David Ogilvy believed that the best advertising writers were marked out by ‘an insatiable curiosity about every subject under the sun’. Nowadays, as Ian has spotted, the same high level of curiosity is a requirement for progress in more and more jobs in business and government. In this excellent book, Ian Leslie explains why: the obvious ideas have mostly been done; what progress it is left now happens obliquely.

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group

Curiosity—that elusive, mysterious state—seems always to slide away when writers attempt to dissect it. Ian Leslie not only offers a compelling analysis of how curiosity works, he tells us how to prompt it in our children our employees, and ourselves. Both fascinating and eminently practical, Curious is a book to be relished.

Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Why Don’t Students Like School?

I would never have guessed that so slim a volume could so richly pique my curiosity about curiosity. Stuffed with facts, ideas, questions, quotes, musings, findings, puzzles, mysteries, and stories, this is a book—as Montaigne said of travel—with which to ‘rub and polish’ one’s brain. It’s the most delightful thing I’ve read about the mind in quite some time.

David Dobbs, features writer for the New York Times

In this important and hugely enjoyable book, Ian Leslie shows why it’s more important than ever that we find new ways to cultivate curiosity—because our careers, our happiness, and our children’s flourishing all depend upon it. Curious is, appropriately enough, a deeply fascinating exploration of the human capacity for being deeply fascinated, as well as a practical guide for becoming more curious yourself.

Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

A beautiful and important exploration of the need to nurture, develop and explore our curiosity even when we’ve long left our childhood behind. Ian Leslie reminds us of those essential life lessons that we tend to forget in our quest to be busy and productive: that sometimes, it’s ok to waste time; and often, the most productive mind ends up being the mind most open to indulging its most childish impulses.

Maria Konnikova, author of the New York Times bestseller Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

Ian Leslie argues that true curiosity is in decline. This book is a beautiful and fascinating tribute to one of the mankind’s most important virtues.

Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics at George Mason University

Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.

Stephen Fry

Machines are for answers; humans are for questions.

Kevin Kelly

Curiosity is the purest form of insubordination.

Vladimir Nabokov

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.

Albert Einstein, Scientist


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 practiced only by a cognitive elite.

Drawing on fascinating research from psychology, sociology and business, CURIOUS looks at what feeds curiosity and what starves it, and uncovers surprising answers. Curiosity isn’t a quality you can rely on to last a lifetime, but a mental muscle that atrophies without regular exercise. It’s not a gift, but a habit that parents, schools, workplaces and individuals need to nurture if it is to thrive.

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.

CURIOUS is on sale now in the UK.
The US edition is available for pre-order at: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound.
Canadian readers can pre-order here.


“Ignorance as a deliberate choice, can be used to reinforce prejudice and discrimination.”

“Only fiction has the power to cross the mental barricades, to make strangers intelligible to each other, because it moves people’s hearts as well as engaging their minds.”

“how does it feel,’ wonders the neuroscientist Christof Koch, ‘to bhe the mute hemisphere, permanently encased in one skull in the company of a dominant sibling that does all the talking?”

“What makes us so adaptable? In one word, culture – our ability learn from others, to copy, imitate, share and improve.”

“Society is held together by communication and information. Samuel Johnson”

“It’s only people, as far as we know, who look up at the stars and wonder what they are.”

“ignorant but happy’ effect – when people are confident that they have the answers they become blithely incurious about alternatives.”

“We know that new ideas often come from the cross-fertilisation of different fields, occurring in the mind of a widely knowledgeable person.”

“… knowing what not to know was itself indispensable knowledge.”

“Whoever you are and whatever start you get in life, knowing stuff makes the world more abundant with possibilities and gleams of light more likely to illuminate the darkness. It opens the universe a little.”

“The truly curious will be increasingly in demand. Employers are looking for people who can do more than follow procedures competently or respond to requests; who have a strong intrinsic desire to learn, solve problems and ask penetrating questions. They may be difficult to manage at times, these individuals, for their interests and enthusiasms can take them along unpredictable paths, and they don’t respond well to being told what to think. But for the most part, they will be worth the difficulty.”

“The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care much. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is. Stephen Fry”

“social loafing’ – the widespread tendency of individuals to decrease their own effort when they start working collaboratively.”

“A society that values order above all else will seek to suppress curiosity. But a society that believes in progress, innovation and creativity will cultivate it, recognising that the enquiring minds of its people constitute its most valuable asset. In medieval Europe, the enquiring mind – especially if it enquired too closely into the edicts of Church or state – was stigmatised. During the Renaissance and Reformation, received wisdoms began to be interrogated, and by the time of the Enlightenment, European societies started to see that their future lay with the curious, and encouraged probing questions rather than stamping on them. The result was the biggest explosion of new ideas and scientific advances in history. The great unlocking of curiosity translated into a cascade of prosperity for the nations that precipitated it. Today, we cannot know for sure if we are in the middle of this golden period or at the end of it. But we are, at the very least, in a lull. With the important exception of the internet, the innovations that catapulted Western societies ahead of the global pack are thin on the ground, while the rapid growth of Asian and South American economies has not yet been accompanied by a comparable run of indigenous innovation. Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University in Virginia, has termed the current period ‘the great stagnation’.”

“The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care much. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.”

“There’s a reason for this. Curiosity is unruly. It doesn’t like rules, or at least, it assumes that all rules are provisional, subject to the laceration of a smart question nobody has yet thought to ask. It disdains the approved pathways, preferring diversions, unplanned excursions, impulsive left turns. In short, curiosity is deviant. Pursuing it 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.”

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

“What made him exceptional were a ferocious will to succeed and a burning sense of epistemic curiosity. Jobs was interested in everything: the Bauhaus movement, the”

― Ian Leslie, Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It