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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  4,244 Ratings  ·  433 Reviews
No fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can we learn to cultivate these abilities ourselves, to improve our lives at work and at home?

We can, says psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova, and in Mastermind she shows us how. Beginning with the
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published January 3rd 2013 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2013)
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Annemarie Yes, it truly is. It is easy to read, even if you know absolutely nothing about the subject like I did. I read it over a large period of time so I…moreYes, it truly is. It is easy to read, even if you know absolutely nothing about the subject like I did. I read it over a large period of time so I could really do something with the information, but it's amazing. I loved it!(less)
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62nd out of 145 books — 472 voters

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Community Reviews

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Feb 11, 2013 C rated it did not like it
"Mindless: How to Regurgitate Useless Information"

Do you know what I learned in the first hour of this book while I went on my morning 5 mile run before I realized that there are no chapter markers?

Absolutely nothing. I actually groaned out loud numerous times and yelled "Come ON! Are you serious?" to the running path. The only explanation I can think of is that author must have been paid by the word, because she has reinvented the meaning of taking commonly known ideas and taken the phrase "be
Feb 06, 2014 Andreas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I was surprised about the many negative reviews here at Goodreads. The main complain is that the author doesn't come up with something new, which is true, and that the Sherlock Holmes examples are taken too far.

In the last months I have read a couple of books about our brain, perception, memory and how we think. Many of the discoveries can be found here in the book, nicely wrapped in the world of Sherlock Holmes. This by itself is an amazing thing! It's astonishing how good it works and a great
Dec 04, 2013 Janey rated it did not like it
Shelves: scrapped
If you're an avid Sherlock Holmes fan like me, then most likely you have already come across the examples and quotations explored in this book. Because that's what this book is all about: quotations, quotations and exploring and dissecting those Sherlock quotations in every manner possible. In short, you won't be learning anything new.

But if you're such a ginormous fan that you'll read even the back of a shampoo if it's labeled Sherlock Holmes, then by all means, read this. This book is more of
Aaron Thibeault
Jan 28, 2013 Aaron Thibeault rated it really liked it
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

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 thro
Sep 01, 2013 VaultOfBooks rated it it was ok
By Maria Konnikova. Grade: B

Sherlock Holmes, hands down, is my favourite detective, and Conan Doyle an absolute genius. Like all fans of his genre, I’ve devoured the books, the TV shows, and now, the movies. This is one such adaptation wherein author Maria Konnikova, a graduate of Harvard University and holder of PhD in psychology from Columbia University, applies her brain to find the science beneath the thrill.

The point of this book is simple. There’s something about Sherlock Holmes that keeps
Jul 17, 2013 Bayla rated it really liked it
"If you get only one thing out of this book, it should be this; the most powerful mind is the quiet mind. It is the mind that is present,reflective, mindful of its thoughts and its state. It doesn't often multitask, and when it does, it does so with a purpose" (p. 257).

A fine blend of character analysis, psychological research, and good writing, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes caught my interest and held it all the way through, which is a difficult task for nonfiction in general. M
Jan 10, 2013 Leah rated it it was amazing
Just a note: I review Sherlock Holmes-related books on a blog, so my reviews on Goodreads are generally shortened versions of those posts

Maria Konnikova, a doctoral candidate in psychology at New York’s Columbia University, first encountered Sherlock Holmes as a child, when her father read Waton’s accounts to her and her siblings at bedtime. As happens for many, the sleuth stuck with her, and in Mastermind she combines current psychological insights with lessons from the Canon, in the touchingly
Jan 05, 2014 Crow rated it it was ok
Well written grammatically but...

An extremely frustrating read in so far as that the inescapable premise of the book appears to be that psychological principles can be taught upon the back of an entire fiction. There is such paradoxical logic in this that at times I felt genuine anger, the work is simply riding the crest of a huge wave of interest in Sherlock Holmes at present, this is not in the main, psychology, but literary review in the guise of science, and as such the whole thing appears
Feb 13, 2014 Johanna rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
One major thing I learnt from this book?
I will never be Sherlock Holmes.
Which I sort of knew anyway. But instead of teaching me how to think like Sherlock Holmes, it kind of ended up discouraging me from even trying . . . which I'm pretty sure wasn't the author's goal.

Interesting: I did learn some useful stuff. Really quite slow and dull in places (*yawn*) - Not something to read on your holiday. Quite a bit of psychological, technical, long-wordsy stuff.
Dec 30, 2014 Ish rated it did not like it
A marketing ploy with a catchy title, devoid of any new, insightful content whatsoever. I am both a zealous Sherlock Holmes fan and familiar with Konnikova's work for the New Yorker, which, while not especially well-written or scientifically rigorous, at least attempts to discuss new research findings in contemporary neuroscience. At least it gets the mental gears turning in fresh directions. But, this useless, supposed "close-reading" of Holmes is a merely a childish regurgitation of detail thr ...more
Emeraldia Ayakashi
Mar 19, 2014 Emeraldia Ayakashi rated it really liked it
I do not think like Sherlock Holmes. Not in the least . This is the rather depressing conclusion I came to researching , until I read this book ...
Watch and observe. This is the secret key. When I first read these words, I was a child then and I was amazed.
Alertness and keen sense of observation used by Sherlock Holmes to solve the biggest mysteries are legendary. Although Sherlock Holmes is often used a survey to ascertain the facts , its approach demonstrates that he relied too much on his int
Apr 04, 2013 Sadaf rated it really liked it
As a psychology student, I am familiar with many of the studies that the author has mentioned to support her explanations. But, I like how she puts it across in a manner that layman could easily understand. What makes it different from mainstream psychology books, is that she takes sherlock holmes stories to explain how he trained his brain to think, and gives examples from his words and actions.
She also delves into real life incidents in the criminal world at the time when Sherlock holmes was
Rob Slaven
As usual, I received this book for nothing from a GoodReads giveaway but despite that kindness I give it my candid opinion below.

Our author's submission is one of those that tries to be two things at once, cross-selling you on a bit of neuroscience in the context of Sherlock Holmes as favorite fictional genius. The basic format boils down to something like this:

* Quote from a Sherlock Holmes story
* Here's what Holmes did that was so genius
* Here's what Watson, mental midget, did. [explanation of
Jan 08, 2013 Lisa rated it did not like it
I'm not going to finish this book because (1) it is redundant (padded like a high school paper with an assigned word count); (2) the psychological and neurological concepts are fairly basic; and (3) it's more about Holmes her hero than a book on mindfulness. If you're a big Sherlock Holmes fan, you'd probably like this.
Science For The People
Featured on Skeptically Speaking show #193 on December 21, 2012, on our special Book Review episode. This book was reviewed by Scott Huler and the review can be heard starting at timestamp 00:00:58.
Jan 05, 2013 Tom rated it did not like it
Simplistic and lacking research behind many of the suppositions, the book is more homage to Holmes and Doyle than how to improve thought process.
Crystal Starr Light
Sherlock Holmes is the epitome of the mystery genre and the private detective. He uses his senses, his expansive knowledge, and his cunning skill to seek out the truth behind the crimes that come to his door. But what goes on in Sherlock Holmes mind? How does he think? And can we get anywhere near the skill of the Master Detective?

While I like Sherlock Holmes well enough, reading two books and a couple movies based on the stories is not enough to call me a fan. The primary reason I read this boo
Apr 05, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
Fans of Sherlock Holmes, detective wannabes, and those who wish to improve their cognitive skills may find “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes” by Maria Konnikova to be an interesting—and certainly a thought-provoking—read. This nonfiction work tackles the inner functioning and the elements behind the mind of the most well-known detective in literary fiction. Konnikova contrasts what she terms “System Watson” from “System Holmes,” with the former being that which overlooks details and ...more
Jim Razinha
Apr 08, 2013 Jim Razinha rated it it was amazing
Wonderful survey of thought processes and cognitive theories woven within a framework of how the characters Sherlock Holmes and John Watson might approach problem solving. I hope Ms. Konnikova continues to write, because she has a talent like Sagan for making science accessible.

I found it less "how to" than the title suggests, rather "here are possibilities why you might think a certain way". I am particularly interested in the additional reading suggestions...the list grows longer with each of
Jan 02, 2014 Chanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me this was a three-star read but it will easily warrant a higher rating from someone with a more developed interest in the subject matter. I started with gusto but at about the halfway point my interest started to wane and the last half was a struggle. To the author's credit, I can't imagine any less talented writer would have been able to actively engage me that far and certainly not kept me involved enough to actually finish. The irony in my struggle to pay attention was that ultimately, ...more
Mar 01, 2013 Jeanne rated it liked it
Not what I expected. This book is one third anecdotal observations about using the powers of deduction in everyday life. That was very interesting. One third examples from Sherlock Holmes mysteries, kind of interesting but very chopped up and you never get the entire story. And one third part of some psychology thesis, not interesting at all. Plus the author treats Holmes as if he is not a fictional character but an actual detective from history and as if Conan Doyle did not manipulate both the ...more
Aman Mittal
Jul 30, 2014 Aman Mittal rated it liked it
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most curiosity generator fictional character and has been impressive in his ways for over a century. Starting from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books to the modern day adaptions on screen, every generation has known him. Even those people, who haven’t read the books but are always eager and curious to watch adaptions. Many on screen actors have tried cherishing him in their own ways, but few have grasped our curious mind by similarity in looks and characteristics. Sherl ...more
Nick Spill
Jan 18, 2016 Nick Spill rated it liked it
This is a great title. Add to that I am an investigator and a long time fan of Sherlock Holmes and you would think the book would be very attractive.
You know some books just flow. You are in tune with the writer's voice. One sentence flows to the next and hours later you realize you have been spellbound.
This was not my experience with the book that seemed long winded, repetitive and not as clear as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing. Maybe the book would have made a better long magazine article o
Anderson Diaz
Sep 03, 2015 Anderson Diaz rated it it was ok
Shelves: psych-aice
Sherlock Holmes is by far one of the most interesting and most intelligent fictional characters in history of literature. Apart of course from Batman because Batman is well let's face it Batman. What I enjoyed about the book was that it provided an insight on a very interesting character and it focused a lot on bringing to light his methods and process of thinking and deducing. It felt unique and I never have read anything like that before. However when you have such an interesting and exciting ...more
Jennifer Rivera
Sep 03, 2015 Jennifer Rivera rated it it was amazing
The book “Mastermind: how to think like Sherlock Holmes” is about the way our brains take in information and how we process it to later try to recall it. Our author, Maria Konnikova, has always been inspired by the way Sherlock Holmes thinks and how he is able to quickly recall any and every little detail for his crime solving job of being a detective.
If you’re like me and highly wish to improve your mind to become more like Sherlock Holmes, then this is an amazing book for you. It not only giv
Victoria Rodriguez
Sep 03, 2015 Victoria Rodriguez rated it liked it
I personally love anything to do with Sherlock Holmes so when I found out about a book that can teach me how to be like one of my favorite detective I had to read it. From my knowledge of Sherlock Holmes I believed him to be a super genius with an amazing memory and great insight. However I learned from this book that Sherlock has a systematic brain system that anyone can practice using over time and can be just like him. we have all been functioning on what was called the Watson system (or syst ...more
Jorge Rodriguez
Sep 03, 2015 Jorge Rodriguez rated it it was ok
Now, originally, I believed this book would be the most interesting book I will probably ever read. However, I was pretty shocked and disappointed. This book, as stated by one or more people, is more of a fan-made book with quotations upon quotations rather than a guide of how to think like the world-renowned detective. The author grabs an excerpt from Sherlock Holmes, pastes it into the book and asks if you fully understand the statement. Most likely, if you have enough common sense then you ca ...more
Cristian Bailey
Sep 04, 2015 Cristian Bailey rated it really liked it
The book was a pretty interesting one, considering the fact that Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite fictional characters. The author, Maria Konnikova, answered questions like how does he do that”? I’m sure that anyone and everyone who knows about Sherlock Holmes have had this question in their minds. Especially those who have seen Sherlock on Netflix

The easy to read book has not only helped me realize that seeing is very different than observing, but it also helped me see that my brain is lik
Sep 03, 2015 Jessica rated it it was ok
I am not a reader. I have a hard time focusing on books that I am forced to read. The way Konnikova formatted her book was an issue for me. Due to the fact I am not a star reader I survive off chapter to chapter reading which I didn't have. Therefore, this book seemed t dragged on and I lost interest several times and took me forever to read. In this book I learned about the cognitive approach again because Konnikova analysed the cognitive thinking. The cognitive approach is basically how what h ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Quinn rated it did not like it
I had to skim this one, it was pretty boring. It reads a lot like a literary examination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books. Before you read this book go to page 257 read the paragraph in the middle of the page that starts with "If you only get one thing out of this book..." if you like what you read then start at the beginning and if you get bored put the book down.
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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes 1 18 Apr 10, 2014 06:45AM  
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes 1 7 Mar 28, 2014 09:23AM  
Baker Street Irre...: Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes 2 55 Apr 25, 2013 09:26AM  
Baker Street Irre...: Two new books reviewed 1 17 Jan 14, 2013 07:41AM  
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  • Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
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  • The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date
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“the most powerful mind is the quiet mind. It is the mind that is present, reflective, mindful of its thoughts and its state. It doesn’t often multitask, and when it does, it does so with a purpose.” 18 likes
“We are terrible at seeking evidence that challenges our own beliefs, but other people do us this favor, just as we are good at finding errors in other people’s beliefs.” 5 likes
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