- When you have a choice, buy the smallest book, preferably one with pictures.
- Scour your local bookstores for deals. I frequently bought books listed at $25 or above for less than $5.
- Makes lots of lists. Jeopardy! frequently has word play categories looking for names of vegetables, fruits, countries etc. and in such cases, quick recall takes precedence over in-depth knowledge.
- Finally, read everything with a historical perspective. The clue writers rely a lot on timelines for the sake of accuracy and you will find many clues with years in them.
The List (click on each topic to expand it)
Most of the titles can be found on Amazon, hence the links. I am not affiliated with any publisher!
There is no such thing as over-preparation in this section.
- The American President by Kathryn Moore: Along with detailed bios of all presidents, you will also find really good trivia in the form of footnotes. This book is indispensable for your preparation.
- Almanac of American History by James Miller and John Thompson: This is a National Geographic publication and is good but a little short on detail which may work well for a quick read. Excellent section of appendices.
- American Fads by Richard A. Johnson: Details of about 40 fads that swept America from Silly Putty to Hula Hoops.
- The Big Book of American Trivia by J. Stephen Lang: Am not a big fan of trivia books but will make an exception for this one. All the basics are covered well.
- Spark Notes 101: American Government: This is how I would put it - before reading this I knew nothing about American Government and after reading, I run any related Jeopardy! category.
- A Civilian's Guide to the U.S. Military: Not the most readable book I've come across but this was really useful to pick up the basic info about the armed forces.
Jeopardy! does not go into great detail in this section and rather than books, I recommend you do the following:
- Check out the bios of major businessmen and barons and make notes. There aren't that many (J.P. Morgan, Cecil Rhodes, John Jacob Astor and the like) and you will easily get an exhaustive list from features like 'Top 10 Businessmen that influenced America/World' that major publications (like Time) run periodically.
- Make a list of companies and associated products (for example, Kraft = cheese).
- Pay extra attention to the most recent Forbes/Fortune lists and recent news.
Culture and Art
This is a tough section to prepare for as it encompasses a wide range of topics. Most major bookstores carry dead cheap versions of books like major paintings and painters and you should definitely buy one or two.
This was one of my favorite topics to prepare in. Lots of fun for obvious reasons.
- While all the following books are good, nothing beats a subscription to Netflix. You should watch all landmark American movies like The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Citizen Kane and some movies that come up frequently on Jeopardy! like Blazing Saddles.
- 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: Great essays, great pics but warning - a lot of write-ups have spoilers. The editor must have been an idiot.
- 501 Movie Stars from Barron's: Love this book. Bios of all major stars and their important movies.
- 501 Movie Directors from Barron's: Same as above.
- Great Movies I, Great Movies II, Great Movies III series by Roger Ebert: Great essays by the master critic.
- Making Movies by Sidney Lumet: Presents an anecdotal insider's account of the key elements in filmmaking.
- Be up to date with recent hits and releases.
Food and Drink
Lists work very well in this section.
- The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink by John F. Mariam: Another book I would classify as indispensable.
- Alcoholica Esoterica by Ian Lendler: Short, informative and funny as hell. When I was reading this in my commute, I had to stop myself several times from laughing out loud.
- Makes lists of fruits, vegetables and the like and try to know about the varieties of each.
- Use Lizard Point and Sporcle quizzes to master your geography.
- The Book of Cities by Dodd and Donald: More like impressions of different cities written in a literary style. I enjoyed this one immensely.
- 501 Must-Visit Destinations: Another indispensable book.
- Amazing Places to see in North America from Publications International, Ltd.
- Book of Peoples of the World from National Geographic.
Every Jeopardy! player should be ultra-strong in this section. This is of course just a sampling:
- 1000 Events That Shaped the World from National Geographic: Great book for a quick run through history.
- The Book of War by Zimmerman from Tess Press.
- Read as many books of Social History like A History of the World in Six Glasses, Salt: A World History, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World as you can. You will find tons of recommendations on Amazon as you browse even one of these.
You should know the plots of all major American/World books. Start off with American Nobel Laureates. Be wary of latest best-sellers and one-off hits like 84, Charing Cross Road.
- Masterpieces of World Literature: Indispensable.
- 501 Must-Read Books
- American Short Story edited by Thomas Parkes: Includes almost all famous American Short Stories. Great collection and invaluable to your preparation.
- Brush Up Your Poetry by Michael Macrone: Lovely introduction to poetry.
- The Poets Corner compiled by John Lithgow
- The Rough Guide to Shakespeare by Andrew Dickson: Indispensable.
- Naughty Shakespeare by Michael Macrone: Whoever thinks the bard is boring really ought to read this to know what a nasty bastard he was!
- I grew up reading a lot of Brit Lit, and haven't listed any related books like Dickens' etc. Your mileage may vary.
- The Great Philosophers by Jeremy Stangroom and James Garvey
- The Intellectual Devotional series of books is pretty well-written.
- 100 Years of Comic Strips by Blackbeard, Crane and Vance.
- From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century by David Mansour: Incredible pop-culture reference.
- Classical Music for Dummies: Indispensable
- Opera for Dummies: Indispensable
- Defining moments in Music edited by Sean Egan: Decade by decade of key events in the popular music scene. Good book for music novices like me.
- All famous songs you ever need to know about (like No.1 hits by year) are on YouTube. Make your own lists and enjoy!
Religion and Mythology
- The Bible for Dummies: Indispensable (for me, at least)
- Who's Who in Bible from Reader's Digest
- National Geographic Essential Visual History of the Bible: Short and sweet and a good supplement to the Dummies book.
- Mythology by Edith Hamilton: Mythology is the easiest section to master as it is limited and also a lot of fun. Reading this book cover-to-cover will probably teach you 90% of everything you need to know about Greek/Roman mythology as far as Jeopardy! goes.
- World Religions by Franjo Terhart and Janina Schulze: Good overview of all major world religions.
Science and Nature
- The Usborne Science Encyclopedia: Of all the major ones on the market, I found this to be the best as it goes into some detail and supplements the text with good pictures. Also found the Appendix of 'A-Z of Scientific Terms' very useful.
- The Science Book by Weidenfeld & Nicolson: Good essays on landmark events in the history of science.
- The Book of Invention by Craughwell from Tess Press
- The Life of Birds by Attenborough
- Life on Earth, The Trials of Life and The Living Planet by Attenborough: Hands-down the best introduction to Natural History ever written. Sumptuous pictures!
- The Encyclopedia of Space by Linda Glover from National Geographic.
- The Human Body Book by Steve Parker from DK Publications: Slightly expensive as most DK books are but this one is worth it. Great illustrations.
- A Splintered History of Wood by Spike Carlsen: I thought I needed to know more about trees. This was a lovely intro and is very well-written.
- The Smart Girl's Guide to Sports by Liz Hartman Musiker: I knew nothing about American Sports and this book made me very knowledgeable. Sports covered are Basketball, Football, Baseball, Hockey, Golf, Boxing and Car Racing. And yes, I did notice the title!
- In the local bookstores, you will get great deals on books like 'The All-Time Comebacks in Sports' and the like. I bought some books listed for $35 or more for 50 cents each! These are invaluable to get to know about important past events.
- Pay extra attention to the latest winners in various championships (Superbowl, World Series and the like) and to the other periodic events like the Olympics.
I won't even pretend. This is my worst category as I do not watch any TV except Jeopardy! and the occasional NFL game. As part of my preparation, I saw a couple of episodes of dramas and serials of all major networks and also paid attention to the latest Emmy's but none of them showed up. There are some good websites like Classic TV that list Shows by Decades and you might want to check them out.
- Words and Phrases