Featured book: Curious Minds

What is curiosity? Authors Perry Zurn and Dani Bassett offer an exhilarating exploration of curiosity’s powerful capacity to connect ideas and people

Curious about something? Google it. Look at it. Ask a question. But is curiosity simply information seeking? 

According to Curious Minds: The Power of Connection, what’s left out of the conventional understanding of curiosity are the wandering tracks, the weaving concepts, the knitting of ideas, and the thatching of knowledge systems—the networks, the relations between ideas and between people. Curiosity, say Perry Zurn and Dani Bassett, is a practice of connection: it connects ideas into networks of knowledge, and it connects knowers themselves, both to the knowledge they seek and to each other.

Authors Dani Bassett and Perry Zurn (credit Tony and Tracy Wood Photography).

Zurn and Bassett—identical twins who write that their book “represents the thought of one mind and two bodies”—harness their respective expertise in the humanities and the sciences to get irrepressibly curious about curiosity. Traipsing across literatures of antiquity and medieval science, Victorian poetry and nature essays, as well as work by writers from a variety of marginalized communities, they trace a multitudinous curiosity. 

“In using a single word, a single concept, a single history, we allow curiosity to be defined, parameterized, and, yes, eventually regulated,” the authors write. “What people have perhaps too often forgotten is the manyness of curiosity: its multiple manifestations, its plethora of practices, and its kindred kinds in many bodies.”

They identify three styles of curiosity, embodied by the cover illustration: 

  • the busybody, who collects stories, creating loose knowledge networks; 
  • the hunter, who hunts down secrets or discoveries, creating tight networks; 
  • and the dancer, who takes leaps of creative imagination, creating loopy ones. 

Investigating what happens in a curious brain, they offer an accessible account of the network neuroscience of curiosity. And they sketch out a new kind of curiosity-centric and inclusive education that embraces everyone’s curiosity. 

The book performs the very curiosity that it describes, inviting readers to participate—to be curious with the book and not simply about it.

Cover of Curious Minds

Curious Minds in the media:

  • “Zurn and Bassett changed my mind about what curiosity is at its essence. This bold new theory for curiosity has enormous implications for building a more curious, creative, and equitable society.”
    —Angela Duckworth

Learn more about Curious Minds