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'Jeopardy!' winner Ken Jennings hopes his books will inspire young learners

Published: Saturday, Feb. 8 2014 3:45 p.m. MST

“You’ve got to know everything, even if it’s just a millimeter shallow,” he said. “It’s a way of living your life where you’re curious about everything. When you meet someone new and they’re telling you about nuclear physics or opera or whatever it is, instead of being like, ‘Wow, that sounds like it’s not very interesting,’ or ‘Wow, I don’t know anything about that,’ you’re actually curious.”

Being successful on “Jeopardy!” was not always the goal for Jennings, who graduated from BYU in 2000 with a double major in English and computer science. “I really wanted to write,” he said. “I sort of thought I would teach and write. That was what I wanted to do, (but) I didn’t know if there was a career in it.”

Jennings spent several years working at a friend’s Internet startup before he got his break in the world of television trivia. Thankfully, a considerable amount of TV face time helped land him the job he’d been hoping for.

“If I hadn’t gone on that game show, I would probably be in some unhappy IT office job today, sort of idly thinking, ‘Well, maybe I should just go to law school,’ trying to figure out what I was going to do,” Jennings said. “I’d be having a midlife crisis right now, but instead of a midlife crisis, I had ‘Jeopardy!’ and I’ve lucked into a job that I love. Thank you, ‘Jeopardy!’ ”

Jennings said that he used his own kids as his “test audience” for the books.

“As a dad, you’re constantly having to keep your kids entertained. That’s sort of your job. Things go wrong in the car if your kids are not entertained,” he said. “Writing these books is just sort of doing that on a larger scale. I want these kids to learn about why I think space is cool or why I think that Greek mythology is cool.”

Jennings is scheduled to be at the Orem Barnes and Noble store on Feb. 10 and is looking forward to meeting with a young new fan base.

“I’ll probably read some facts from the book and talk about how my weird childhood actually paid off later in life,” Jennings said. “And I think we’re going to do a little trivia contest. We’ll have a little game show of our own.”

If you go ...

What: Ken Jennings book signing

When: Monday, Feb. 10, 6 p.m.

Where: Barnes and Noble, University Crossings Plaza, 330 E. 1300 South, Orem

Web: barnesandnoble.com

Email: achristensen@deseretnews.com

Twitter: atownmania

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