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 a contributing writer for The New Yorker online, where she writes a regular column with a focus on psychology and culture, and is currently working on an assortment of non-fiction and fiction projects. Her first book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Viking/Penguin, 2013), was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into seventeen 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 second book, on the psychology of the con, is scheduled for publication by Viking/Penguin next winter. Her writing has appeared online and in print in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, 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, and is a Schachter Writing Fellow at Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center. 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.