A RECOMMENDED SUMMER READ BY THE NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, TIME, AND NEWSWEEK
Longtime Jeopardy! host and television icon Alex Trebek reflects on his life and career.
Since debuting as the host of Jeopardy! in 1984, Alex Trebek has been something like a family member to millions of television viewers, bringing entertainment and education into their homes five nights a week. Last year, he made the stunning announcement that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. What followed was an incredible outpouring of love and kindness. Social media was flooded with messages of support, and the Jeopardy! studio received boxes of cards and letters offering guidance, encouragement, and prayers.
For over three decades, Trebek had resisted countless appeals to write a book about his life. Yet he was moved so much by all the goodwill, he felt compelled to finally share his story. “I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year,” he writes in The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life.
The book combines illuminating personal anecdotes with Trebek’s thoughts on a range of topics, including marriage, parenthood, education, success, spirituality, and philanthropy. Trebek also addresses the questions he gets asked most often by Jeopardy! fans, such as what prompted him to shave his signature mustache, his insights on legendary players like Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer, and his opinion of Will Ferrell’s Saturday Night Live impersonation. The book uses a novel structure inspired by Jeopardy!, with each chapter title in the form of a question, and features dozens of never-before-seen photos that candidly capture Trebek over the years.
This wise, charming, and inspiring book is further evidence why Trebek has long been considered one of the most beloved and respected figures in entertainment.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
For 36 years, millions welcomed Alex Trebek into their homes every night. But there are things about the beloved, recently departed Jeopardy! host that we never knew. He loved horses. He was obsessively punctual. And he was into swearing! (There’s a hilariously NSFW blooper reel out there that proves this to be true.) Trebek wrote The Answer Is… after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he fills this wonderfully earnest and plainspoken memoir with so many great anecdotes about his memorable life and career. Like a genial relative spinning yarns after dinner, Trebek is a delightful storyteller, reflecting on everything from the three days he lasted in military college (he refused to get the haircut) to that time he spent five agonizing minutes conversing with Queen Elizabeth II. What’s even more compelling is the touching wisdom that shines through the book’s bite-size chapters, like his recommendation that we all read a philosophy book or his assessment of why Jeopardy! has been such an enduring hit. The Answer Is... bursts with warmth and gratitude—and a life well lived.
Jeopardy! host Trebek delivers an anodyne, anecdotal pass through his life. He touches on his childhood in Canada and his first jobs with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which led to game show hosting work in the U.S., and, in 1984, to the job that would make him a fixture of American pop culture. He peppers in some behind-the-scenes bits about ad-libbing during tapings, attributes his success as the show's host to coming across as "comforting and reassuring," and humbly, if implausibly, surmises that "you could replace me as the host of the show with anybody and it would likely be just as popular." But much of the book addresses matters personal and political. He lavishes compliments on his "soul mate" current wife (sparing the details of his first marriage), champions family dinners, remarks upon his "deep love of horses," and shares platitudes about his charitable work and support of the USO. His attempts to speak to pressing world events in a balanced fashion, however, come across as mushy; he gives superficial treatment to political crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic response, criticizing the federal government's withholding of funds from blue states, and ends abruptly with fist-shaking at both political parties ("Enough!"). Trebek's fans will no doubt appreciate this, but the lack of soul-searching will be a turn-off for those who don't consider Jeopardy! to be appointment viewing.