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Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It

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Everyone is born curious. But only some retain the habits of exploring, learning and discovering as they grow older. Which side of the ’curiosity divide’ are you on?

In Curious Ian Leslie makes a passionate case for the cultivation of our desire to know. Curious people tend to be smarter, more creative and more successful. But at the very moment when the rewards of curiosity have never been higher, it is misunderstood and undervalued, and increasingly practised only by a cognitive elite.

Filled with inspiring stories, case studies and practical advice, Curious will change the way you think about your own mental life, and that of those around you.

310 pages, Paperback

First published April 30, 2014

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About the author

Ian Leslie

11 books63 followers
London-based author who writes ideas-based non-fiction. He also writes and performs in the comedy show Before They Were Famous for BBC Radio 4. Ian appears as a commentator on current affairs and culture for the BBC, Sky, and NPR.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 316 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
January 3, 2017
Curiosity made me buy this book!

Browsing the shelves in a bookstore, it caught my eye and I spontaneously bought it, probably as a subconscious reaction to the fact that I have heard that I tend to be too curious about everything ever since I was very little. It is a topic that has followed me from early childhood over my academic studies and into motherhood and teaching.

As a literary phenomenon, it has a negative connotation, starting with Eve, who could not resist the temptation to know more, and was punished with the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, or Pandora, who opened a box full of evil, with only hope left to cope with it all.

The ability to stimulate curiosity, on the other hand, can save lives, as Scheherazade experienced in the 1001 nights she told cliffhanger stories that needed to be finished before she was ready to die. Obviously, as a mother and teacher, I focus on stimulating curiosity, rather than punishing it, as it is part of effective learning. That's the theory, anyway.

However, I have to confess that I have plunged into a kind of reverse Eve-guilt many, many times, being too tired and distracted to engage in the curious questions I have been asked. When I had two toddlers and a baby at home, I used to read a lot to the 2 and 4-year-olds just to have an hour of sitting down instead of running. At one point I decided to introduce them to the mythical origins of our culture and read the children's bible. An avalanche of questions was the result:

"Why did god plant the tree if he didn't want Eve to eat from it?"
"Why is he so unfair to Cain?"
"Where do the other people come from if there was only one family in the beginning?"

And so on. After counting 17 "Why"-questions in a row during one session, I was exhausted and lost my patience, yelling:

"Can you please stop asking why?"

Silence. Then, quietly, my 4-year-old:


Oh, the guilt will never go away, and ten years have passed since then. But I haven't learned anything from it either. The other day, while I was reading this book and taking notes, my 10-year-old daughter came in and asked me something. My horrible answer:

"Not now, darling, I am reading a book about how to stimulate your curiosity."


Okay, I might win the medal for bad parenting, but in theory, I think I am aware of how to do it better, and this book is a concise summary of a common sense approach to stimulation of curiosity.
I particularly enjoyed the analysis of the correlation between knowledge and curiosity, and that learning more about a topic creates more interest in it. As a grown-up, I am responsible for giving my children a basis of knowledge that opens up wider horizons for them to be curious about. It is not enough to hand them a laptop and tell them to explore whatever they are interested in. The randomness of the information they will find online will rather kill their wish to know more than make them develop further interest in it.

I would recommend this book to parents or educators who would like to refresh some common sense reflections on why we work daily to create an environment of inquiry, and how we can keep it alive as adults as well. Curiosity can be trained, and nurtured, or stifled, depending on how much we work on it and feed it.

After reading this book I have vowed to answer at least 19 questions before losing my temper from now on. That will be enough to redeem myself from the guilt of the past, I reckon, considering how the questions have changed since my children were toddlers.

"Why do I have to go to the hairdresser?"
"Why does my room have to be tidy?"
"Why are you so annoying?"

When it comes to enhancing epistemic rather than diversive curiosity, nothing beats reading interesting books, and my children know I will always gladly answer their literary questions, at least. And ask some valid questions myself:

"Have you practised piano?"
"Why is there only one gym shoe in the bag?"
"Do you think Gollum is a good or bad character? Why?"

There are not enough questions in the world!
Profile Image for Daniel.
4 reviews
March 4, 2015
# Takeaway: Curious

## Motivation

I was motivated to read _Curious_ because my girlfriend and I were interested in understanding the difference in our relative levels of curiosity. We observed that I demonstrate particularly more curiosity than she does. For example, I regularly struggle to not compulsively, and rudely, take out my phone during dinner to search for an answer to some unknown question that arises during dinner conversation. I am also often distracted by the exploration of some random topic, be it virtual reality, or artificial intelligence, or crustacean aquaculture. We wanted to know if there were methods to help her discover topics of interest, particularly in the context of searching for an interesting career path.

## Book Review

I found _Curious_ to be interesting, but disappointing. I was disappointed because a majority of the book was dedicated to unrelated diversions. If you're an avid reader like me of non-fiction self-help, psychology, business, and biography literature you will be familiar with a majority of the anecdotal tangents contained herein. The entrepreneurial fairy tales of Steve Jobs and Walt Disney; the inquisitiveness and creativity of Ben Franklin; the success predicting ability of "grit" and the marshmallow test (boy do I get tired of reading about this test -- I probably would failed it as a child, yet I'm a successful adult); and so forth. I was hoping for a more detailed discussion of curiosity, particularly how to _cultivate_ curiosity, but it wasn't there.

## Takeaways

Despite my disappointing review, I did learn some things and leave with some takeaways worth memorializing here. In no particular order:

* I was intrigued by the concept of an evolutionary origin driving human curiosity. Compared to other animals, it appears that humans possess a unique biological urge to be curious, to venture into the unknown. Some might say then that curiosity is a key trait of humanity: to be curious is to be human.

* Curiosity is risky, but natural selection still favored those ancestors of ours who dared to explore questions such as "What is beyond that forest?" or "What's behind that mountain?" This is a really cool observation.

* Curiosity goes in and out of vogue. Clearly the author of _Curious_ argues that curiosity is a good thing, with a few exceptions. This has not always been the case and is not consistent across cultures. The ancient Chinese dynasties, for instance, favored _exploitation_ over _exploration_. Whereas the Europeans embarked on long voyages and embraced (kind of) new cultures, the Chinese chose instead to remain a closed society. The Chinese are still catching up.

* There are two types of curiosity: diversive and epistemic. There are actually three types of curiosity with the third being empathetic, but the author barely gives empathetic curiosity airtime.

* Diversive curiosity is the "bad" form of curiosity, according to the author right now. Diversive curiosity seeks quick answers in the pursuit of novelty and distraction. Think of it as an interest in gossip.

* Epistemic curiosity is the "good" form of curiosity (again in the opinion of the author). Epistemic curiosity is the pursuit of understanding and knowledge.

* The author frequently uses the analogy of puzzles versus mysteries to illustrate the difference between diversive of epistemic curiosities. Puzzles have finite answers whereas mysteries grow the more you work on them. If you want to cultivate epistemic curiosity, approach your interests as mysteries instead of puzzles, whatever that means. (It's kind of annoying how the author tritely cites the achievements of Alan Turing and [first name] Freedman in his tangents somewhat in support of curiosity, yet these cryptographers were notorious puzzle-fiends.)

* __KEY PERSONAL TAKEAWAY:__ _Ask questions._ As technologies like Google make answers increasingly easier to access, success is no longer measured by controlling information (having answers). Instead, success is going to be gained by those individuals who ask the right questions. Fortunately, I am not shy about asking questions which is probably a symptom (and a cause) of my curiosity.

* Curiosity is recursive. It builds upon itself. If you want to become a more curious person, you need to start somewhere, slowly, and recognize that the more curiosities you pursue, the more curious you will become over time.

* If you feel curious about something, chase it no matter how random. Epistemic curiosity is more and more important in modern technological society, and curiosity is built upon itself, so whatever short-term loss you may encounter as a result of pursuing a random curiosity will typically more than be offset by the gains created by a stronger curiosity drive. (A significant portion of the book is devoted not to curiosity, but on the seemingly random nature of innovation, in which legends like Charles Darwin and Steve Jobs were able to change the world because they had insights made possible due only to pursuits of superficially unrelated topics. The classic Steve Jobs calligraphy course is cited here. Yes, I love innovation and creativity, but this does nothing to scientifically examine curiosity or provide practical advice on how to cultivate it.)

* I found the insight on couples and curiosity interesting. If your relationship is boring -- it lacks mutual curiosity -- it will probably be a bad relationship.
Profile Image for Ian.
117 reviews3 followers
August 27, 2014
Dumb literature review for a buzzword. This is the shallow dive you were looking for. Drivel like "curiosity is underwritten by love" confirms that Leslie has nothing to add to the discussion. He quotes the authors and studies you've read about elsewhere, but where they had better context, and name drops every book and entity from The Odyssey to Google. As someone who takes curiosity seriously, and has studied the scientific literature, I found this a trivialization of an important idea.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,902 reviews220 followers
November 18, 2020
The author combines the results of research with anecdotes to provide an illuminating volume on why curiosity is so important to lifelong learning and our advancement as a global society. He examines the risks inherent in some current technological trends, such as smart phones and internet searches, and how to overcome them. He looks at what arouses curiosity and what quenches it.

Topics include:
- Three primary types of curiosity (diversive, epistemic, and empathic)
- The differences between puzzles and mysteries
- The psychology of curiosity and how it is revealed at an early age
- How we can cultivate curiosity in our children and ourselves
- Trends in education (he has some definite views on where we need to improve)

This book is a combination of psychology, sociology, history, and science. It is entertaining and informative. Some of his theories about education are different from other material I have read, so I am off to do more research. Ian Leslie has spurred my curiosity about curiosity.
Profile Image for Eric.
270 reviews13 followers
January 19, 2015
I'm starting to get a little tired of the "journalist writes about some vague topic" genre of popular non-fiction. It's a tried and true formula; anecdote, brief statement of some academic's viewpoint, historical reference, review of some study, story about Benjamin Franklin/Mark Twain/Isaac Newton/Winston Churchill, and concluded mercifully by some overstated thesis presenting something obvious as though it's novel. The cycle repeats itself a couple dozen times over this thin volume. The stories are fun, the conclusions affirming, the opinions benign. Leslie doesn't make you work very hard.

The book sleeve is made out of some futuristic semi-plastic polymer. This bumps it from a 2 to a 3.
Profile Image for Charlene.
875 reviews505 followers
February 19, 2016
Really strong start. As I began to read, I grew more and more excited that someone has written a book about curiosity. With over 500, mostly positive, reviews on goodreads, it seemed to me a really worth while book. Of course it would appeal to readers. Why else do we crack open a book, if not for curiosity.

But then he began his long focus on baby studies. Many of the studies themselves were fine, even enjoyable, but by the time he got to attachment theory, I felt like, "Come on already." At that point, I was still feeling relatively positive. That was until his anti tech rhetoric ruined the entire book for me. I still enjoy that he wrote about curiosity, and I would certainly read another book about curiosity from a different author, but it's unlikely I would ever read another book by this author.

While writing a book about *curiosity,* he bashed awesome tech, like Google search engines. He even tried to make the argument that in the good old days, people would research a topic and happily be led on and on to other topics, really satisfying their curiosity. Now, he claims, with a computer and phone, that hold the *world's knowledge*, people will just flitter from one subject to another, without really ever learning anything. Is he kidding me? #LackOfLogic. If you are curious, you will learn. I am uber curious. When I am out somewhere and something piques my interest, I look it up. No need to go to the library and hope it's in one of the reference books. It's all there in the palm of my hand.

It is just as easy for someone to look at a page in an encyclopedia and flip to another page, without taking in knowledge, as it is to flip through wiki pages. It's the curious who will stay on a page and take in the info before moving onto another page. In addition, the less curious have to go through less effort to actually look stuff up. Does he really suppose as many people flocked to their libraries as the number of people who just look stuff up on their phones or laptops? The anti tech rhetoric continued throughout the book.

Complete absurdity. I would have loved a book about curiosity from someone who is a little more curious about tech.
Profile Image for Philippe.
619 reviews507 followers
September 9, 2017
In this book, author Ian Leslie has a number of interesting points to make:

* Curiosity has always constituted an evolutionary advantage. In a complex world that’s even more true as it’s impossible to know what might be useful in the future. Hence it’s important to spread our cognitive bets, i.e. to be curious. Curiosity as a personality trait is a solid predictor of academic and professional success.

* There are different types of curiosity: (shallow) diversive curiosity, (deeper, more disciplined) epistemic curiosity, empathic curiosity (about thoughts and feelings of other people). Diversive curiosity distracts; epistemic and empathic curiosity are forces that deepen the bond between the individual and the world, add layers of interest, complexity and delight to her experience.

* Curiosity is a feedback loop that is stimulated by understanding and by the absence of understanding. The more we know about something, the more intense our curiosity is about what we don’t know. What counts in triggering curiosity is the context in which one encounters new information and the most important contextual factor is available knowledge.

* Digital technologies are severing the link between effort and mental exploration. The web erodes our penchant for epistemic curiosity focused on understanding. “Google can answer anything you want, but it can’t tell you what you ought to be asking."

* In a world where inequalities in access to information are being leveled, a new divide is emerging - between the curious and the incurious. “The internet is making smart people smarter and dumb people dumber.”

* So-called progressive educational approaches (‘learning skills approaches’) are misguided. Traditional teacher-guided, fact-oriented learning - if well implemented - is more effective in putting in place a foundation for epistemic curiosity. “Anyone who stops learning facts for himself because he can Google them later on is literally making himself stupid”. Furthermore, progressive education ideas present themselves as anti-hierarchical, but in practice tend to entrench social hierarchies.

The second part of the book rehashes that material in ‘seven ways to stay curious’. The idea is to provide practical guidelines to develop and maintain a spirit of curiosity. Leslie seems to veer a bit from his initial position of relentless advocacy for epistemic curiosity in that he aims for a balance between the diverse and epistemic, hence for a cognitive investment in detail and the big picture, in the mundane and the abstract, in theory and practice.

That’s in a nutshell what this book is about. All in all it strikes me as a fairly coherent argument that revolves around the core insights extracted from the pioneering research by Daniel Berlyne (1924-1976) and George Loewenstein (born 1955). As with many of these books, I have the feeling that they make unwarranted claims to readers' time and attention budget. I am quite sure that a book half the length of the present volume - eschewing the tiresome and anecdotal references to Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Steve Jobs - would be more engaging and valuable.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,099 reviews138 followers
April 7, 2015
In this relatively short exploration of one of humanity's most distinguishing traits, Ian Leslie quickly formulates a definite point of view, but backs it up with good studies, strong interviews and a clear, winning writing style.

His basic contention is that curiosity is what has driven scientific and cultural advancement, and that that this powerful impulse in humans may be under threat by the Internet and certain ill-founded educational philosophies.

Unlike some other Internet alarmists, though, Leslie does not damn the Web completely, but simply concludes that it's a wonderful tool for the truly curious, and a damaging distraction for those who either have little curiosity or only a superficial desire to be amused for seconds at a time. He also cites studies to show that, besides such character traits as resilience and determination, the biggest factor in future life success, according to some meta-analyses, is the acquisition of core knowledge.

While some educational theorists have argued that filling children with facts stifles creativity (it's the basic message of TED Talks' most popular video, by Sir Ken Robinson), neuroscience has demonstrated that true creativity depends on being able to make novel associations among many different facts and concepts, and that a knowledge-based education is critical for that.

I found most of Leslie's arguments compelling, and there were enough studies and insights that were new to me, particularly from educational researchers, that it helped propel me through the book.
Profile Image for Jerome Jewell.
Author 2 books7 followers
January 4, 2016
We hear the term “intellectual curiosity” bantered about so often these days. Ian Leslie goes beyond the rhetoric to remove any ambiguity about what this term really means and why it’s something that we need to embrace. He does so without preaching and also shows the reader HOW to accomplish the embrace.

After reading the first 20 pages, I sensed that “Curious” would be an especially-memorable reading experience. But it turns out that I under-estimated. This is possibly the most meaningful book I’ve read in a long, long time. Not the most fun, the most exciting, but yes, most meaningful….in the sense that it delivered value and clarity that will contribute to my thinking and intellectual stimulation in ways that few books have done over the past 50+ years.
I felt that rare sensation of believing that this book was written TO me, as it touched on themes very near and dear to me (i.e.- “daydreaming���).

Ian Leslie presents his insights in a manner that is refreshingly void of lecturing or the tone of a guru. More specifically, I appreciated the fact that he did feel the need to push a model or set of theories. Unlike some authors, he did not attempt to congratulate himself for “discovering” something that predates our existence. Instead he simply did an excellent job of using stories to provide clear examples and then to dissect the value and importance of curiosity in a way that I’ve never witnessed before.

Profile Image for Angie Reisetter.
506 reviews6 followers
January 4, 2015
This is a great summary of our current understanding of curiosity and the important role it plays in individual lives and the society built by those individuals. I see in some of the other reviews that it is dismissed as popular fluff. In a sense, that's fair, since it's a summary, and Leslie doesn't add any new scientific evidence to the academic field of curiosity and learning. But those who do define the field have produced works that are a lot less fun to read than this -- they're not popular for a reason. Good, simple communication is not just fluff. I would highly recommend this book to my friends and students, something I can't say of the more scientific works on the subject.

I appreciated the focused organization of the book. Leslie wrote a table of contents with chapter headings that are clear and honest (that's really what that chapter is about!) and stuck to his point in each one. He covers how curiosity works, how it gets started (early childhood stuff), and how it is encouraged (or not, or should be) in schools, and how it is sustained in adults. He also speaks convincingly of its importance in an age of information. Machines will never learn to be curious, and therefore will not be creative.

In short, I really enjoyed this book, even if it didn't introduce me to a lot of new information. It is well written and has a chatty style, and the organization and simple analysis, in and of itself, helped me to see slightly different angles of the subject than I had before. But mostly I'm excited that there is finally a great little book about curiosity that I can recommend to others, even if they're not up on the field as a science.
Profile Image for Sweta Gorania.
323 reviews3 followers
September 2, 2022
A boring book about curiosity which fails you to stay curious about the book itself! No new information, nothing fruitful, or worth reading. Please skip.
Profile Image for Lorrie.
732 reviews
April 5, 2018
We read this book as a group project/study group at work; hence, it took a while to get through it since we divided it into 3 readings for 3 different meetings. I intensely read the 2nd section since I was the moderator & wanted good notes to refer to. I’m really glad I paid such close attention to it because out of my own curiosity for being a conscientious leader at work, I instead felt intrinsically rewarded for being a faithful grandmother. A child is pretty much loaded with life’s tools by the age of four. No matter what happens in life after that, the child with the most tools is the winner—to make short of a book long explanation. I really liked this book as well as did the others reading it with me.
Profile Image for Marcia.
229 reviews3 followers
January 22, 2015
had to skim lots of this book, was hoping for something similar to Malcolm Gladwell.
many interesting facts - just not interesting enough as a whole
Profile Image for Anant.
7 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2021
This was a 3-star until the last chapter when I came to questioning my teaspoons and discovered the Boring Conference, Georges Perec, and Henry James. I think I want to go back and listen to that part before returning this.

I've been slow-reading this, and remember the era of the first few chapters when the two main types of curiosity are discussed - Diversive (shallow/fleeting) and Epistemic (deep/effortful). There is also Empathic curiosity.

I related that to Geeks vs Nerds, but that's another story.

I like it when a book teaches me new things. I really like it when it expands my sense of possibility, and whets my appetite to go deeper (epistemic-me). I love it when a book can unsettle me enough to allow for growth to happen.

This book introduced me to the concept of NFC (Need for Cognition), which is one I recognize and cherish in myself. Just a few weeks ago, as I was skimming through my day with my different interests (diversive-me), I suddenly felt the unsatisfied feeling of not biting deep enough. I was popcorning my day away. And then, I delved into a lecture. Mmmm.

NFC is the joy of seeking out new intellectual journeys and enjoying effortful cognitive activity.

The book then takes us back to Stone Age and dissects how or why curiosity evolved, the leverage our species has because of the transfer of knowledge, and the various attitudes towards curiosity through history (Oh Galileo!)

There is interesting contrarian discussion arguing against Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Sir Ken Robinson about schools killing creativity. The more ideas (facts) we have in our head, the more opportunity for combining them into new creative patterns. This is something I can agree with.

There is another point that I am not fully aboard with. The author argues that schools can't teach thinking skills without teaching knowledge. I think the issue here is how that knowledge is imparted. Is it rote memorization, or hands-on learning?

It was, however, in the last chapter that I felt myself on the verge of unsettling an idea I have had shelved since my teens - that I will need to have interesting experiences to write interesting things.

The transformative power of attention to bring life to seemingly mundane things gave me more than a pause, it opened a sense of possibility into discovering the enigma of ennui, while uncovering the novelty inherent in normal. Staying curious allows us to never be bored again.

I also found value in being reminded of goal-oriented motivation vs experience-focused motivation
"When all our attention is directed at the future, we easily get bored with the present"

That last chapter is packed with an entire star by itself.

Overall, I am satisfied with having dialogued with my own sense of curiosity, and having built a relationship with my NFC, in foraging for knowing what I do not know, in balancing specialism and generalism, and writing this review to engage deeper with my reading habit that serves me in staying curious.
Profile Image for Raz Pirata.
70 reviews11 followers
July 19, 2020
“It's only people, as far as we know, who look up at the stars and wonder what they are.”

Do you remember when you were young and put everything you touched in your mouth? Endlessly annoyed the living hell out of every adult within earshot with a barrage of ‘but whys’? And flat out just refused to accept, ‘because I said so”, as a suitable or worthy response. Well Ian Leslie, the author of Curious - The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, is hoping you have not left that precocious and inquisitive little bugger behind.

“Pursuing (curiosity) is liable to bring you into conflict with authority at some point, as everyone from Galileo to Charles Darwin to Steve Jobs could have attested.”

Curious is a book that defines the place of curiosity in our lives today. Where it comes from, why we have it, what we do with it, while making the case for why we need to resurrect it.

Curiosity, under Leslie’s careful examination, is revealed in a way that makes the reader, well, more curious. The book travels into the realms of the philosophical, historical, social and economical. It places curiosity at the crossroads where necessity and danger meet. It is an exploration that leaves the reader feeling like a cold war spy, bound to their dangerous duty to be curious yet cautious about how they reveal their motives.

“The great unlocking of curiosity translated into a cascade of prosperity for the nations that precipitated it.”

Do not fret however. In his essay on the need for you to bring curiosity back into your adult life, Leslie will act as your ‘handler’. Someone in the shadows, guiding your safe passage into an inquisitive future where you will reap the rewards for rekindling your childlike sense of wonder. There is a ‘craft’ to curiosity, and this is the manual.

Curiosity is a book that is both entertaining and informative. Written with a passion and pace that will keep the reader both entertained and engaged throughout. If you ever wondered why you know longer wonder, if you think you have it all figured out but can’t shake that sneaky feeling that perhaps you don’t or if you are just fed up with being told that it is not your job to ask questions this book is worthy of a gander.

Go on, be curious, an adventure awaits.

Overall Score: 4.2 / 5

In a sentence: Why you should ask why more often and how this will be a great advantage to your life and career.
Profile Image for Elena.
130 reviews40 followers
October 5, 2017
3.4 stars. Nice easy read, the type that i enjoy. Did not collect too much memorabilia, though (perhaps because it is getting colder and i am reluctant to stop my iPhone's audiobook app and take some notes) when i am walking. A couple. Culture is a technology for storing knowledge and building on previous "storage" gradually. Hitchcock was an information sadist (knew how to torture viewers with hooking hints and postponing the reveal).
Profile Image for Dima Yousef Jadaan.
85 reviews7 followers
December 8, 2020
In Curious, author Ian Leslie puts together research, anecdotes and knowledge from various fields including history, psychology, education, and science to explain the nature of curiosity, how it works, and how to cultivate it.⁣

The book is divided into 3 parts. In the first part the author discusses curiosity early in life, types of curiosity, and the difference between puzzles and mysteries. The second part explores the history of curiosity and the importance of questions and knowledge. The third part describes seven ways to stay curious.⁣

The author traverses the topic through research and many stories and examples. He discusses the impact of modern digital technology on curiosity and presents a very strong argument for the importance of knowledge and knowledge-based education in supporting and cultivating curiosity. My only complaint is that I felt it was light on content and wish it delved deeper into the topics discussed.⁣

All in all, an enjoyable, informative, and accessible read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious about curiosity.⁣
Profile Image for Henrik Haapala.
509 reviews86 followers
November 15, 2022
2022-11-15 update
“ Titanic received many incoming messages warning of ice but there is no mention of her inquiring of others for updates or more information. what if someone was curious enough to ask for more information from the ships in the area? Afterwords several planners and shipbuilders involved admitted to having had questions about the ship safety that they didn’t raise in front of colleagues for fear of appearing foolish.” Page 149-150
Lesson: Failure to ask questions can be a root cause of disaster

• NFC : need for cognition, proxy for curiosity.
• 3 types: diversive, epistemic and emphatic curiosity; epistemic main focus in the book, typically what Leonardo da Vinci did.
• First realize what you don’t know to ask questions: Donald Rumsfeld ”known unknowns”
• 3 ingredients for curiosity: medium surprise, medium knowledge and medium confidence
• Information gaps —> mystery
• Conscientiousness intelligence and curiosity and persistence and grit —> become a learning machine
• Children are curious: between ages two and five children ask 40 000 explanatory questions!
• In 2007 study out off 200 hours recorded children asked > 100 questions / hour (!)
• Long term memory and facts needed for acquiring more knowledge - a kind of background knowledge (my comment: “hooks” for new knowledge to stick on)
• “Whoever you are and whatever start you get in life, knowing stuff makes the world more abundant with possibility and gleams of light more likely to illuminate the darkness. It opens the universe a little.” p.193
• Three misapprehensions about learning: 1) children don’t need teachers to instruct them (they do) 2) facts kill creativity (feeding it it with facts, like Shakespeare and Darwin) 3) schools should teach thinking skills instead of knowledge (long term memory is the source of our intelligence insight and creativity)
• 7 ways to stay curious:
1. Stay foolish. Pixar and Disney, the risk of not being curious.
2. Build the database. Eureka moments: they arise from the gathering and working over - the slow, deliberate, patient accumulation of knowledge.
3. Forage like a fox hog. “T-shaped knowledge” deep skills in a specialty (vertical axis of the T) and a broad understanding of other disciplines (horizontal axis, big ideas).
4. Ask the big why
5. Be a thinkerer. Like Benjamin Franklin do both the experimenting and the thinking and the tinkering.
6. Question your teaspoons. Being aware of and research the mundane and nothing will ever be boring.
7. Turn puzzles into mysteries. Mystery vs puzzle. A puzzle haa a clear solution but mystery can sustain long term curiosity.
• We have huge knowledge base to access and opportunities today.
• Background knowledge; “E. D. Hirsch likens background knowledge to oxygen - vital yet easily taken for granted. It is hard to realise just what a gift it is, and what a handicap it is not to have it. The flame of curiosity doesn’t burn in a vacuum” p.187
• Knowledge begets knowledge
• Art of questions: open questions, why questions.
• Curiosity divide: some will take advantage of knowledge and some will
• Concerted cultivation vs natural growth in different socioeconomic groups.
• Summary: there is huge and increasing benefit of being curious and building a knowledge base. To grow new knowledge you need background knowledge to attach it to (“hooks”). Searching for increased learning about the mysteries of the world and asking the why and the open questions will make you able to dig deeper and discover more than would otherwise be possible. Many discoveries, like penicillin, were made by accident but they were made by a curious and prepared minds. Therefore it is crucial to prepare in the now by learning and reading. Be eclectic, if you find something interesting drop everything else and do your research. Also you can help the next generation by encouraging questions by asking them yourself: “what do you think about this?”.
Profile Image for Kelli Boling.
56 reviews
February 27, 2017
I loved this book on a personal level as well as an academic level. I read it as part of a study on how to incorporate curiosity in the college classroom, and I fell in love with the idea of becoming more curious in my own life. Great perspective, very accessible writing.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
78 reviews
February 11, 2015
Enjoyable read, and I learned a few things which is always nice. Still, I found the argument that modernity's abundant and easy-to-access information is a threat to curiosity to be pretty weak (I often imagined an old man shaking his fist at "things these days", and the phrase "first world problems" crossed my mind more than once). I think it's clear that people intrinsically interested in a topic will take off their gloves and delve into it no matter whether the answers they're looking for are easy to find or not. Further, what's wrong with masses of generally incurious people having easy answers at their fingertips? If the effort to find an answer doesn't exceed their mild curiosity, they may be just as happy to go on in complete ignorance on the topic, which offers no improvement on the human condition in general. I understand the author's concern is also about all of the garbage that threatens to distract us from potential "eureka!" moments, but this is how it's always been, HuffPo/TMZ or not. One needs to master more self-control if one truly wishes to achieve any goal, intellectual or otherwise. The author also admits that serendipity often plays a part in sparking curiosity- maybe the accidental stumble down wikipedia rabbit hole is one futuristic, inclusive version this. I felt like the author was aware that he was making a half-hearted argument on this point.
We can argue that curiosity is a trait which leads to a richer, more fulfilling life, but nevertheless, different strokes for different folks; some people are intellectuals, some are brawn, some leaders, some artists- people have innately different approaches to fulfillment and there's a myriad of ways that individuals are inspired to function and serve in society. Not everyone is going to have curiosity at the center of their lives, though we wish they all could share in the fun.
In any case I did appreciate his bringing up the importance of quality interactions between child and parent during early development, and how the class structure perpetuates the gap between educationally advantaged and disadvantaged students. This social issue is a much bigger fish in my opinion and it's too bad the author didn't take this up as his cross.
Profile Image for Marrije.
489 reviews22 followers
May 20, 2019
This book challenged one of my most dearly held beliefs: that progressive education (like Montessori) is a Good Things. Well, it's not, that is, not for everybody: only for people who already have the parents with enough money, time and education to give their kids a solid base of factual cultural knowledge. We need *facts* to use as a base/scaffolding to kindle curiousity and to hang new knowledge on. It's infuriating, but we need to give young people a solid grounding in dates and times tables and capitals and all that.
February 6, 2019
I took quite a long time to finish reading this book because I was always postponing the reading in order to do more important stuff. Anyway, I really liked how the author relates knowledge, curiosity and creativity, this definitely makes this book worth reading. The accumulation of facts and how your brain put them all together in order to create something new and give you insights, that's a pretty interesting perspective in understanding creativity.
The book also breaks some "modern education" rules such as saying that kids must be free to learn things by themselves in an environment with less pressure for just memorizing "useless stuff", which oppose non traditional education approaches such as Montessori's and others.
196 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2021
This reaches deep into what makes us human. A quick read and can rekindle wonder about the world.

There are 3 types of curiosity: diversive (looking for distraction), empathic (emotional intelligence and how other people think), and epistemic. The last covers things hard to learn and deep thinking to understand. It is what can become obsessions or drag us out of depressions.

With the internet, vast stores of information are available. Modern education philosophy holds that memorization is bad or a waste of time due to ease of information access, which is wrong. It is still useful to learn and understand things. Humans are creative with a base of knowledge, tying together already known things in novel ways is the vast majority of invention.
Profile Image for A Crawley.
45 reviews3 followers
July 11, 2022
Interesting, engaging (enough), good ideas, well explained, not so much practical, and some recommendations for keeping yourself curious not so much innovative.

Why is curiosity important? is an innately human drive that can override the most important one: survival. Historically it has been seen as a vice or as a virtue, sometimes somehow in between. Today, we have too much information and curiosity needs direction and focus.

It has, to my eyes, an important flaw. The author argues that we need more information to think better, rather than skills to think better. While it gives some 'data' to justify this, it's clearly not the case. Several books, like superforecasting, indicate that collecting information is relevant but the way you precesses it is key. This was quite disappointing. It shows the problem of hyperspecialization at the intellectual level: taking ONE idea and using all data to justify it.

It has a series of nice high points. Nice book, not great.
Profile Image for Jeff Bobin.
758 reviews12 followers
March 6, 2022
We all need to be curious! The way we grow is wanting to know more about any subject. The most important question should start with why and then we have the chance to explore why something is true or false.

As children we are naturally curious but as we grow older some are discouraged from continuing the pursuit of learning and others simply lose interest in growing. Both are dangerous for a healthy life and community.

Learning to develop good questions is the key to learning and the willingness to continue to search for right answers as the culture around us changes.

This book will encourage you to develop and renew your natural curiosity and then make a difference in your life, family and community.
Profile Image for Evelyn Petschek.
424 reviews
September 21, 2020
A very readable book, the author makes a number of interesting points. I think the two that will stick with me the longest are that curiosity is a choice and that just about anything can be interesting if you just pay close enough attention. He also raises interesting questions about the easy accessibility to information provided by the internet and how that may be impacting curiosity and creativity. Audio narrator was only so so.
Profile Image for David Msomba.
111 reviews31 followers
June 6, 2018
Outstanding, insightful book about the reasons and importance of human curious,why the future depends on it.

Well researched and well written which makes its a highly enjoyable read.

Such na important work especially on the great age of distraction ,This one is for all the curious cats out there....Highly recommended.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
7 reviews
January 9, 2021
Nine basic ideas for greater curiosity, telling you how to stay curious. (Never stop asking questions. Questions make your mind hungry; make an effort to gather knowledge; anything can be interesting with the right perspective.)

Curiosity can be thought of a cognitive muscle that has to be nurtured with new knowledge in order for it to grow. If you can master this art then you will have a greater chance of being more fulfilled in life.
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