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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  6,849 ratings  ·  647 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 2013)
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Masha In a sense, this book genuinely makes you feel smarter. Like that dream textbook that you seem to have a conversation with? It's extremely interesting…moreIn a sense, this book genuinely makes you feel smarter. Like that dream textbook that you seem to have a conversation with? It's extremely interesting, however there is so much information to absorb that it took me a while to finish. I read it in addition to other books because it is more about the information than the storyline. (less)
Flutlicht You will not find an answer to that question in this book. Was a huge disappointment. I recommend reading the original stories from Sir Arthur Conan D…moreYou will not find an answer to that question in this book. Was a huge disappointment. I recommend reading the original stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and just carefully listen to what Sherlock says himself. He is explaining his own logic quite well in the original books and this book (mastermind) does not add much to that at all.(less)

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Feb 11, 2013 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 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
Feb 28, 2013 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
Jul 17, 2013 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
Dec 26, 2013 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
Aaron Thibeault
Jan 21, 2013 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 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
Jan 03, 2013 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. ...more
Dec 30, 2012 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
I’ll give her five stars for the book’s premise, but only two stars for execution. This book is like a good first draft. I would love to get in there and get the material organized in a concise readable format and get the scientific references cited properly so that it could be a good book.

The Writer is very wordy and takes several paragraphs to say what she’s trying to say, yet still doesn’t manage to say it. It’s hard to explain but she has a way of wording things in a mildly sarcastic way so
Dec 12, 2014 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
Jan 05, 2013 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
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
Emeraldia Ayakashi
Mar 19, 2014 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
Feb 19, 2013 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
Ahmed ElMashad
Oct 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1) What is the book about ?
-Maria Konnikova explains how she thinks Sherlock Holmes think. So the title is misleading.

2) What to expect from the book ?
-Redundancy, and hours of a boring book.

3) Recommended for whom?
-Any Sherlockian who has a lot of time to spare, and want to read something Holmesian.
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. ...more
Akib Ahmed
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-found
A book that deserves a reread (twice in my case). The writer gave emphasis on two Ms: Mindfulness and Motivation, but described Sherlock Holmes as much more than that. The level of isolation he provided his thoughts with was so extraordinary that resulted in him accurately deducing each case. This book deserves reread not because it's about Sherlock Holmes, instead, this book gives me methods to think elementarily. ...more
I found this book engaging, interesting and useful, both as a Sherlock Holmes fan and as someone who is interested in self-help books about self-awareness and how to hone our critical thinking and problem-solving strategies in our everyday life.

+1 When talking about how bias influences people's thinking, there are also some (brief, though) mentions of various forms of discrimination - sexism, racism, heteronormativity and ableism, mainly. She cites, for example, the study showing that women per
Jan 06, 2013 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
Megan Wilcox
A fascinating book. It was interesting, yes.
I enjoyed the snippets and discussion of many different Holmes cases.
Contained many fancy psychological terms and applications.
I found a few gems of great advice, which I intend to put to good use!
An interesting read, if nothing else.
Jeff Short
Cognitive science is interesting to me and I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so this book was a sweet spot. The author weaves moments from the Holmes canon into her approach to mindfulness. Konnikova relies on the wealth of literature on the subject and notes it. I like the Holmes illustrations and have long thought there were things to be learned from the stories beyond just the enjoyment of a great character and great stories. She put names to some of the things I have picked up from Holmes, but ...more
Mar 10, 2013 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
Jan 22, 2013 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
Tanja Berg
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rating 4 out of 5*. One star deduction only because most of the content was familiar to me from before. Despite this, I found it engrossing. I absolutely loved having Daniel Kahneman's two-system theory presented using Sherlock Holmes (and Watson) as an example. In fact, Maria Konnikova calls the two-system theory "Holmes" and "Watson". The Holmes side of it being mindful, aware of surroundings, careful of prejudice - whereas the "Watson system" is unware, lazy and quick to draw incorrect conclu ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I find it annoying when "scientific" evidence is presented to help prove facts, but no notation is provided except a brief suggested reading at the end of the book. Where are the footnotes or endnotes? Where is the specific study that Konnikova is referencing? Also, I have not read a lot of Doyle and I felt like that was another detriment. ...more
Jan 13, 2015 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. ...more
Eva Jensine
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bøker-jeg-eier
A truly insightful guide to the human brain, whilst providing a perfect balance between elements of Holmesian tales and provoking cognition to the reader. It is also a great reminder of how to go from mindlessness to mindfulness in today’s world. I will definitely be reading this book again in order to hopefully let the information register definitively!
Tarek Omran
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: human-behaviour
Such a light read yet uncovering interesting psychological concepts and phenomena, while simultaneously tying them to examples from various situations that took place in the fictional world of the infamous novels of Sherlock Holmes 🕵️‍♂️ .

Makes me wonder if the detective stories are all that fictional after all? (Fictions are anyway still based on worldly experiences that are a creation of an author that is bound by the same sphere that encloses us all - Planet earth. So no wonder, it fits perf
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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes 1 21 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 60 Apr 25, 2013 09:26AM  
Baker Street Irre...: Two new books reviewed 1 18 Jan 14, 2013 07:41AM  
The powers of deduction 1 26 Jan 11, 2013 05:09PM  

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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.” 35 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.” 11 likes
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