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. (July)
"[A] moving memoir...[a] friendly, often funny account marked by a reluctance so deep that it confers a curious integrity upon the celebrity tell-all...In the autumn of the media patriarchs, [Trebek] stands practically alone, untinged by scandal. His authority derives from his defense of facts, not their distortion." —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"Alex Trebek's memoir is everything a Jeopardy! fan could want...It’s an amusing and at times sobering series of vignettes—a quickly inhaled highlights reel of Trebek’s life...[He] quotes Mark Twain, Malcolm Gladwell and Chinese proverbs, and he shows off a quick wit and reverence for intellect...The behind-the-scenes intel is fun, especially for longtime fans of the show. But the rare insights into Trebek’s personal life are far more revealing...After nearly four decades at the lectern, Trebek is more than the face of Jeopardy!—he’s its heart. He’s so synonymous with the show, and the charm that’s made it an evening ritual, that even after a satisfying memoir, at least one question remains. How does the show continue without him? Give a ‘daily double’ to whomever has the answer for that one." —Angela Haupt, The Washington Post
“[Trebek’s] story reads less like the typical name-dropping, vice-fueled celebrity memoir and more like one of a warmhearted, down-to-earth guy who feels lucky to have touched lots of lives as the host of a wildly popular quiz show for the past 36 years...The fact that he's undergoing chemotherapy for his stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a painful experience that has taken a serious emotional and physical toll, adds a bittersweet and poignant note to his tale. That said, Trebek, who has a great sense of humor, also offers a lighthearted look at many parts of his long life...And fans will eat up his memories of show legends such as Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer.” —Christina Ianzito, AARP
"As a piece of writing, The Answer Is... goes down easy...But for all its breeziness, the memoir does the work of fleshing out a character with whom millions of Americans have spent their evenings with since the 1980s...Trebek had brushed off previous opportunities to write a memoir, but his diagnosis last year with stage IV pancreatic cancer changed the calculus. He received an outpouring of public support, which nudged him into opening up. But opening up doesn’t mean conjuring angst where it doesn’t exist. ‘I don’t have a lot of ghosts,’ he writes—believably, somehow. ‘I don’t have any bad memories that affect my life. It’s all good.’ Trebek writes frankly about the darkness he’s facing: the side effects from chemotherapy, and the conversations with his family about when to stop treatment. But he also seems uncommonly prepared for the end of the game."—Ruth Graham, Slate
"For anyone who enjoys watching Jeopardy!—or has ever wondered about the sincere, mustachioed man at its helm—The Answer Is... is an illuminating look at the life and philosophy of Trebek." —Patrick Ryan, USA Today
“Alex Trebek is the one providing the answers and questions in a new memoir that should reinforce his admirers' expectations about the ever-steady Jeopardy! host. The concise chapters, with titles including ‘What is a Mentor?’ and ‘The Answer is Family’ and ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages, make for a readable but not slapdash approach...Trebek’s philosophical bent emerges clearly in the memoir, as he shares his perspective on human nature, spirituality and the value of knowledge." —Lynn Elber, Associated Press
“Trebek is well aware of what he has come to represent to viewers over his 36 years as the host of Jeopardy! He’s the reliable figure you can count on to appear on your television each weeknight, ‘not so much as a showbiz personality but as an uncle,’ he writes. He’s not intimidating. He’s a ‘second-tier celebrity.’ Part of the family. He leans into this persona in the book, offering up wholesome tidbits about how he’s happiest sitting on the swing in his backyard or eating fried chicken and broccoli for dinner...Trebek is candid in writing about the toll cancer has taken on his body. In one particularly moving section, he reveals that one day on set his stomach cramps were so excruciating that he collapsed on the floor of his dressing room, crying and writhing in pain. Producers suggested they cancel the taping, but he insisted he continue working—something that has, inexplicably, helped to ease his physical ailments.” —Amy Kaufman, The Los Angeles Times
“[H]ow did this French Canadian son of a Ukrainian immigrant become the authoritative voice of American knowledge? Trebek’s charming memoir, The Answer Is...: Reflections On My Life, offers these answers, phrased, of course, in the form of a question.” —Rien Fertel, The A.V. Club
“It probably won't surprise you to learn that Alex Trebek’s new memoir doesn't contain any particularly scandalous revelations or explosive confessions. The Answer Is... is a look back through the life of a man who, by his own admission, thinks his life is ‘not particularly exciting.’ But in 80 years on this earth and 36 years hosting Jeopardy!, you're bound to have a few interesting stories to tell, and Trebek has more than a few.” —Tyler Aquilina, Entertainment Weekly
"Alex Trebek has been in the spotlight for more than 30 years but has never been more candid than in his new book, The Answer Is...: Reflections on My Life...[An] eye-opening memoir.” —Meredith Nardino, US Weekly
“We’ll take great stories for $1,000 please. The iconic Jeopardy! host is out with his first memoir. It’s filled with revealing anecdotes about his personal life, his battle with cancer, and his experience working on everyone’s favorite quiz show. The answer is...a weekend spent glued to this book.” —The Skimm
A memoir from the beloved host of Jeopardy.
In brief chapters copiously illustrated with photographs, Trebek steers clear of deep introspection in favor of amusing anecdotes and fond recollections of a life he insists “was not particularly exciting.” Though the book was clearly prompted by a 2019 diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which the author notes, with typical understatement, “has taken a toll on me,” he doesn't dwell on his illness. Throughout the book, the tone is upbeat and infused with gratitude and humor. Trebek tells pleasant stories about the illicit distillery his father ran in the basement of the Sudbury, Ontario, hotel where he was a chef; the scrapes the author got into at a Catholic boarding school; the advent of his famous mustache and the repercussions when he precipitously shaved it off; and the jokes played on him while he was working on a newscast at the CBC. Trebek's firm sense of what he believes is mostly public knowledge, and it’s clear that much of his personal life is off-limits. Of his parents' difficult divorce, he writes that they were “ill-suited,” and he only provides a few sentences about the “kind of…resentment” he felt toward his mother for concealing for years the birth of a half sibling born after his parents' divorce. Jeopardy fans will be pleased to find that much of the narrative covers some of the show’s memorable moments, including Trebek's musings on some of the big winners, comic interactions with contestants, and lists of celebrities who could have made it as contenders on “regular” Jeopardy rather than the easier celebrity version—e.g., Michael McKean, Jodie Foster, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Aaron Rodgers. Readers will likely come away from the memoir feeling even more comfortable with the author than they already did.
An amiable, enjoyable series of glimpses into the life of an avuncular figure.
Longtime Jeopardy! game show host Alex Trebek offers an entirely episodic and anecdotal memoir in short-essay style. As is well known, the Canadian-born Trebek has been under care for pancreatic cancer, and his audiobook includes some reflection on that circumstance. He narrates his introduction and conclusion himself, as well as a handful of other sections that are the most personal to him. His performance is in high style, exuding enthusiasm, charm, and that special ability to draw in most any listener. Multiple-time Jeopardy! winner and Trebek friend Ken Jennings narrates the lion’s share of the memoir. Jennings sounds workmanlike, generally direct, and clear, although there is some trailing off at the ends of lengthier sentences. Though Jennings lacks Trebek’s gravitas and palpable charm, this is a touching and entertaining audiobook. W.A.G. © AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine