Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes
by Maria Konnikova
Paperback, 288 pages
Published December 31st 2013 by Penguin Books
Source: finished copy from Publisher
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 inMastermind she shows us how. Beginning with the �brain attic”—Holmes’s metaphor for how we store information and organize knowledge—Konnikova unpacks the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights. Drawing on twenty-first-century neuroscience and psychology, Mastermind explores Holmes’s unique methods of ever-present mindfulness, astute observation, and logical deduction. In doing so, it shows how each of us, with some self-awareness and a little practice, can employ these same methods to sharpen our perceptions, solve difficult problems, and enhance our creative powers. For Holmes aficionados and casual readers alike, Konnikova reveals how the world’s most keen-eyed detective can serve as an unparalleled guide to upgrading the mind.
I love Sherlock Holmes. Always have. I’ve read a bunch of his original books, and I’ve seen all sorts of movie and tv show portrayals about him. Mastermind initially appealed to me because it was all about my favorite part about Sherlock Holmes- his thought process. Sherlock is brilliant. He seems to see everything, and Maria Konnikova claims to be able to unlock the magic of Sherlock’s mind.
Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes explores Sherlock’s thought process. But it doesn’t tell you how to actually think like him. It is more like a study and breakdown of how he thinks. Still a very interesting read, but only if that is what you are looking for. If you are expecting a how- to book, this is not going to turn you into a master of deduction by the time you are done reading it. It felt much more like a scholarly research thesis. She really delves pretty deeply into how Sherlock’s mind works. Even though Maria clearly knows her neuroscience and psychology, she manages to keep the book very readable. She takes complicated concepts and does a good job about breaking them down and explaining them in layman’s terms. I thought the book had a good flow to it. She breaks down Sherlock’s thought process into 4 main parts and then explains each of them. I thought this was good, but a few points in the book it dragged on a little bit. I thought she could have been a little more concise in her explanations. A couple of times while I was reading, I caught myself thinking, “Ok, ok I get it. Let’s move on.” But the core concepts were so interesting that I couldn’t put the book down.
I connected with the authors love of Sherlock Holmes, and I really liked how she incorporated passages from classic Mr. Holmes and then she would tie them into her own research flawlessly. I also loved how she explained how observant we are as children because everything is new and exciting to us, so we absorb everything, and then once we get older everything starts to seem more and more blase and we lose some of that overeager excitement from our surroundings.
Once Maria breaks down the though process that our brain naturally goes through, she lays out the pitfalls that we normally fall into that keep us from going from average to super human Sherlock. Basically I came away from Mastermind with the idea that if I continually practice, the steps that Sherlock goes through to create his methodical approach might become a little bit easier to do. Or at least, you will gain an appreciation for how Sherlock’s mind works- theoretically. I enjoyed reading about the ideas Maria presented, and I found them to be helpful, but again I feel like I should note that you are not given ideas of how to implement them for yourself. For example, she says that you need to be able to recall information that you have gathered quickly, and if you cannot access it quickly enough, then it may not be useful to you after all. Yes, that makes a lot of sense to me, but how do you speed up sorting and recalling that information. Well, that is not something found in this book. Which is fine, I enjoyed the book for what it was, but the title can be a bit misleading. Mastermind is very interesting research on how Sherlock thinks. Fans of Sherlock Holmes and of neuroscience or psychology will probably find this book interesting. Maria Konnikova is very straightforward in her writing and presents some very interesting ideas.