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

I love falling into the fictional worlds dreamed up by authors far more creative than I. However, I do need to intersperse some nonfiction fare to keep my brain sharp. Plus, I love learning new things or being given new perspectives on knowledge I thought I already held. What can I say, I am curious about so many things. Which is why I was intrigued by a book that was all about curiosity. True to form, what drew my eye originally to this book was the cover, which features a cute owl. How can you say no to that?

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

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

In Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, Ian Leslie discusses the two main forms of curiosity (diversive and epistemic) and traces human interaction with our own curiosity, from babyhood through education and into adulthood. He finishes with seven ways we can hold onto our own curious natures.
The basic difference between diversive curiosity and epistemic curiosity is that diversive is the initial curiosity most of us born with. Epistemic curiosity is the enduring curiosity that causes us to want to look deeper into a topic. It lasts longer the more we use it and “epistemic curiosity requires us to care about our own information gaps, and that means…knowing something in the first place” (p. 124).

The book focuses mainly on psychology and education, which makes it an interesting read for me since I’ve been exploring the educational focus that librarians forget that our profession has.
What immediately intrigued me was the idea of the “curiosity zone.” Leslie describes it in this way: “When we know nothing about a subject, we find it hard to engage our brains, either because we can’t imagine finding it interesting or because we’re intimidated by the prospect of starting to learn about something that might, by its scale or complexity, defeat us. Conversely, when we know a lot about a subject and feel that we have pretty much got it covered, we’re unlikely to be interested in more information about it” (p. 37).
I totally get that. I rarely read books about journalism or topics that I know a lot about. Similarily, I avoid math like the plague. But science, literature I’m not overly familiar with and history are all topics that pique my curiosity.
Another area that was interesting to me was how the rise of the Internet has affected curiosity. Almost every single class I took during my Masters in Library Science discussed some aspect of the Internet and how it impacted our profession, from coding and organization to ethics and information overload. We often came to a similar conclusion that Leslie does: The Internet is a double-edged sword. Leslie argues that it’s great that we have access to information, but because it provides easier access than ever before to the knowledge that will sate our curiosity, it can often be too easy to find information. This can remove our curiosity, bit by bit. Leslie explains this conundrum in this way: “The Web solves the puzzles for us before we’ve had a chance to flex our cognitive muscles. As a result, we can allow them to waste away. … answers, when they are too easily available, kill curiosity before it has a chance to take root” (p. 52).
I think this negative view applies mainly to Googling. For example, you have a question, you type it into the computer, you have your answer, done. No need to be curious anymore. But I think there are aspects of the Internet that can continue to stoke curiosity. I personally sate my curiosity by letting experts teach me something of their choosing through short, narrative stories posted online. In this age of YouTube, it’s really easy to stoke your curiosity in this way. With that in mind, here’s a list of YouTube channels I subscribe to that always offer interesting views on subjects. It’s a great way to integrate lifelong learning into your YouTube routine (yes, there are more cute kitty videos on the Internet!).
  • Ted: You likely have already heard of TedTalks, the groundbreaking conferences that aim to give anyone the chance to share their unique ideas with the world. The YouTube channel is just an easy place to access these videos.
  • CrashCourse: Ever heard of John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, anyone?)? It turns out that he has a little YouTube channel where he gives viewers a crash course in literature, world history, U.S. history, and psychology. I love the humor he brings, as well as the pacing of the episodes. If I was a teacher, I would totally play his episodes during my classes.
  • SciShow and SciShow Space: Speaking of John Green, his brother, Hank Green, is a science guru, so he hosts another channel, which this time focuses on science news, science history and related concepts. A spin-off channel focuses on space news and related concepts.
  • V-Sauce: This channel aims to share some of our amazing world with viewers and to encourage people to think about what they already know in a different way.
  • BigThink: The Big Think is similar to Ted in that it aims to educate the everyday viewer by getting experts to talk about their field. I find that videos often force me to encounter my own misconceptions, which is great.
  • Mental Floss: This channel is mostly just trivia lists, but they always pull together really interesting (and often hilarious) facts.
  • SmarterEveryDay: The host of this show travels around exploring the world of science. What is unique here is that he often interviews experts in their field and then uses a high speed camera to capture and analyze amazing details we would otherwise miss.
  • The Brain Scoop: This channel explores the amazing things you can find at The Field Museum in Chicago, which houses natural history specimens, including preserved flora and fauna specimens.

The book was both a quick read and quite interesting. I found myself bookmarking multiple passages for further reflection. I would share them all with you, but there are just too many. So, really, you should just go read the book! Then hop on YouTube and get your curiosity on!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s