Even if you’ve never watched the game show Jeopardy!, you are likely familiar with the program and its host, Alex Trebek. He had never planned to write about his life, though he had been urged to several times. But after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, he received such an outpouring of love and support, he thought perhaps he should share with his supporters “a little more about the person they have been cheering on”. He also said in one interview that he noticed chemo patients didn’t have much to do while receiving treatment, so he thought he’d provide “a little light reading.” And he also thought that someone would probably write about him at some point, so he wanted to have his say first . (As it happened, the biography Who Is Alex Trebek? by Lisa Rogak was released the same day as Alex’s autobiography. Because of that, I suspect her book might not have been authorized.)
The title of Alex’s book is the phrase he spoke when revealing clues on Jeopardy!: The Answer Is… (by the way, I didn’t realize the exclamation mark was part of the show’s name until reading this book). The chapter titles are formatted like the questions and answers from the show: “The answer is . . .Neckties” or “Who is . . .The Great Gildersleeve?”
Alex’s subtitle, Reflections on My Life, aptly describes the book. Most of the chapters aren’t long and don’t go into great detail. He shares some memories from his family, growing-up years in Canada, his beginnings in show business, and various memories from his 36-year run as Jeopardy! host. He philosophizes a little about different topics..
I’ve watched the show occasionally for decades (I even remember the original Jeopardy! with Art Fleming), but my husband and I have watched regularly the last few years.So I enjoyed reading about the show, especially the chapters on Ken Jennings’ and James Holzhauer’s, historic runs as Jeopardy champions. I’m glad they included a picture of the “script sheet” Alex uses as he hosts (I had thought the clues and answers must come up on a computer screen at his podium, but they are printed out). I liked that photos are scattered throughout the book rather than just on a few glossy pages in the middle.
I enjoyed learning more about Alex personally as well. He insisted that he be called the host of the show rather than the star. He feels viewers see him “not so much as a showbiz personality but as an uncle” (p. 221). He has always come across as someone who doesn’t take himself very seriously.
I was surprised to find a lot of swear words in the book. Alex said he started cursing deliberately because he “needed a vice.” He felt held back from “becoming one of the guys” in his early career because “people can be suspicious of someone who’s so chaste.” Later he felt that cursing “didn’t help me become one of the guys. It just made me look like a jerk. My bad” (p. 93).
I’m always interested in people’s encounters with spiritual truth. Though Alex was raised Catholic, he says he believes “we are all part of the Great Soul—what some call God. We are God and God is us. We are one with our maker. How do I know this? It’s not that I know it. It’s that I feel it.” However, he says that, facing the end of his life, “I’ve been thinking more and more about that old line they used to use in the military: ‘No one’s an atheist in a foxhole.’ If ever there was an opportunity to believe in God—a god—this might be a good one. Trebek, now that you’re on the verge. What have you got to lose?” (p. 284). I hope he had an opportunity to hear, understand, and truly consider the gospel before his passing.
Except for the swearing, this was a nice overview and a bit of insight into the man so many of us knew and loved.
(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)
I’ve been thinking of checking out Alex’s book. I haven’t watched Jeopardy in years, but have fond memories of trying to shout out the answers before anyone else in the room!
Thanks for the review, Barbara …
I’m glad you reviewed this! I got it last week from the library for my older friend, Leona (I check out 3 library books for her each week). She was a nightly Jeopardy watcher. I’ve only seen it a few times, but just know about Alex Trebec from popular culture. I thought I might enjoy the book when Leona finishes, and based on your review I think I’ll read it. A big YES vote on books with photos throughout rather than just in the middle. I, too, am surprised to read that he swears. Seems out of character for him.
Appreciate your thoughts on the book. I’ve always liked Alex Trebec. He seemed like someone I’d enjoy getting to know better (plus he was Canadian!) so it’s nice to learn a bit more about him. I’m surprised at the swearing! What an odd thing to intentionally take up!
I want to read this book. 🙂 –Ann
I want to read this book. 🙂 –Ann
He really is the definition of a gracious host. Thanks for the background on the book. I love that he made use of his chemo time.
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