The appeal of A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life ultimately has as much to with who Brian Grazer isn’t as with who he is.
Grazer isn’t a psychologist or a scholar, and he never formally studied curiosity. He’s an Academy Award-winning movie and television producer (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, “24,” “Empire”) and a first-time author who spent the past two years trying to personally define his own curiosity.
The result is as conversational as the 30-plus years of “curiosity conversations” the book is based on—making it anything but a prototypical Hollywood memoir.
Instead Grazer, 63, who credits his grandmother with fostering his curiosity as a young boy, worked with journalist Charles Fishman to craft a consistent narrative about where his curious mind has led him. Their effort is less a depiction of Grazer’s career achievements—though the book is filled with moviemaking anecdotes—and more “a working portrait of curiosity itself.”
Fishman succeeds in capturing the eagerness and excitement of Grazer’s voice, especially when he talks about the “different shades and different intensities” of curiosity.
From Andy Warhol and LeBron James to Henry Kissinger and Fidel Castro, Grazer recalls his conversations with philosophers, bankers, Pulitzer Prize winners, archaeologists, neurologists, architects, seismologists and Fortune 500 executives.
He met with technology experts—Steve Jobs and later Tim Cook, who is currently the CEO of Apple Inc.—but understands that the knowledge afforded him through his curiosity extends beyond smart phones and tablets.
In fact, Grazer wryly states, “You can’t Google a new idea.”
Curiosity is free, but it can also be risky. His conversation with Edward Teller, a theoretical physicist, who helped develop the first atomic bomb, didn’t go particularly well. It lasted all of 45 minutes.
There was also the time he flew cross-country to meet with science fiction author Isaac Asimov only to be left sitting alone when, 10 minutes into the conversation, Asimov’s wife Janet proclaimed, “You clearly don’t know my husband’s work well enough to have this conversation.”
Curiosity is a learning process. It’s also a means of overcoming fear, and Grazer writes, “It never lets you down.” In fact, according to Grazer, curiosity motivates discovery.
His son Riley was only 7 years old when he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and, in the nearly two decades since, Grazer has worked continuously to “connect him to the world.” That effort combined with his curiosity indirectly led him to produce the Academy Award-winning film A Beautiful Mind.
The essence of the book is captured by Grazer in his introduction: “Life isn’t about finding the answers, it’s about asking the questions.” This thought-provoking salute to the power of curiosity is likely to motivate readers to begin asking more questions of their own.