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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes Hardcover – January 3, 2013
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"Entertaining blend of Holmesiana and modern-day neuroscience." (The New York Times)
"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 detection...practical, enjoyable book, packed with modern science." (The Boston Globe)
"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, "Required Reading")
"Devotees of Arthur Conan Doyle's conundrum-cracker will be thrilled by this portmanteau of strategies for sharpening cognitive ability." (Nature)
"Weaving together the fictional detective's cases and modern day neuroscience...important for solving cases or simply staying sharp as we age." (Psychology Today)
"Based on modern neuroscience and psychology, the book explores Holmes's aptitude for mindfulness, logical thinking and observation...shares strategies that can lead to clearer thinking...help people become more self-aware" (Washington Post)
"MASTERMIND is the book I didn't realize I was waiting for...surprising and ingenious...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)
"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." (Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review)
"Bright and entertaining ... Will enthrall Baker Street aficionados while introducing many readers to the mindful way of life." (Kirkus Reviews)
From the Back Cover
"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: A Memoir of Anxiety)
"'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)
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Another issue with the book is that it isn't quite sure if it wants to be a psychology book, explaining key cognitive concepts through the framework of Sherlock Holmes, or a pop culture book, looking at what Sherlock Holmes can tell us about cognition and psychology. As a result, it fails to really be either. The book alternates between analyzing the deductive prowess of Sherlock Holmes and explaining current research in cognitive psychology, but the switch between the two is sometimes jarring. There isn't a fluid amalgamation of the two. Furthermore, it struggles to be an elaborate analysis of Holmes' deductive reasoning, with latter chapters reframing concepts from earlier ones. The book takes a very long time to explain too few concepts that require less detail than what is actually given.
The book ultimately might be mistitled. One would expect a book subtitled "How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes" to actually have instructive steps and exercises, but it does not. The only clear recommendation is to maintain a journal. Other elements are analyzed, but no actual instructions are given on how to successfully implement them in daily life. For example, after reading extensively about mindfulness, you really only come away with the idea that you have to be more mindful, and very little on how exactly to set up a successful regimen to train yourself to be more mindful.
Most of the book can be summed up with the idea of simply being mindful of your surroundings and your thinking methodology - essentially meta-thinking - yet the book only approaches a few key elements of critical thinking, and there is not enough of an examination of the actual process of deductive reasoning. It talks about imagination and knowing your own weaknesses, but fails to cover any significant ground on memory techniques to improve recall. Holmes wasn't just a great deductive logician, but also had a keen memory.
Lastly, much of the final chapter seems like it was tacked on for good measure, but it was wholly unnecessary. In fact, the final chapter is mostly an examination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's spiritualism and foray into a faerie investigation. Konnikova seems almost apologetic for Doyle's folly, asking us to remember to see things through the context of Doyle's life and surroundings. It seemed vastly out of place.
Mastermind is an excellent choice for those who are fans of Sherlock Holmes and want to see how his abilities relate to cognitive psychology, but if you've taken a college level course on memory and learning, you'll already be familiar with the concepts presented in this book. If you're looking for instructions on how to actually think like Sherlock Holmes, you'll come away with about four or five ideas to ponder as you think about your own thought processes, but ultimately you'll want to examine reasoning and critical thinking topics in other books for more details.
It tends to be a little long winded. She could easily make her points in less time. However, her writing style is easily accessible without being condescending.
Mastermind is typically a term used in business circles for a group of people getting together to hash out ideas in a way popularized by Napoleon Hill in "Think and Get Rich". This has nothing whatsoever to do with that. The book has more to do with how we, as individuals, think and observe.
Good book. Definitely worth the read.
One point she stressed is that while the book uses Sherlock as an example, anyone interested in cognitive science will find it a good read. My daughter has begun implementing some of the suggestions and I can actually see a change in her!! It is incredible that such simple practices could make such a shift in perspective.
An excellent book to read or give as a gift.
I remember back in college I was capable of doing things beyond the norm of human capabilities. Now I just reminisce and ask what happened?!
It's an effect that happens to us all, and Mrs. Konnikova does a very thorough job at pointing this out and setting a simple process to gain back mindfulness and so much more.
With this said, and the point that I worship human thought and logic above all else, I am very happy to have come across this book and highly recommend it to anyone. You don't even have to know who Sherlock Holmes is in order to take advantage of this useful tool.