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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes Hardcover – 3 Jan 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books (3 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026579
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 954,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"An entertaining blend of Holmesiana and modern-day neuroscience."
--"New York Times"
"Maria Konnikova, a science writer and graduate student in psychology, has crafted a clearly written guide to the mysteries of logical deduction."
--"Dallas Morning News"
"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"
"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"
""Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes" is fascinating from cover to cover -- highly recommended."
--Brain Pickings
"Your favorite mental short-cuts and slip-ups are all here. But Ms. Konnikova finds an ingenious delivery system. Holmes and Watson, she shows, respectively personify our rational and intuitive modes of thought. In story after story, taking the time to think carefully allows Holmes to school his slack-jawed sidekick."
--"The Wall Street Journal"
"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"
"The fast-paced, high-tech world we inhabit may be more complex than Sherlock Holmes's Baker Street, but we can still leverage the mental strategies of the renowned reasoner...Forcing the mind to observe, imagine and deduce can make the brain more precise--important for solving cases or simply staying sharp as we age."
--"Psychology Today"
"Devotees of Arthur Conan Doyle's conundrum-cracker will be thrilled by this portmanteau of strategies for sharpening cognitive ability... A few hours in Konnikova's company and, along with Holmes, you might intone, 'give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere' ("The Sign of Four," 1890)."
--"Nature"
"Have you ever thought about how your mind organizes information? Have you ever wished you could access that data more quickly? Could recollect it easier? Or have you simply wanted to think more clearly at key moments?... This book is an absolute must if you're in the market for training yourself to think more like Sherlock Holmes."
--SheKnows.com
"A bright and entertaining how-to aimed at helping readers engage in the awareness described by psychologists from William James to Ellen Langer."
--"Kirkus Reviews"
"Not for Baker Street Irregulars alone, this fascinating look at how the mind works--replete with real-life case studies and engaging thought experiments--will be an eye-opening education for many." --"Publishers Weekly "(Starred Review)
"A delightful tour of the science of memory, creativity, and reasoning, illustrated with the help of history's most famous reasoner, Sherlock Holmes himself. Maria Konnikova is an engaging and insightful guide to this fascinating material, which will help you master your own mind."
--Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of "How the Mind Works" and "The Stuff of Thought"
"Far from elementary, Maria Konnikova's new book is a challenging and insightful study of the human mind, illustrated with cases from the career of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes himself would have been proud to author this fine work!"
--Leslie S. Klinger, "New York Times-"best-selling author/editor of "The""New Annotated Sherlock Holmes"
"Maria Konnikova's bright and brilliant new book is nothing less than a primer on how be awake, a manual on how to work ourselves free of our unconscious biases, our habitual distractions, and the muddle of our everyday minds. Holmes fan or not, the reader will find "Mastermind "to be bracing, fascinating, and above all -- and most important -- hopeful."
--Daniel Smith, author of "Monkey Mind"
"Since my earliest days as a reader I dreamt of being more like Sherlock Holmes and failed miserably whenever I tried. Needless to say, MASTERMIND is the book I didn't realize I was waiting for. Maria Konnikova has crafted a surprising and ingenious book that lets us all come closer to Holmes's genius, giving a gift to all readers interested in Conan Doyle, mysteries and scientific thinking as well as those who simply want to be more self-aware about the inner workings of our minds."
--Matthew Pearl, "New York Times-"bestselling author of "The Dante Club"
"'You know my methods, ' Sherlock Holmes once said to Dr. Watson. 'Apply them!' Science writer Maria Konnikova has made those instructions the inspiration for what turns out to be a delightfully intelligent book. Using Holmes and Watson as both muse and metaphor, she shows us some of modern psychology's most important lessons for using our minds well. I probably won't be able to solve murders after having read "Mastermind," but I will have much to reflect on."
--Carl Zimmer, author of "Soul Made Flesh "and "Parasite Rex"

An entertaining blend of Holmesiana and modern-day neuroscience.
New York Times
Maria Konnikova, a science writer and graduate student in psychology, has crafted a clearly written guide to the mysteries of logical deduction.
Dallas Morning News
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
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
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes is fascinating from cover to cover highly recommended.
Brain Pickings
Your favorite mental short-cuts and slip-ups are all here. But Ms. Konnikova finds an ingenious delivery system. Holmes and Watson, she shows, respectively personify our rational and intuitive modes of thought. In story after story, taking the time to think carefully allows Holmes to school his slack-jawed sidekick.
The Wall Street Journal
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
The fast-paced, high-tech world we inhabit may be more complex than Sherlock Holmes s Baker Street, but we can still leverage the mental strategies of the renowned reasoner Forcing the mind to observe, imagine and deduce can make the brain more precise important for solving cases or simply staying sharp as we age.
Psychology Today
Devotees of Arthur Conan Doyle s conundrum-cracker will be thrilled by this portmanteau of strategies for sharpening cognitive ability... A few hours in Konnikova s company and, along with Holmes, you might intone, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere (The Sign of Four, 1890).
Nature
Have you ever thought about how your mind organizes information? Have you ever wished you could access that data more quickly? Could recollect it easier? Or have you simply wanted to think more clearly at key moments?... This book is an absolute must if you're in the market for training yourself to think more like Sherlock Holmes.
SheKnows.com
A bright and entertaining how-to aimed at helping readers engage in the awareness described by psychologists from William James to Ellen Langer.
Kirkus Reviews
Not for Baker Street Irregulars alone, this fascinating look at how the mind works replete with real-life case studies and engaging thought experiments will be an eye-opening education for many. Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
A delightful tour of the science of memory, creativity, and reasoning, illustrated with the help of history s most famous reasoner, Sherlock Holmes himself. Maria Konnikova is an engaging and insightful guide to this fascinating material, which will help you master your own mind.
Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought
Far from elementary, Maria Konnikova s new book is a challenging and insightful study of the human mind, illustrated with cases from the career of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes himself would have been proud to author this fine work!
Leslie S. Klinger, New York Times-best-selling author/editor ofThe New Annotated Sherlock Holmes
Maria Konnikova s bright and brilliant new book is nothing less than a primer on how be awake, a manual on how to work ourselves free of our unconscious biases, our habitual distractions, and the muddle of our everyday minds. Holmes fan or not, the reader will find Mastermind to be bracing, fascinating, and above all and most important hopeful.
Daniel Smith, author of Monkey Mind
Since my earliest days as a reader I dreamt of being more like Sherlock Holmes and failed miserably whenever I tried. Needless to say, MASTERMIND is the book I didn't realize I was waiting for. Maria Konnikova has crafted a surprising and ingenious book that lets us all come closer to Holmes's genius, giving a gift to all readers interested in Conan Doyle, mysteries and scientific thinking as well as those who simply want to be more self-aware about the inner workings of our minds.
Matthew Pearl, New York Times-bestselling author ofThe Dante Club
You know my methods, Sherlock Holmes once said to Dr. Watson. Apply them! Science writer Maria Konnikova has made those instructions the inspiration for what turns out to be a delightfully intelligent book. Using Holmes and Watson as both muse and metaphor, she shows us some of modern psychology s most important lessons for using our minds well. I probably won t be able to solve murders after having read Mastermind, but I will have much to reflect on.
Carl Zimmer, author of Soul Made Flesh and Parasite Rex"

Book Description

An original and entertaining look at how we can use our brains to their full potential --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was very disappointed with this book. It reminded me of those self-help books full of little truisms and a lot of padding and 'winnowing the wind'. One adage is 'you only get one chance to make a first impression'. With the first chapter 'The Scientific Method of the Mind' she takes far too long setting out her stall. You feel as if you have paid for a seminar and half the time is spent explaining where the fire exits are, the evacuation procedure and where the coffee will be served. As you would expect she quotes some Holmes-Watson exchanges but then there are long digressions before returning to them. 'What is the point of this and when is she going to get to it?' you wonder.
Her writing style could be improved as well. She apparently writes for the 'Scientific American' and has at least four degrees. First the verbosity: the sentence at the bottom of page 53, for example, has 87 words and this is not unusual. Because of this they are full of sub-clauses and it is hard to extract the meaning from them. She also often uses the conjunction 'and' to start a sentence. Perhaps this is to try and shorten her sentences? But it indicates that it is an addition to the previous sentence and really part of it. As Craig Shrives says in his Grammar Rules: Writing with military precision 'Although it is acceptable to use 'and' or 'but'to start a sentence, this practice should be limited and only used for impact. If you find yourself using them regularly at the start of sentences, you should consider changing the style of your writing.'
The point of being concise and grammatical is that the content is readily understandable to the reader. My impression was, on cutting through all the verbiage, that there wasn't really an awful lot of content: the 'signal to noise ratio' is simply too low.
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