"I won $500,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire by studying this book."Armond Kechigain, Belleville, Il."

Cultural Literacy

What does it mean to be cultural literate? In a nutshell, it’s having information on a broad-based pyramid of facts, a literal plethora of wide ranging knowledge and the ability to recall these facts in an instant. Our 21st century has spawned culturally literate millionaires, masters of the miniscule like Brad Rutter and John Carpenter, who have buzzer-quick recall to a vast amalgam of facts. Being armed with this type of knowledge isn’t going to get you that $100K job at Intel, but it does have its advantages (besides being able to win several years wages on a game show). Being the first to shout out the correct answer (or question) in a room full of people satisfies the competitive nature of the human spirit. People like being culturally literate because it’s fun.


How does one get to be culturally literate? They don’t have courses for it at the university. You could study the humanities, literature, geography, the sciences, history, mythology and still be lost when your date wants to discuss Best Picture Oscar winners with you. How do you get to be like one of these mavens of the minutia to obtain so much expertise on the obscure? The simple answer is, You have to love it. If you’re not willing to set your DVR to record and watch old reruns of The Weakest Link and Twenty-One, or have Cash Cab on in the bedroom when you’re getting dressed, then you assuredly don’t have what it take to be the next Ken Jennings.


This book, along with my website, offers another route, a shorter route to this difficult quest. What I have done is to leave out as much of the unneeded details and present what I call, “The most obvious answer.” There are thousands of clues that come up over and over again on game shows that can only be responded to with one possible answer. I’ll use my classic example. Suppose this long question pops up and in the middle of it is “Norwegian composer.” You can buzz in right there because there has only been one Norwegian composer who’s had enough notoriety to be asked about. That’s Edward Grieg. I’m sure there are other Norwegians who have composed music, but they are all too obscure.


Something else I had to consider when compiling these facts was what to include without making the book and the website overly cumbersome. I decided on what I term, Information on the periphery of common knowledge. Those items you have heard before, but just maybe just once or twice in your lifetime, the $1600 and $2000 clues on Jeopardy! and the $25,000 and $50,000 questions on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I drew upon personal experience from watching thousands of game show episodes, to competing in and even hosting hundreds of trivia night competitions and participating local and regional college bowls, spending years paying close attention to the categories and the types of questions most commonly asked, in the process eliminating a Mount Everest of nonessential data. The end result is the most efficient means to shove your way into the culturally literate fraternity.


These are the reasons why The Cultural Literacy Trivia Guide was the top selling trivia book in the country in 2001 through 2003. People have been using it since to win big bucks on game shows. (My editor won $500,000 on Millionaire) Now in its fourth edition, it is still the best and fastest way to arm yourself with the information you will need to be competitive in the intellectually stimulating world of game shows and trivia contests. This book, and my website, CulturalLiteracyTrivia,com, based on the book, are the resources you’ll need to quickly broaden your horizons into this fascinating and highly competitive world. Good luck, but most of all, have fun.

Steven Ferrill
© Trivia Productions, 2010