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.