The Pacific Northwest likes to read, and what better way to get book suggestions than to ask around? In this monthly feature, we ask prominent Northwest residents what books they’re reading, rereading and recommending — and why.
This month: Ken Jennings, the “Jeopardy!” superstar and Seattle author of 12 books. His 13th, he notes, is overdue thanks to his win/participation in the “Jeopardy!: The Greatest of All Time” tournament.
What book are you reading now?
I’m always reading a bunch of books at once. I just started “Girl, Woman, Other” [by Bernardine Evaristo]. It’s kind of a multigenerational novel about Black families in London and it’s kind of this weird, all-lower-case stream of consciousness thing. So it looks very daunting, but it’s actually really readable. It’s really great. And I just got this two-volume, giant Taschen “The History of Graphic Design” book. I’m a huge design nerd and it’s just gorgeous. If you want to spend hundreds of dollars on a 20-pound book, I recommend that. That’s like a “Jeopardy!”-winners-only choice, because those Taschen books are expensive. But they’re beautiful. And, what else? I’m reading these Patricia Highsmith short stories. I’ve never read her short stories. And one of her very first collections is a series of these kind of dark murder mysteries all about animals, domestic animals, killing their humans. So every single story just ends with a donkey or a Chihuahua or whatever killing its owner. I think it’s called “The Animal-Lovers [Book] of Beastly Murder,” and I didn’t even know it existed. It’s crazy.
What book have you reread the most?
That’s a good question. I’m not a huge rereader. The books I’ve read most of my life are probably the novels I would just read every year when I was a teenager — “Lord of the Rings,” “Cat’s Cradle,” by Vonnegut, “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury. I feel like I’ve read those all either to my kids or myself in the last few years. Those all hold up.
What book do you recommend other people read and why?
I am not going to name one of my own books. That’s exactly what my first impulse was. Any author is going to have a very hard time not doing that, but I think it’s a bad look. I can tell you the best book to read for “Jeopardy!”: “The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.” It’s a hardcover desk encyclopedia thing and it’s got a one-sentence definition of everything. Here’s what the Battle of Actium was, here’s what polonium is, to here’s who Valentina Tereshkova was. It’s just for somebody at home who’s like, “Oh, I’ve never heard of that.” But, accidentally, it’s a perfect “Jeopardy!” study guide because you need extremely broad but very shallow knowledge to ID names from those clues. And it’s, I think, kind of the go-to, standard study guide in the “Jeopardy!” world. It won’t get you everything. But, you know, if you miss an Evelyn Waugh question, you probably should have taken a look.