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Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy! [Kindle Edition]

Bob Harris
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $12.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

A.: This is the story of a working-class guy from Ohio with little real knowledge of Ambidextrous Presidents, Things Made from Rubber, and hundreds of other categories, but who nonetheless plunges so far into cramming for Jeopardy! that it changes his relationships, bends his worldview, and literally leads him to the ends of the earth, trying to understand it all.

Q.: What is Prisoner of Trebekistan?

Welcome to a world where obscure information is crucial to survival, vast sums of cash are at stake, and milliseconds can change not just a game but the course of your entire life. (Plus, you could win two Camaros and enough Bon Ami cleanser to scrub a small nation.)

Prisoner of Trebekistan is Bob Harris’s hilarious, insightful account of one man’s unlikely epic journey through Jeopardy!, gleefully exploring triumph and failure, the nature of memory, and how knowledge itself can transform you in unpredictable ways—all against the backdrop of the most popular quiz show in history.

In Prisoner of Trebekistan, Bob chronicles his transformation from a struggling stand-up comic who repeatedly fails the Jeopardy! audition test into an elite player competing against the show’s most powerful brains. To get there, he embarks on a series of intense study sessions, using his sense of humor to transform conventional memory skills into a refreshingly playful approach to learning that’s as amusing as it is powerful.

What follows is not only a captivating series of high-stakes wins and losses on Jeopardy!, but also a growing appreciation of a borderless world that Bob calls Trebekistan, where a love of learning reigns and the smarter you get the more you realize how much you don’t yet know.

Filled with secrets that only a veteran contestant could share—from counterintuitive game strategies to Jedi-like tactics with the Jeopardy! signaling device—Prisoner of Trebekistan also gives you the chance to play along with the actual clues that led to victory or defeat in high-level tournaments, plus candid, moving reflections on how the games affected Bob’s offstage life—and vice versa.

Not only an irresistible treat for Jeopardy! fans, Prisoner of Trebekistan is a delight for anyone who loves a rollicking tale that celebrates the unpredictability of life and the sneaky way it has of teaching us the things that really matter.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this eccentric, energetic and engaging memoir of his long run on America's favorite television quiz show, Harris, a former standup comedian and current comedy writer, gives readers the lowdown on life as "one of the show's big winners—and big losers." He promises to tell all, and he does, from the show's beginning in 1963 to his own blow-by-blow experiences as a contestant. He discusses his growing obsession with winning, how it cost him a girlfriend and how he luckily found another. For those who would follow in his footsteps, he is generous with tips on strategy: buzzer skills, how to predict topics (keep holidays in mind), how to suss out a Daily Double, which clues to tackle first, how to one-up your competition (though one of the gems of this often charming book is the account of the quite sincere friendships that grew among the top competitors). Like many a standup routine, his narrative zigs and zags back and forth in time and topic, but like the best of routines, it is sharply timed, pulling out many swerves and surprises to keep the reader alert. And what is Alex Trebek really like? "I dunno," says Harris, but the Trebek we meet is highly professional and unfailingly courteous. "Just like on TV." (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Although reality shows and other mindless drivel seem to dominate the TV landscape, it's reassuring that Jeopardy! still remains as a last vestige of academic pursuit in a sea of pop culture. This book provides a behind-the-scenes look at this holy grail of trivia contests. Harris, who won five games in a row (the limit in 1998), was invited back several more times to participate in Tournament of Champions competitions. Far from being a scholar, Harris recounts how he used whimsical mnemonics and his Eightfold Path of Enlightened Jeopardy to win over seemingly superior competition. Harris' account is a personal story and manages to cram in enough fun facts to keep any trivia nut happy. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 335 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307339564
  • Publisher: Crown (September 5, 2006)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000JMKR2K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,443 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Move over, Dave Eggers September 24, 2006
By dondo
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an odd, moving, funny, troubling, and hugely ambitious book.

Yes, it is true that it describes some subtleties of how to succeed on Jeopardy; yes, presumably that makes it required reading for anyone who plans to compete on that show.

But to call it a "how-to" book ignores how much you have to learn to succeed on that particular show. So I'd even go further. This book teaches truly useful memory techniques which should be useful to anyone who needs to memorize -- uh -- well, pretty much anything. The works of E. M. Forrester, for example, permanently seared into your brain by a visual image that concludes with the Taj Mahal in a somewhat unusual location. This would be a good book for students, particularly high-school students, say, inflicted with a history teacher who demands rote memorization of history without inspiring a desire to learn it.

But to call this an educational how-to book is to cheapen it greatly. This is a very amusing book, playful and witty. Actually, at times it is laugh-out-loud funny. Mr. Harris has a dry, self-deprecating wit punctuated with occasional flashes of buttocks.

But to call this an educational how-to comedy is to shortchange it. This is an exciting book. Mr. Harris somehow manages to make Jeopardy games matter. He gives them the adrenal pulse of a real competition; he makes us suffer as he falls behind and rejoice when he takes the lead. It shows us the fierce preparation required to succeed, an almost compulsive focus on study and practice worthy of a professional athlete. Ok, so Jeopardy will never supplant football on the world stage, but after reading this book you'll understand why it's been on the air for forty years.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Is A Great Book About _Jeopardy!_ And About Life? October 2, 2006
When he initially tried the audition test to become a panelist on the quiz show _Jeopardy!_, Bob Harris flunked out. He subsequently flunked it four more times. It would seem that something inside him knew that becoming a champion player was his destiny, because he kept on trying until he qualified. Eventually getting accepted into the game, and winning, and losing, has made him what he is today, which includes being the author of the funny and surprisingly touching memoir _Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!_ (Crown Publishers). It may seem that a life largely spent working hard to be good at a television game show would necessarily be superficial or inconsequential, but despite all the jokes in this account, Harris learned some wisdom worthy of the sages, and much of it was on a higher plane than "What is the capital of Thailand?" Readers might pick up some trivia, and will certainly have some laughs, but more importantly, will absorb an account by someone who learned some truly important life lessons.

The worst advice he got after his failures to qualify for an initial show was the reassurance from the people administering the tests he flunked: "After all, they would always insist, it's _impossible_ to study for _Jeopardy!_" Much of the initial part of Harris's book is spent showing just how untrue this is. All the other champions he met had their own training regimens, too. It would seem that an account of training for such an event might make boring reading, but not only are the techniques Harris used interesting in themselves, but they have surprisingly larger meanings, not the least of which is that any ordinary person can absorb as much arcane information as time and energy allow.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not what you think..... September 7, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a former "Jeopardy!" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" contestant, I was expecting Prisoner of Trebekistan to be a funny book about the whole Jeopardy! experience. It's not.

It's funny alright, and it will be of great help if you are preparing for one of these shows, or want to vicariously live the life of a game show contestant, or improve your memory, but that's not what this book is about. It's about life, the joy of living every day and the great joy that the pursuit of knowledge can add to every moment, every experience.

Even if you think game shows are inane and a waste of time, you'll still enjoy this book as it takes a much meandering route through the life of a stand-up comic, humor writer, internet blogger, radio personality turned 13 time Jeopardy player, who has a surprisingly down to earth and just plain nice philosophy of life.

So - it's a philosophy book that gets to profound universal truths via giant buttocks and pudus running up logs. And a darn good one at that, don't miss it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow September 10, 2006
I am yet another fan of Bob Harris' blog, and the humor and insight that he shows there were really the only reasons I purchased this book. Just officially finished it tonight, and I gotta tell ya: I am impressed. Insightful, moving (there were real tears, on more than one occasion, for happiness, sadness, and more), overall delightful and enlightening book. It was wonderful to take a trek through Trebekistan with him, and I hope there will be more in the future. Maybe he should try his hand at fiction (hint, hint)?

Anyway, this is a really great read (only took me three days, I couldn't put it down), and that coming from someone who hasn't watched Jeopardy! since I was a kid, and have no interest in the show.

Heck, I didn't even know that he had been on the show more than once when I bought the book. So that oughta tell you something.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars easy read and a natural ending that is uplifting
A very well written book in which the authors shares personal insights and interactions about his life and a very popular game show as he moves through a period of time in his... Read more
Published 17 days ago by James R Gilson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-read!
I started reading it in the dr. waiting room and pretty soon I was laughing so hard that people gave me very strange looks! Read more
Published 19 days ago by Jan Weeks
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Not just funny...very very sensitive writing...
Published 3 months ago by anne
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The book arrived exactly as advertised. Very pleased with item and seller!
Published 5 months ago by VTratings
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside Bob Harris
I don't know if an entire book solely about Jeopardy! would be a good idea. None of the contestants are ever allowed any contact with Alex Trebek off stage, and if you are reading... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Keith Otis Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great Book
Published 9 months ago by janie
2.0 out of 5 stars Only Moderately interesting
More verbage is offered than is needed. The author spends way more on unrelated and basically boring side lines in what I assume is motly an effort to pad the size of the book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Lawrence W. Zanatta
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting when on topic
I like to know what goes on "behind the scenes," so I thought this would be an enjoyable book. And it was, as long as the author stayed on topic. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Grace
5.0 out of 5 stars For Jeopardy! fans and others
Excellent for all fans of Jeopardy! Background on the show, preparing for appearances, and experiences during matches. An interesting life story as well.
Published 12 months ago by RITA ROSS
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful on many levels
This is simply a wonderful book, one of the most delightful I've ever read. I enjoyed it as much as a week of Jeopardy episodes and often laughed out loud. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mark Trevor Smith
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Topic From this Discussion
yes, patently dumb things.

with timing

it's called comedy.
Aug 12, 2006 by A. Shea |  See all 14 posts
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