This review is for both the audiobook/ebook combo of The Answer Is… Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek, the author and sometimes narrator of the audiobook and Ken Jennings, a primary narrator on the audio version. This book came out in 2020 and was published by Simon & Schuster. It is a memoir/autobiographical account of Alex Trebrek’s life, written as he battled cancer and was inspired by the outpour of support he received. Despite never having intentions of writing something like this, the book illuminates the personality of Trebek. In my view, it shows a humble man who isn’t afraid to have a sense of humor, even in light of the circumstances he faces. Currently, this book sets at 4.23 stars average on Goodreads and was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards Memoir/Biography category in 2020.
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.
This audiobook is primarily narrated by Ken Jennings, a star of Jeopardy!, with bits here and there of Trebek reading certain key sections, such as the introduction and sign off. It is a short listen (and read). I am very glad that I chose to listen to this book (I usually look for options for audiobooks for nonfiction if the narration is good, but memoirs especially so).
In this incredibly sad instance, we don’t get much of Trebek because of what I am assuming is his medical circumstances, age, etc. but it was really heartwarming to have Jennings to do it, as he is another recognizable star of the Jeopardy! show and undoubtedly got to know Trebek very well as a recurring contestant. Yes, Jennings does have a silly delivery style sometimes; I understand the criticism that comes from this. However, I did not mind. I think it was fitting that he was chosen, and he did a great job honoring Trebek in this regard.
Likewise, the portions in which Trebek was reading made me feel like I was listening to an old friend recall stories from his life. I am a fan of Jeopardy! and have watched it plenty with my dad, but I can’t claim to be a huge follower of its host so as to knowing a lot about him. As a result, I wanted to gain some insight, and I definitely did by reading his stories. I will admit that I choked up a bit at the salutation and conclusion. There was something distressing about hearing a man say goodbye knowing that he has passed (and knowing that he knows it will happen)… but at the same time, I felt so relieved and comforted in knowing that he was at peace with himself and his life. It was a bittersweet moment for sure.
I have no qualms with the content. Trebek noted that he is not a writer. He didn’t even plan to ever do something like this. People complain about it not having enough about the show or being disjointed. I don’t care about any of that. I think he told us what he wanted to tell us. It was like sitting down with someone who reflected on their life and the bits that came out were what meant something to him. I think in honoring that, people should remember that memoirs/reflections are personal… it’s not like he sold you that the book would be a highly researched account of the show. Going in, one should just expect to hear about what a man with a life. What he wanted to tell you, a stranger, and what he has to say could possibly impact the rest of your life. It definitely makes me think about what could happen between now and a certain age.
RIP Alex Trebek. Give this a listen, even if it’s just the parts of Trebek and you can read the middle bits.