REVIEW: A Curious Mind

REVIEW: A Curious Mind

PRODUCT (Book):  A CURIOUS MIND:  The Secret To a Bigger Life

Authors:  Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster [2015]


Brian Grazer knows how to “talk story.”  So does his collaborator on this book, award-winning journalist Charles Fishman.

Talk story” is a Hawaiian-style way of turning one-on-one conversations into an art form.  It is not “small talk.”

When you “talk story,” you ask questions, and then you listen to the answers.  Every answer and each question becomes a part of a bridge that you can use to enter into somebody else’s world-view.

“Listen” by Andre Vandal via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The conversation becomes a tour of another person’s mind and heart.  At the same time, you open up your own world to the other person.  Together you can play.

Talking story” is a way of making deeper connections with someone else and it turns the ordinary into something that is richer and more layered than just a news report or an annual Christmas brag letter.  It is a way of tapping into the realities of someone else’s life.

Old friends who are used to wandering together in each other’s worlds can hold hands and cross their bridges into each other’s lives in less than five minutes of talking.  All the memories come back in a rush, even if the friends have not seen each other for years.

Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, Kauai, by Wally Gobetz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Two strangers who are adept at ‘talking story” can be holding hands and skipping through each other’s worlds in no time at all.

It is a lovely thing.  According to Grazer, it is also a way to deepen your understanding of life and the world, and is a very good way to tell better stories.


Brian Grazer is a professional storyteller.  With his long-time friend and partner at Imagine Entertainment, Ron Howard, Grazer has been making movies and television programs for more than 30 years.

As both a writer and producer Grazer was personally nominated for four Academy Awards.  In 2002, he won the Best Picture Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, the amazing film about the life story of John Nash, a Princeton-educated mathematician who won the Nobel Prize and who was plagued by devastating schizophrenia.

Glazer’s films and television productions have been nominated for a total of 43 Oscars and 149 Emmys.  His movies generated more than $13 billion in worldwide theatrical, musical and video grosses.

In 2001, the Producers Guild of America honored Grazer with the David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award for his artistic and commercial accomplishments.


Grazer credits his successes to just one thing:  following where his lively, active curiosity leads him.

Curiosity by Georgie Pauwels via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
For as long as he has been in the film industry, Grazer has made a practice of setting up what he calls “curiosity conversations” with “interesting and accomplished strangers.”  The list of people with whom he has shared these conversations spans more than 27pages in the book.  He apologizes for any omissions.

The list includes people from almost every walk of life.  There are luminaries and superstars, scientists and renowned artists, villains and heroes as well as more ordinary sorts.  Each person Grazer spoke with was pursuing some passion or walking a path that engaged them completely.

The talks helped to inspire and inform the films Grazer has successfully produced as well as many other stories that he pitched to various investors that were ultimately rejected.


In this book Grazer explores what curiosity is and he explains how he uses it to expand his own world-view.  In the process he also points out how you, too, can use your own innate curiosity to do the same thing.  It is fascinating reading.

In one of the earlier stories in the book, Grazer tells about his curiosity conversation with former L. A. police chief Daryl Gates.  After months of trying to set up an meeting with the guy, the producer finally got in to see the police chief…just as the city of Los Angeles was on the verge of exploding in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating by L. A. police officers.  It was a tense time.

Official LAPD picture of Daryl Gates via Wikimedia Commons (circa 1978 – 1992)

[Clicking on the following link will take you to a CNN documentary that was posted on You-Tube in 2011.  The documentary was made 20 years after the beating and the riot that ensued when the police officers who were involved were acquitted of wrong-doing by a jury:]

Grazer says, “My visit with Darryl Gates was strange, memorable, unsettling.  In other words, it was perfect.”  Grazer’s mission when he met with the beleaguered police chief:  “I wanted a sense of the personality of someone who wears the chief’s uniform with absolute confidence, who commands a miniature paramilitary state.

Grazer accomplished his mission.  The conversation took him entirely out of his own everyday world.  It helped him to understand that even though he lived in the same city as the police chief, even though he was as successful and in a position of influence in his own way like the police chief, their worlds were “so different they hardly overlapped.”

The police chief and the movie producer looked at “the very same city from completely different perspectives, every day.”

Grazer explains, “One of the most important ways I use curiosity every day is to see the world through other people’s eyes, to see the world in ways I might otherwise miss.  It’s totally refreshing to be reminded over and over, how different the world looks to other people.


Developing this ability of using his curiosity to step into other people’s world-views has allowed Grazer and his partner Ron Howard to produce 17 movies that are very different one from the other.  Each film explores different very human points of view and different sets of real-life circumstances.

The films have allowed us movie-goers glimpses into where other people’s heads have taken them.  The movies are an impressive array of human experiences.  They include:

[picture credits: via]


Grazer’s thoughts on curiosity, asking questions and listening for the answers, and the ways one can use these things to broaden your own repertoire of ways of seeing and moving in the world is a fascinating study.

The book makes a useful manual for anyone who is cultivating a life that is rich and deep with meaning and mana.

I do highly recommend this book.  It is a most interesting read because, as I’ve said, Brian Grazer is a storyteller.  He knows how to tell good stories….

Here’s a poem….


Watch when the old ones talk.


Their eyes wrinkle, dart and dance.

Their words murmur like a stream.

Their hands dance patterns matching their words.

The laughter bubbles up.


When they tease, it is a test, you know.

If you can laugh at the world and laugh at yourself

What a joyousness there is!

All the pain of the world is understood

In the laughter of old people.

All the heartaches, all the mistakes,

Forgiven in one burst of gladsome rebellion.


Pettiness gives way.

Understanding comes.

We are all together and one,

Despite the anger, the arguments,

The pain, the despair.

We are one because

We can laugh,

We can sing,

We can dance,

We can love,

We can tease

And the layer on layer on layer

Delicate placement of every glistening, golden sound

Resounds as laughter reverberates.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  via



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10 thoughts on “REVIEW: A Curious Mind

  1. I found this website to be very helpful. I really enjoy A Curious Mind: The Secret To a Bigger Life. Whenever I’m looking for a book it’s always really nice to be able to come across the website that has so much information about the subject. I really do appreciate the links that help me to get to the other content so that I can buy it if I want to. Thank you so much for providing this wonderful website.

    1. Hey Tony: Thanks for the visit and the comments. I do appreciate them. I am so glad you found the website helpful. Please come again!

  2. Thank you for this in-depth and expository review on Brian Grazer’s A Curious Mind. Your explanation on the style of storytelling and what we should expect from the book was quite helpful. I’m going to look into reading this when I finish my current book. Also the product links were handy! Makes shopping for new reads and movies really simple

    1. Hey Em: Thank you for your visit and comments. Please do come again….

  3. Hey Netta, thank you so much for this comprehensive review of A CURIOUS MIND: The Secret To a Bigger Life. The background information you added is really valuable and it certainly helps me to make an educated buying decision. Do you know if the book is also available as an audio book? I’m commuting to work and love listening to audio books during that time 🙂


    1. Hey Chris:

      Thanks for the visit and for your comments.  A CURIOUS MIND is available as an audio book at  (It’s cool that you can commute and learn at the same time.  My commute time’s less than 10 minutes so it really doesn’t work for me.)

      Please do come again….  

  4. Wow, I really love the idea of a talk story, and think that this could be a more constructive way to have conversations with family, friends, and even colleagues! Anything that helps to bolster personal curiosity while helping to connect with others sounds like a win-win approach to the old challenge of effective communication.

    I’m going to spend some time with the links to learn more. Thanks!

    1. Cool, Aly!  I’m glad you found value in this post.  I do agree that using your curiosity to help you connect better with others can be a really effective way to communicate.

      Please do come again….

  5. That was an interesting read! I actually never even thought that I was silently a fan of his, since his movies were always liked by me, and I have watched them many times over.

    “A curious mind” seems to also be an interesting read, so I’ll definitely check it out. I like the quote that tells that he follows his active curiosity. I should do that too.

    1. Alex, I’m glad you found the post interesting.  When you follow your curiosity, what-happens-next can get very interesting indeed, I say!

      Please do come again….

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