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8 books on Alex Trebek and ‘Jeopardy!’ to help you mourn the beloved host

Book jackets for Alex Trebek books
(Villard; Simon & Schuster; Crown)

On the Shelf

Eight books on 'Jeopardy!' and Alex Trebek

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In remembering the life and work of Alex Trebek, who died Sunday at 80, we are fortunate to have not only his recent memoir but a growing genre of books on “Jeopardy!,” the show he hosted for 36 years: memoirs and biography, history, “how to” manuals and even essays on philosophy. Below is a curated list of the most potent readables of the bunch.

The Answer Is ... Reflections on My Life


By Alex Trebek
Simon & Schuster: 304 pages, $26

Even after he fell ill with cancer, Trebek continued to rebuff publishers pleading with him to write a memoir. But after learning that an unauthorized biography by Lisa Rogak was in the works, Trebek changed his mind and rushed to tell his own version of the story. As detailed in a Times profile, Trebek showed remarkable candor in writing about his brave, exhausting struggle to continue hosting the show during his illness. A Washington Post review hailed the book as “an amusing and at times sobering series of vignettes” going back to Trebek’s youth in Canada.

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Who Is Alex Trebek? A Biography


By Lisa Rogak
Thomas Dunne: 256 pages, $28

The author of earlier biographies of Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, Rogak lays claim to having written the first complete (albeit unauthorized) Trebek bio. She portrays a man whose steady competence evolved in reaction to “a childhood fraught with insecurity,” including his parents’ divorce and a stint at boarding school. Rogak also highlights Trebek’s versatility as a broadcaster and his “voracious appetite for learning new things.”

Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy!


By Claire McNear
Twelve: 272 pages, $28

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McNear follows the show’s journey from scrappy reboot to cultural touchstone, drawing on interviews with Trebek and the show’s writers and producers to examine its inner workings. One of his most revelatory accounts describes the pivotal role in the show’s 1984 revival played by Weird Al Yankovic’s music video “I Lost on ‘Jeopardy!’”; the parody meister was even considered as a possible host.

Book jacket for “Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider's Guide to Jeopardy!” by Claire McNear.
(Twelve)

Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs


By Ken Jennings
Villard: 288 pages, $17

Widely regarded as the Michael Jordan of “Jeopardy!” contestants, allegedly in the running to succeed Trebek, the record holder for consecutive wins has gone on to a successful career as an author. For this 2006 book, Jennings spent a year traveling the U.S., frequenting pub quizzes and academic quiz bowls. He combines that reporting with a first-person account of the six-month winning streak that turned him into a pop culture celebrity.

Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!


By Bob Harris
Crown: 352 pages, $7 (ebook)

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An L.A. stand-up comic, radio humorist and TV crime-show writer, Harris also followed up his winning streak by turning to the page. His memoir describes his methodical training to become a trivia virtuoso — reading Shakespeare; memorizing state flowers and the names of obscure body parts and foreign movie directors; and even doing finger exercises to help him beat opponents to the buzzer.

Alex Trebek is happy being an uncle figure in your life, and he’s not afraid to describe cancer’s personal toll. He sits down to talk about his memoir, “The Answer Is ... Reflections on My Life.”

The Jeopardy! Book of Answers: 35th Anniversary


By Harry Friedman and Barry Garron
RosettaBooks: 388 pages, $15

Journalist Garron teamed with “Jeopardy!” executive producer Harry Friedman to tell the show’s origin story and relive some of its most memorable contests. And readers actually can play along: Sections are given over to clues and solutions from key games in the narrative.

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Final Jeopardy: The Story of Watson, the Computer That Will Transform the World


By Stephen Baker
Mariner: 268 pages, $17

While exploring the development of an IBM supercomputer, Business Week tech journalist Baker describes the three-day John Henry-like contest that pitted Jennings and Brad Rutter against the machine, which ended up winning $77,147 to Jennings’ $24,000 and Rutter’s $21,600. Jennings playfully acknowledged the computer’s superiority, writing, “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” below one of his answers.

Jeopardy! and Philosophy: What Is Knowledge in the Form of a Question?


Edited by Shaun P. Young
Open Court: 288 pages, $20

One of the more unusual riffs on the “Jeopardy!” phenomenon, this collection of essays was gathered by a professor from Trebek’s native Ontario, Canada, who has written books on political history and the work of John Rawls. A fellow academic calls this outing “a great starting point for asking questions of truth and meaning, and a remarkable window into American culture and values.”

In remembrance of Alex Trebek, who died Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer, here’s a roundup of some of the longtime “Jeopardy!” host’s best moments.

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