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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes Hardcover – 17 Jan 2013

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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes + How to think like Sherlock: Improve Your Powers of Observation, Memory and Deduction + Sherlock: The Casebook
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (17 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857867245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857867247
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Fascinating...A delightful tour of the science of memory, creativity and reasoning (Steven Pinker)

An entertaining blend of Holmesiana and modern-day neuroscience (New York Times)

Here is a giant helping of Daniel Kahnemann, a tincture of Atul Gawande, a whiff of Nassim Taleb, a dollop of Jonah Lehrer...and the whole assemblage served, Heston Blumenthal-style, in a deerstalker hat (Sam Leith Guardian)

Devotees of Arthur Conan Doyle's conundrum-cracker will be thrilled by this portmanteau of strategies for sharpening cognitive ability (Nature)

Serves the non-Holmes aficionado as a route into the stories without any spoilers. And for those of us who have enjoyed the intellectual might of the great detective before, it gives us a fresh insight into Conan Doyle's deductive masterpieces (We Love This Book)

Ingenious... thoughtful... covers a wide variety of material clearly and organizes it well (Wall Street Journal)

Steven Pinker meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in this entertaining, insightful look at how the fictional London crime-solver used sophisticated mental strategies to solve complex problems of logic and deduction...This practical, enjoyable book, packed with modern science and real-life examples, shows you how to get your inner Holmes on and is worth at least a few hours of pipe-smoking reflection in a comfortable leather chair

(Boston Globe)

Based on modern neuroscience and psychology, the book explores Holmes's aptitude for mindfulness, logical thinking and observation... (Washington Post)

With wit and real flair, Konnikova suggests that by properly harnessing the great detective's [Sherlock Holmes] methods we can significantly improve our mental ability... Konnikova offers a way to turbo-charge our mental faculties, enhancing creative thinking and developing our powers of logic (Good Book Guide)

A treatise on how the Watsons of the world can smarten up...culled from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original works and cutting-edge psych research (New York Post)

Weaving together the fictional detective's cases and modern day neuroscience... important for solving cases or simply staying sharp as we age (Psychology Today)

The book is part literary analysis and part self-help guide, teaching readers how to sharpen the ways they observe the world, store and retrieve memories, and make decisions (Scientific American)

Ms Konnikova has that rare ability to make the complex easily understandable. And enjoyable, too. The reader is enlightened, and also entertained (Business Times)

An entertaining and perhaps surprisingly practical guide to being more observant. Like Holmes, she eschews emotional responses for intellectual ones (Independent)

Book Description

An original and entertaining look at how we can use our brains to their full potential

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Teodora Todorova on 6 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fine piece of literature, although it feels more like a research paper. I liked that it introduced me to a few new concepts and it deals with them in good detail. For example, the idea of practicing something continuously until it turns into a habit and you can no longer make a mistake. Or the concept of the brain attic and how we need to make sure we are storing exactly what we need. It's a good point that if we can't find the information we need quickly, we might as well don't have it at all. It's really interesting researching into the Florida effect and finding out that there are so many of these effects that influence us on a deep psychological level. Where I live I have always felt under the influence of weather and daylight and the Florida effect deals exactly with that. So now when I feel extra lazy or extra hardworking I sort of know what it is based on. And I can choose not to give in to the laziness, which is great. I was really intrigued by the idea that just by mere observing we can see more than on average and I tried to do that - tell what somebody does by the way he dresses and acts and got it right three times. It's quite a fun game too. But also shows you that we are far too judgmental and think we know more than we do. One of the best concepts for me was how our brain learns to see reward. I think it's fascinating to be able to train your brain to feel motivated and rewarded by imagining the end goal. So the little steps towards the goal may feel slightly devoid of reward and therefore resulting in very low dopamine levels, but the brain can see past that.Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Leitch VINE VOICE on 15 Dec. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and I agree that the patterns of thinking described and illustrated in the stories are so realistic that Conan Doyle must have had real life people in mind as his inspiration. Consequently, I was interested in Maria's ideas on how Sherlock's thinking works.

However, I have to report that I didn't think she had captured the truth. The writing is rather long winded and the theory, based largely on the analogy that memory is like an attic, was taken out of its original context and not applied accurately. There were some credulous references to psychology studies now known to be a bit dodgy (e.g. not replicated despite initial excitement),

In summary, I loved the idea for the book but not the psychological theorising. If the attic analogy had not bee relied on so heavily the book might have worked better.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Thibeault on 22 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

The main argument: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes is as popular today as when he was created back in the late 19th century. This comes as no surprise, of course, since there is just something about Holmes' peculiar qualities--his keen observation, clever imagination, and incisive reasoning capabilities--that is both awe-inspiring and inspirational. We admire Holmes for cutting through the errors of thought that are so common to us in our daily lives (and that are reflected in Holmes' sidekick, Watson). And yet we recognize that there is nothing in Holmes' thought that is entirely out of reach for us. Indeed, his qualities are not so much superhuman as human plus: human qualities taken to their extreme. Still, human qualities taken to their extreme are intimidating enough, and we may find ourselves doubting whether we could ever really think like Sherlock--even if we put our minds to it. But for cognitive psychologist Anna Konnikova, we should think again.

Holmes' prowess, Konnikova argues, rests no so much in his mental powers as in his mental approach. Specifically, Holmes has succeeded in making his thought methodical and systematic--essentially bringing the scientific method and scientific thinking to his detective work. This is an approach to thinking which, Konnikova argues, we can all practice. More importantly, it is an approach to thinking that can extend well beyond sleuthing. Indeed, it is a general approach that can help us get at the truth in virtually any arena, as well as help us solve virtually any problem.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover
"My son, be wise, and make my heart glad," -- Proverbs 27:11 (NKJV)

Mastermind doesn't quite fit into any category that I know. It's not a book about science. If it were, there would be a lot more science in it. It's not a self-help book. If it were, there would be a great many tools to apply along with exercises. It's not a pop culture book. If it were, the references would be to some character or person more contemporary than Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

To me, the book came closest to being that most wonderful of all books, a sincere homage designed to bring new reasons to appreciate a writer and his creations. Maria Konnikova uses scientific research and simple observations about psychology to validate the approaches used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in writing the Holmes books and stories. Reading Mastermind made me want to re-read the whole series again. Fortunately, I have a complete set in my library.

So if you can't get enough of Sherlock Holmes and his methods, Mastermind will be a source of new reasons to enjoy those fictional outings. If, instead, you want to learn about how to make better decisions, you'll find better books elsewhere.

In recent years I've found that books about Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tend to be on the debunking side. I enjoyed reading a book like this one that might have been written by a zealous defense attorney with good communication skills.

Have fun!
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