MASTERMIND by Maria Konnikova


How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
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A psychologist’s guide to mindful thinking in the vein of Sherlock Holmes.

“You see, but you do not observe,” says Holmes to Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Once again, the ever-sharp fictional detective explains his habits of thought—constant mindfulness, close observation and logical deduction—to his friend and assistant. Drawing on a lifetime immersion in the Holmes tales and the latest findings of neuroscience and psychology, Konnikova, the “Literally Psyched” columnist for Scientific American, debuts with a bright and entertaining how-to aimed at helping readers engage in the awareness described by psychologists from William James to Ellen Langer. Holmes offers “an entire way of thinking,” and not just for solving crimes. With practice, writes Konnikova, Holmes’ methodology can be learned and cultivated. Describing the workings of the “brain attic,” where the thought process occurs, the author explains: “As our thought process begins, the furniture of memory combines with the structure of internal habits and external circumstances to determine which item will be retrieved from storage at any given point.” With clear delight, Konnikova offers examples of Holmes’ problem-solving, from how he deduces that Watson has been in Afghanistan (A Study in Scarlet) to his use of pipe-smoking (“a three-pipe problem”) as a way to create psychological distance from the conundrum in “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League.” She notes that walking and meditation can also be useful exercises for clearing the mind. “The most powerful mind is the quiet mind,” she writes.

Will enthrall Baker Street aficionados while introducing many readers to the mindful way of life.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-670-02657-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2012


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