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Why?: What Makes Us Curious

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Astrophysicist and author Mario Livio investigates perhaps the most human of all our characteristics—curiosity—as he explores our innate desire to know why.

Experiments demonstrate that people are more distracted when they overhear a phone conversation—where they can know only one side of the dialogue—than when they overhear two people talking and know both sides. Why does
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Simon Schuster
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My 3-star rating of this book includes a caveat that if I had a stronger background in science, it could very well be a 4 or 5 star book. Author Mario Luvio is an internationally known astrophysicist, which did not intimidate me but perhaps it should have a little bit. (I blame you, Neil Degrasse Tyson! You and your charming ability to make me feel smart about stuff.)

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher, Simon & Schuster, to read and review honestly. I conside
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, science
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.” Einstein said it* and Mario Livio does a brilliant job here by showing how curiosity shaped who we are today.

This is one of the best scientific books I read so far and my 5th by Mr. Livio. As always
L.P. Logan
Apr 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
What a load of horse crap.

This book is a spew of words attempting to explain why we are individually creative, but instead of doing that it focuses on Leonardo Divinci -- who was awesome, don't get me wrong -- whoso happens to be someone that each one of us will never be. Then it throws in a whole bunch of psychology mumbo-jumbo, tops it off with some random inventorish people, and places it before the reader as if that is someway going to explain why you, me, and the average Joe is curious.

Çlirim Sheremeti
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
More like 3.5, but leaning on 4.

I think the book, to a point, and from a scientific perspective failed to answer the question it presented in the first place: what makes us curious? However, as the author mentioned, there is limited research available, and therefore I guess there wasn’t much more to present. Furthermore, I feel like, at times, the author jumped from point to point on a number of stories with no apparent overarching theme, but I assume that can still be attributed to the attentio
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Although this is a fascinating topic, the book felt like a disjointed series of biographies and research results, without a coherent theory. Maybe this is more the fault of the field than the book, but it didn’t make for compelling reading.
Shhhhh Ahhhhh
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book on one of the most central facets of human behavior and existence. What makes us curious?

I like this as a primer on the subject, one we're all intimately familiar with on an experiential level, but I felt that, like all primers, it had so much more worthy ground to cover.

Here are my main takeaways. They are few, as most of the book is retreading old ground or discussing what essentially amounts to Maslow-style ethnography of a hand-picked (cherrypicked) group.

Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Note: I received this book as an advanced reading copy from NetGalley.

I really enjoyed the book. The author is great at explaining research without it being too dry, and I love that he is a physicist, which means I can relate to a lot of things he says. Overall, the book was well written and flows nicely. The interviews and character profiles were quite interesting, and made for a nice change of pace since there was a mix of individuals I learned a lot more about curiosity than I had known befor
Ali Albaijan
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
This book may provide insights of how curiosity control some people, what justifies such behavior and some sort of examples illustrate curiosity through history. Does curiosity satisfy internal needs of some people? What kind of curiosity do people go through? Is there an end to being curious?
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting book on the why, how's and who's of curiosity. Details many famous scientists, and asks them why they wanted to learn what they learned, what drove them. Also explores the psychology and neuroscience of curiosity. To me this was the most interesting parts and something I was curious about. I recommend this book for curious people.
Avinash Pandey
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
# Desire and hunger to plug the voids in accumulated islands of knowledge to levitate to higher wisdom and to stroll ahead than what is known to explore yet unknown.#

# Why?: What makes us curious.#
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Though this book feels padded out, there's a solid core of research in there.
David Msomba
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Entertaining in the beginning,a bit dry/technical in the middle but overall still a good read on the subject.
Peter Goodman
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing

“Why? What makes us curious,” by Mario Livio (Simon and Schuster, 2017). A fascinating, informative, and except for a couple of chapters that are a bit technical (which Livio warns the reader about), very clearly written discussion of curiosity. What is it? Where did it come from? What effect does it have on humanity, on evolution? He describes four different kinds, charted by the Canadian psychiatrist Daniel Berlyne, along two axes: between Perceptual and epistemic, and Specific and diversive c
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was a page-turner! The author included quality research along with fascinating information about what we 'think' we understand about curiosity and, more importantly, the big questions that remain unanswered in this topic. He retained an unbiased perspective as he delivered the expansive and interesting theories about what curiosity is and why we have it.

The author succeeded at delivering complex information with clarity by 1. avoiding jargon and 2. retaining an unassuming position in
Pete Wung
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Mario Livio is a very well-known polymath, an astrophysicist as well as an author known for writing books on different math and physics related topics. I had read about this particular book on the New York Times, the idea of exploring curiosity excited me immensely. A systematic look at why we are curious and what the sciences tell us about our curiosity was a very seductive topic indeed.
In the end, the final couple of chapters really redeemed the book, as for the rest of the book, I cannot real
Nathan Albright
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
This is a book that could have been better than it was.  When it comes to books on creativity, sooner or later most authors make some sort of wild evolutionary speculations.  And while it takes a while for that to happen in this particular book, once it does it becomes obvious that the author is not so much interested in curiosity from the point of view of how its history actually is but rather on how it is imagined to be given the fact that we are creative extrapolated from an imagined evolutio ...more
Tõnu Vahtra
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
The road to the unknown unknowns is paved with curiosity which is the lighting force for creativity. Not as so easy reading as other deep scientific people for regular people, but did provide slightly different perspective to human evolution (e.g. what was the role of curiosity in the development of the size of brain for today's humans which also required the invention and widespread use of cooking food. This in turn enabled to get the necessary calories with smaller effort VS bigger primates wh ...more
Curiosity inspires the most exciting things in our lives, from conversation to reading books to seeing films. It drives all scientific research and education. Other species are curious, but they don’t have the ability to ask why. This is uniquely human. Everybody should be curious about curiosity.

The physicist Richard Feynman once wrote of the universe’s vastness: “It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagi
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
So I found this book about curiosity to be dull, which seems to me antithetical to a book on curiosity (also, I keep typing curiousity because the English language and I are having issues today). Even as the book traveled between psychology, neuroscience, and history, all subjects I have levels of curiosity about, I just did not care. Maybe it was the writing style, which is neither dry and scientific nor really pop-science chummy, but somewhere in between (I really didn't need to know, for inst ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was an assigned reading for work, so my interest in it was not very high. I did find a few "nuggets of wisdom" that made the book worthwhile. So, based on where I highlighted parts of the text, here is a summary by chapter of where I found interesting information. The book picked up for me around chapter 5. I found the first four chapters more of a challenge to read. Chapters 5 and 6 had some interesting information. I did not find chapter 7 to be interesting. By far, Chapter 8 is the best ...more
Audiobook, and the narration was fairly mediocre. So, my mind wandered...

I have always considered my own curiosity to be somewhat above average, and I generally consider high curiosity to be an admirable trait. Some quotes I already liked, prior to this book:

"Curiouser, and curiosuer!" - Alice in Wonderland

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." - Einstein

So... a book on curiousity seemd right up my alley :-) Overall, I did like the book. However, I didn't feel that I really
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book via the Goodreads giveaways.

The synopsis on this book was so fascinating and I was very excited to win this copy. Then, unfortunately, the author proceeded to prove a point he'd been making IN the book about how curiosity doesn't exist (or, dies) where the would-be-curious-person feels out of their depth with the topic. So, a person with little to no knowledge of physics isn't likely to be terribly curious about physics till they've gained a more basic foundation upon which to bu
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Could curiosity kill a cat? Or a human? Why are we curious? When did humans become curious? And why do we ask so many questions? These are only some of the topics that Mario Livio pursues in Why?: What Makes Us Curious.

Mario Livio opens the book with a chapter on what is curiosity. He then turns to an examination of two men (Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman) who exemplify curiosity. He then delves into various theories about what causes curiosity to arise in a person, the physical aspects o
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Who wouldn’t be curious about a book on curiosity?

I picked this up from the public library after seeing it in the “new books” section. Overall, it’s a mixed bag. It works best when focusing on the biographies of he curious. So the chapters on Leonardo and Feynman, as well as less known creatives are best. I also enjoyed the initial description of the 4 main types of curiosity. However, the chapters on neuroscience of curiosity read like homework— lots of recitation of the research in the field
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it
The book on curiosity is a very intriguing topic. The author starts off with description of two archetypal curious people - Leonardo Da Vinci and Richard Feynman. Their life was described well and Mario Livio stuck to the point on what makes them curious. I especially liked how he pointed out that even across the centuries, these two people shared the same curiosity for seemingly mundane observations like flames etc.
But the rest of the chapters were not gripping. The neuroscience is complicated
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
It is ironic that a book about being curious was so dreadfully boring. This had the feel of a decently interesting article that the author fluffed out to make the length of a book. The style was not engaging to me at all- I especially disliked where the author inserted himself into the interviews with the "curious" people, and told us what he thought after many statements made during the interviews. Some of the things he presents as evidence are not generally accepted theories in anthropology/ev ...more
The study of curiosity is very interesting and this book intrigued me. It was my first read by Livio and I felt he did an excellent job explaining extensive technical research without it being too dry.

There is so much information here, but my favorite parts included the information about the many famous scientists and what drove their curiosity.

This book did a great job explaining what is believed about what makes us curious and it also explains what is still left unanswered.

*Thank you to the au
Heather O'Neill
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Mario Livio looks into why humans are curious and gives examples of many famous people that were know for being curious.

The book was one for book club and it sounded interesting. It was a fast read, but I felt like it should have been written as an article piece and not a book. I didn't feel that the author really answered the question about what makes us curious because it turns out that it is something that we all are. Some are more than others. I felt like the book was more about famous intel
Jeff Wong
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a reasonably deep dive into what makes us curious. The author (whom one could also "accuse" of being very curious) spends a couple of chapters delving into Leonardo Da Vinci and Richard Feynman as two prototypes of insatiably curious individuals and then build a case for differing types of curiosity -- some of which seem to satisfy rewards centers in the brain and others avoid the feelings of punishment. In either case, a cognitive dissonance is striving to be resolved. I enjoyed reading ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it

I got stopped on page 58 when his "simple definition" of curiosity did NOT include the word 'what': "Curiosity is the desire to know why, how, or who". I am so offended at this. The history of human exploration has been a What question (What is over there? What is this thing I've never seen before?). A lot of my questions to Google are What questions (What does that mean? What happened? What is that called?) Sometimes I have When questions. I much prefer my own variation of his statement th
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