Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings grew up in Seoul, South Korea, where he became a daily devotee of the quiz show Jeopardy! In 2004, he successfully auditioned for a spot on the show and went on an unprecedented seventy-four game victory streak worth $2.52 million. Jennings’s book Brainiac, about his Jeopardy! adventures, was a critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, as were his follow-up books Maphead and Because I Said So! Jennings lives outside Seattle with his wife, Mindy, his son, Dylan, his daughter, Caitlin, and a small, excitable dog named Chance.
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One day back in 2003, Ken Jennings and his college buddy Earl did what hundreds of thousands of people had done before: they auditioned for Jeopardy! Two years, 75 games, 2,642 correct answers, and over $2.5 million in winnings later, Ken Jennings emerged as trivia’s undisputed king. Brainiac traces his rise from anonymous computer programmer to nerd folk icon. But along the way, it also explores his newly conquered kingdom: the world of trivia itself.

Jennings had always been minutiae-mad, poring over almanacs and TV Guide listings at an age when most kids are still watching Elmo and putting beans up their nose. But 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 hotspots 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. What marsupial has fingerprints that are indistinguishable from human ones?* What planet has a crater on it named after Laura Ingalls Wilder?** What comedian had the misfortune to be born with the name “Albert Einstein”?*** Jennings also ponders questions that are a little more philosophical: What separates trivia from meaningless facts? Is being good at trivia a mark of intelligence? And is trivia just a waste of time, or does it serve some not-so-trivial purpose after all?

Uproarious, silly, engaging, and erudite, this book is an irresistible celebration of nostalgia, curiosity, and nerdy obsession–in a word, trivia.

* The koala
** Venus
*** Albert Brooks

From the Hardcover edition.
Matt James is in trouble. Recently promoted to head his division, he has delivered two years of divisional losses in clients, market share, and profits. He knows his workers are talented and creative, but they don't respond to his efforts to lead them, and he's on the brink of being fired. In desperation, he reaches out to an old mentor, David Butler, who now works with wild mustang horses and hard-to-place foster children on a ranch in Colorado. David agrees to work with his former student but only on the condition that Matt comes to him--to the ranch. Matt has no idea what the ranch could possibly have to do with his problems, but David assures him that if he spends some time there, he'll learn exactly what he needs to know. Through David's unorthodox tutelage, Matt discovers that leaders who succeed in engaging their workers do so because they see their day-to-day work as an opportunity to build an organizational culture of engagement. The engagement model is illuminated as Matt comes to understand its components piece by piece--and ultimately discovers how to engage those on his team and in his life. In this inspiring leadership fable, John Stahl-Wert and Ken Jennings draw on their years of experience as consultants and chief executives, as well as on findings from Gallup's groundbreaking Q12 survey of 4 million workers from 360,000 workgroups, to lay out an innovative leadership model that will turn employees from dutiful drones to committed contributors. But Ten Thousand Horses is also a story of personal transformation. Beyond specific practices and techniques, Matt must learn a whole new way of relating to his employees--because, as he discovers, leading an engaged workforce is as much about who you are as what you do.
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