Maria was born in Moscow, Russia and came to the United States when she was four years old. Her first ever book was written in Russian. It was five pages long and had something to do with trolls. When Maria was in fourth grade, she wrote a play. It took what felt like years to complete and all of fifteen minutes to perform. The audience (of proud parents and siblings) raved. Maria cried when she realized that the sounds she kept hearing were not tears but suppressed—and then not so suppressed—laughter at the dead king who couldn’t stop wriggling as he lay on top of the two chairs that were supposed to symbolize his tomb. You know how the story ends. The chairs slid apart. The deceased monarch crashed to the floor. The room erupted. It was not how Maria had envisioned her first theatrical production.
Maria is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Confidence Game (Viking/Penguin 2016) and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Viking/Penguin, 2013). She is a contributing writer for The New Yorker, where she writes a regular column with a focus on psychology and culture, and is the host of the longform storytelling podcast from Panoply, The Grift. Her first book, Mastermind, has been translated into nineteen languages. It was nominated for the Agatha Award and the Anthony Award for Best Non-fiction and was a Goodreads People’s Choice Semifinalist for 2013. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, California Sunday, Pacific Standard, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, The Boston Globe, The Observer, Scientific American MIND, WIRED, and Scientific American, among numerous other publications. Maria is a recipient of the 2015 Harvard Medical School Media Fellowship. She formerly wrote the “Literally Psyched” column for Scientific American and the popular psychology blog “Artful Choice” for Big Think. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she studied psychology, creative writing, and government, and received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University. She previously worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose show on PBS. She still, on occasion, writes in Russian. She no longer writes plays.