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Who Is Alex Trebek?: A Biography

Review

Who Is Alex Trebek?: A Biography

First things first: I was a contestant on “Jeopardy!” I played one game and (spoiler alert!) came in second after a mortifying Final Jeopardy! blunder. And even though I’m not named Brad Rutter or Ken Jennings or James Holzhauer, my first trip to Culver City is mentioned (indirectly) in Lisa Rogak’s new biography of Alex Trebek, since it coincided with his heart attack, which sent all of us contestants back home for a few weeks before finally meeting him in person. So it’s safe to say that I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the iconic game show host, even though the 20 seconds in which he interviewed me on-air were perhaps more nerve-wracking than the game itself.

For me, this book is more than a passing walk down memory lane --- especially the entertaining chapter during which Rogak describes what a typical day of “Jeopardy!” taping looks like. And for millions of viewers --- like my parents, for whom it’s a major crisis when “Jeopardy!” is pre-empted by local sports (or COVID-19) --- WHO IS ALEX TREBEK? offers an entertaining overview of both Trebek’s remarkably successful career and his singular personality.

"WHO IS ALEX TREBEK? offers an entertaining overview of both Trebek’s remarkably successful career and his singular personality."

Rogak spends a fair amount of time tracing Trebek’s troubled childhood, which was characterized by his parents’ divorce, a secret half-sibling and a fairly miserable stint at boarding school. But once Trebek discovered his interest in entertainment, specifically television, he embarked on a career that had a handful of setbacks, but, for the most part, has been remarkably successful and scandal-free.

Unlike your average celebrity tell-all biography, this lack of juicy gossip doesn’t seem to detract from fans’ hopes and expectations for Trebek. They might be amused by details of his unhealthy breakfast habits or an anecdote about his accidental ingestion of more than one hash brownie in an unfortunate episode. But Rogak depicts Trebek as exactly the man most viewers imagine, or hope, he would be --- generous, curious about the world, genuinely enjoying the work he does and taking it seriously.

Those who enjoy “Jeopardy!” but haven’t kept tabs on all of Trebek’s extracurricular activities will get a kick out of his various cameo appearances (mostly as himself!) and side projects, which includes a passion for supporting a musk oxen charity. Rogak also addresses his recent terminal cancer diagnosis head-on and ends with some speculation over how he might decide to retire. As “Jeopardy!” taping is currently on hiatus due to COVID-19, readers will come away from WHO IS ALEX TREBEK? with a fierce desire for Trebek to be able to leave the show the way he has always done things: on his own terms.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 7, 2020

Who Is Alex Trebek?: A Biography
by Lisa Rogak

  • Publication Date: July 21, 2020
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250773660
  • ISBN-13: 9781250773661