In her new book, author Maria Konnikova teaches readers how to think like Sherlock Holmes.

Publishing a book inspired by the world’s most famous detective in today’s Sherlock Holmes–frenzied market is perhaps elementary, but few tomes guide readers through the brilliance of Baker Street’s bigwig like Maria Konnikova’s ­Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Viking, $27) does.

“Sherlock Holmes is not a superhero; he’s only a man. But what he does with his mind appears sometimes super­heroic, and yet part of his appeal is that he makes it look so easy, like readers can do it too,” says the 28-year-old Konnikova, a Harvard grad currently wrapping her doctoral work in psychology at Columbia University, in an interview with American Way. “The truth is, we can do what Holmes does. Most of us just don’t.”

Margaret Singer and Max Freeman
First entranced by the world of Holmes as a child, when her father would read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective tales to lull his daughter to sleep, Konnikova drew from her years of psychology training as well as the deep Sherlockian canon (four novels and 56 short stories, including her favorite, “Silver Blaze”) for her new book. The resulting work uses Holmes as a launching pad for a reader’s personal growth.

“If you want to think like Sherlock Holmes, the first thing you need to do is establish your personal goals: What do you want?” Konnikova says. “Holmes wanted to think like this because he wanted to catch criminals. But many of us have never stopped to consider what we really want. Answering that question allows you to narrow your scope; out of the millions of things you could possibly pay attention to, suddenly these are the things most relevant to your world.”

Still, Konnikova — who vastly prefers the BBC’s ­recent, Benedict Cumberbatch–­starring Sherlock to earlier adaptations — says that none of Holmes’ intellectual prowess comes easily or without constant, mindful practice. “Even after writing this book, I still do the things I tell people not to do,” she admits. “But I’d like to think I’m better in this world now than before, thanks to Sherlock Holmes.”



Train Your Brain

Konnikova outlines a few more critical steps to being a Mastermind.

Resist Multitasking
"Once you stop doing 10 things at once, you can be very purposeful about the one thing you need to be doing."
Quiet Your Mind
"A lot of times in yoga class, I hear the teacher talk about meditation and mindfulness and quieting the mind, and that's exactly what Holmes does. It allows him an inner clarity."

Stay Engaged
"Too much of our lives, we're on autopilot. You've got to stay focused and engaged with the world, or you'll keep losing your car keys."