cover image Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It

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

Ian Leslie. Basic, $26.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-465-07996-4

In this curiously uninspiring study, British journalist Leslie (Born Liars) superficially draws on science, psychology, and history to survey the evolution of curiosity in human life and culture and to lament its supposed recent decline. Leslie tracks the evolution of “diversive curiosity,” which opens our eyes to the new around us; to “epistemic curiosity,” the deeper and more disciplined kind of curiosity; and to “empathic curiosity,” which causes us to wonder about others’ thoughts and feelings and gives curiosity its deeply social quality. He then offers a brief historical survey of curiosity from the ancient world through the Middle Ages, when curiosity was often viewed as subversive and thus not encouraged, to the “age of questions,” beginning with the Renaissance and going up to the mid-20th-century, when curiosity drove scientific developments. Leslie dubs the period from around 1945 until today the “age of answers,” when the ready availability of answers to any question fostered a lack of curiosity about the world. As an antidote to the waning of curiosity in our time, Leslie offers seven ways to stay curious, including staying foolish, asking the big why, being a “thinkerer,” and turning puzzles into mysteries, but the book’s blandness mirrors the corporate and advertising worlds toward which it is geared. (Sept.)