New York Times bestselling author Jonah Lehrer “unravels the mystery of mysteries” in this “absolute delight” (Malcolm Gladwell) of a book that blends psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology to shine a new light on everything from the formulas of our favorite detective shows to the tricks of successful advertising campaigns and the calculated risks of the stock market.
Why is mystery so compelling? What draws us to the unknown? Jonah Lehrer sets out to answer these questions in a vividly entertaining and surprisingly profound journey through the science of suspense. He finds that nothing can capture a person’s attention as strongly as mystery, and that mystery is the key principle in how humans view and understand the world. Whenever patterns are broken, we are hard-wired to find out why. Without our curiosity driving us to pursue new discoveries and solve stubborn problems, we would never have achieved the breakthroughs that have revolutionized human medicine, technology—and culture. From Shakespeare’s plays to the earliest works of the detective genre, our entertainment and media have continually reinvented successful forms of mystery to hook audiences.
Here, Lehrer interviews individuals in unconventional fields—from dedicated small-business owners to innovative schoolteachers—who use mystery to challenge themselves and to motivate others to reach to new heights. He also examines the indelible role of mystery in our culture, revealing how the magical world of Harry Potter triggers the magic of dopamine in our brains, why the baseball season is ten times longer than the football season, and when the suspect is introduced in each episode of Law & Order.
Fascinating, illuminating, and fun, Mystery explores the many surprising ways in which embracing a sense of awe and curiosity can enrich our lives.
Jonah Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and the author of Mystery, A Book About Love, How We Decide, and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. He graduated from Columbia University and studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He’s written for The New Yorker, Nature, Wired, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
“Following Jonah Lehrer's curiosity, as he unravels the mystery of mysteries, was an absolute delight. I loved this book and learned something on every page.” —Malcolm Gladwell, author of Talking to Strangers
“Through interviews with schoolteachers and business owners and writings on topics ranging from Shakespeare to American sports, Lehrer makes an enticing case for how humans have harnessed mystery and suspense to revolutionize society.” —New York Times
“‘I know,’ says the wise man. ‘You don’t have to tell me, I already know.’ That’s not wisdom, says this book. It’s what we don’t know that makes us hungry, human—and wise. Jonah Lehrer takes us on an ‘I-can’t-figure-this-out’ tour that includes a boy opening a sack of toys, a few inches added to a pitching mound, a mechanic puzzled by a Porsche, and any number of telling stories that salute the power of not knowing—and loving, truly loving, the mystery.” —Robert Krulwich, former co-host of Radiolab
“It’s no longer a mystery how to bring together psychology, literature, and the arts in an exciting and interesting way since Jonah Lehrer has done it in this gem of a book. I savored every page.” —Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of Mindfulness
“Jonah Lehrer has done it again—this time addressing The Big Why: How the ‘mysteries within mystery’ hook our brains and won’t let go. With his usual charm and unexpected surprises, Lehrer shows us how the hard-wiring of our minds loves to scratch that insistent mysterious itch.” —Bruce Nelson, Vice-Chairman, Omnicom (ret.)
“In this fascinating and rigorous new book, Jonah Lehrer solves the mystery of mystery itself—why mystery is so seductive for human beings, and how we can use this device in our everyday lives. Everyone will find it compelling—it explains so much.” —Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections
PRAISE FOR JONAH LEHRER AND A BOOK ABOUT LOVE:
“Good writers make writing look easy, but what people like Lehrer do is not easy at all. . . . Jonah Lehrer has a lot to offer the world.” —David Brooks, The New York Times Book Review
"Lehrer is a talent. . . . The animating idea of his intriguing new book is that two opposing psychological laws, habituation and love, shape much of human experience. . . . Lehrer uses scores of detailed vignettes to traverse a complicated intellectual landscape, eventually arriving at modern theories of love." —Matt McCarthy, USA Today
HOW WE DECIDE:
“Jonah Lehrer ingeniously weaves neuroscience, sports, war, psychology, and politics into a fascinating tale of human decision making. In the process, he makes us much wiser.” —Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational
"Lehrer proves once again that he’s a master storyteller and one of the best guides to the practical lessons from new neuroscience.” —Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail
PROUST WAS A NEUROSCIENTIST:
"Jonah Lehrer is a brilliant young writer. His clear and vivid writing—incisive and thoughtful, yet sensitive and modest—is a special pleasure." —Oliver Sacks
"Marks the arrival of an important new thinker, who finds in the science and the arts wonder and beauty, and with equal confidence says wise and fresh things about both." —Jesse Cohen, Los Angeles Times Book Review
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