The Answer Is…Reflections on My Life Book Review

Alex Trebek’s final episodes as host of Jeopardy aired this past week. As a longtime viewer, I wanted to honor his legacy by reviewing The Answer Is…Reflections on My Life – an autobiography that does that as well as reflect on general and Jeopardy-related topics. It was published in July 2020 – less than 4 months prior to his death. Since the book uses a similar structure to that of the famous quiz show, I will do the same thing here. So, here it goes: The answer is… a fabulous book that is both sassy and heartfelt while Alex Trebek reflects on his life and work. What is… my opinion?

The answer is…these sections of a book make a quick read, especially when they are less than 10 pages each. What are…chapters? Seriously, this book definitely fits the needs of people who don’t have much time reading. The short chapters make it easier to take a break and not lose the reader’s place. At 304 pages or 4 discs, they could probably finish it in about a week or two.

What are… my favorite parts? Trebek offers anecdotes about his personal life and his time as host of Jeopardy. One of the parts that I really liked was simply getting to know him. Prior to reading this book, I didn’t know that he was bilingual (his mother was French-Canadian from Ontario), his father was an Ukrainian immigrant, and loved horses and classic movies. 

Some of the other amusing parts were when he talked about certain contestants (like Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer, and Brad Rutter) and incidents that happened on the show, including the time when no one answered the questions relating to football. Also, it’s very telling that he didn’t have a bad word to say about any of the players that he mentions. And of course, he discussed the popularity of his mustache and how the media freaked out when he decided to shave it off. I didn’t know that his facial hair became famous because there hadn’t been a quiz show host who sported that since Groucho Marx. As a Marx Brothers fan, that made me very happy.

Another memorable section was when he discussed his battle with pancreatic cancer. It really showed his mentality in how he deals with being a cancer patient. For example, he talks about disliking using battle as a metaphor since if one doesn’t survive that, then they are considered a loser. To him, the most important thing was getting through treatment, and if he felt that it was time, then he would stop the process.

What are… expectations? I’ve seen some reviewers express some disappointment with Trebek not revealing much of his life. I wasn’t bothered by this since he admitted that the chemo has affected his mental capabilities. He also confessed that he evaded writing a book about his life for a long time because he thought it wasn’t interesting enough. These are probably the reasons why the autobiography has an equal focus on his values as well as his actual story. He kept my interest throughout.

What is… my complaint? Before I address my issue with the book, I want to say that I understand that it was written in 2020 – the year of the coronavirus. Therefore, talking about this disease is inevitable. I didn’t mind Trebek discussing this because let’s face it, it has affected everyone no matter who they are. What annoyed me was when he brought politics into that particular conversation. It’s not that I have a particular bias for/against one party and that he expressed opposing views. I agreed with a lot that he had to say, yet it simply took me out of the book. That’s it. 

What is audiobook narration? Ken Jennings and Alex Trebek narrate the book with the former doing most of the work. I was a little disappointed in that, but knowing that Trebek had been going through chemotherapy and doing Jeopardy at the same time, it probably would have been more exhausting to record an audiobook too. Anyway, Jennings is a perfect choice to read the book not only because he’s the most famous person to come out of the quiz show, but he also has a smart, confident, but friendly voice and can be very funny with his deliveries. Trebek narrates the more intimate portions with the same style that he’s known for – a family member that relatives always look forward to seeing because they bring fun, joy, and knowledge.

All in all, The Answer Is…Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek is an uplifting and engaging book that does exactly what sets out to do. He reminisces about his personal life and his time on Jeopardy like how I expected the smart and sassy Canadian would. Along with fans of the quiz show, I would recommend it to anybody who has an interest in knowing more about the host himself as well as to those who’ve been through or know someone going through cancer treatment. We’ll all miss him dearly, but the book helps to keep his legacy alive.

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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