A few recommendations from Ken Jennings

Image from the King County Libraries' Facebook Page

Last month, I interviewed Seattle author Ken Jennings at the Amazon Spheres for a King County Library System Foundation fundraiser. After a delicious meal from Seattle chef and author Renee Erickson, Jennings and I talked for about an hour about his time as a Jeopardy! champ, his most recent book, Planet Funny, and much more.

Because the discussion was shared with KCLS donors who donated to the library's amazing youth education programs, most of the conversation is in confidence — you had to be there to experience it. But I got permission from the good people at KCLS to share with you the books that Jennings has been loving recently, along with a few other recommendations from our conversation.

Jennings is a big reader of novels, and he most recently adored Machines Like Me And People Like You, Ian McEwan's latest foray into science fiction. The controversy over McEwan belittling the entire genre of sci-fi didn't affect Jennings's enjoyment of the book, which he said was entertaining and thought-provoking.

He's also a fan of Philip Kerr's The Bernie Gunther Novels, which is a mystery series set during the Third Reich. They're heavy, but fascinating.

The last two titles, and the only non-fiction he mentioned, were surprising: Look, I Made A Hat and Finishing the Hat, by Stephen Sondheim. Jennings said he bumbled into the books and found them to be completely entrancing, even if you don't think you like musicals.

Someone in the audience asked Jennings who he follows for comedy on Twitter. Jennings said that Twitter has been less funny since 2016, for some unknown reason, but he and I both agreed that Megan Amram and Dril were perhaps the two funniest people on Twitter, if you can stomach comedy in these uncomfortable times.

And lastly, because Jennings cohosts an excellent sci-fi-and-real-facts podcast called Omnibus!, someone in the audience asked for podcast suggestions. Jennings tossed the question to his wife, who he said was the real podcast fan in the family. She recommended Criminal, Milk Street and The Desk Set.

The evening was one of many author dinners and conversations that KCLS hosts as fundraisers every year. If you'd like to attend one next year, all you have to do is attend the Foundation's annual Literary Lions fundraising gala and bid on the one which most appeals to you. Next year's fundraiser will take place on March 7th, and the keynote speaker is Colson Whitehead, who is the first novelist to be featured on the cover of TIME since Jonathan Franzen stunk up the room a decade ago. Unlike Franzen, Whitehead is a great American novelist and, speaking as someone who has seen him read on maybe ten occasions, I can tell you that he is an excellent speaker. You won't want to miss this, or the slate of author dinners the KCLS Foundation will present next year.