends and teachers with awesome anatomical facts: Did you know that your hair is as strong as copper wire? Or that if you could spread them out, your lungs would have the surface area of a tennis court? With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes to test your knowledge, this guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status in no time!
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****?
In this ultimate book for trivia buffs and other assorted know-it-alls, the 365 entries feature “This Day in History” factoids, trivia quizzes, and questions categorized by Jennings as “Easy,” “Hard,” and “Yeah, Good Luck.” Topics cover every subject under the sun, from paleontology to mixology, sports feats to Bach suites, medieval popes to daytime soaps. This addictive gathering of facts, oddities, devilishly clever quizzes, and other flights of fancy will make each day a fun and intriguing new challenge.
With this book about dinosaurs, you’ll become an expert and wow your friends and teachers with some awesome facts: Did you know that dinosaurs skin was more like bump bird skin than modern snake or crocodile scales? Or that the Tyrannosaurus Rex might have croaked like a frog instead of roaring? With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes to test your knowledge, this guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status in no time.
With this book about ancient Egypt, you’ll become an expert and wow your friends and teachers with awesome ancient facts: Did you know that some Egyptians used to shave their eyebrows whenever a cat died? Or that some people worshiped a god of lettuce? With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes to test your knowledge, this guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status in no time.
With this book about space you’ll become an expert and wow your friends and teachers with out-of-this-world facts: Did you know that Mars has a volcano bigger than the state of Arizona? Or that there’s a star with a diamond the size of our moon at its core? With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes to test your knowledge, this guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status in no time!
With this book about U.S. Presidents, you’ll become an expert and wow your friends and teachers with clever facts: Did you know that Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday? Or that Jefferson introduced the first French fries at a fancy state dinner? With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes to test your knowledge, this patriotic genius guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status in no time!
With this Junior Genius Guide to maps and geography, you’ll become an expert and wow your friends and teachers with clever facts: Did you know that the biggest desert in the world is actually covered in snow? Or that Christopher Columbus wasn’t the first to think that the Earth was round? With great illustrations, cool trivia, and fun quizzes to test your knowledge, this guide will have you on your way to whiz-kid status in no time!