Maria Konnikova

Welcome to my blog. I’ll do my best to update it regularly (or semi-regularly, at the least…) with news, writing updates, and other assorted thoughts. Read, enjoy, and please share your thoughts and comments. If you’re looking for psychology pieces at the New Yorker, you can find them here. If you’re looking for my old blog about literature and psychology, Literally Psyched, you can find it here.

Hour glass illustration

A recap of MASTERMIND’s second publication month

February 27, 2013

It’s hard to believe that February is nearly over–and so, too, is MASTERMIND’s (almost) second month of life. It has been quite the whirlwind.


A lot has happened over the last few weeks. MASTERMIND was reviewed by the Barnes & Noble Review, which called it “knowledgeable…comes together beautifully,” appeared on io9’s list of 23 science books so exciting they read like fiction, and was featured in Scientific American‘s new monthly video series with Carin Bondar, SciAm Cinema. A few new book-related pieces I wrote–for Wired UKBig Issue, United Academicsand the UK Huffington Post–came out, and two new excerpts were published, in Harvard Magazine’s March/April issue (with a gorgeous illustration by Boris Kulikov, featured here, above) and the Globe and Mail. A talk I gave at the RSA was put online, as were my conversation with Team Locals in Portsmouth and an excerpt of my conversation with Big Think. I also did a few more radio appearances, for NHPR’s Word of Mouth, WYPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks, the Tom Dunne show on Newstalk, BBC’s Nightwaves with Matthew Sweet, the BBC Robert Elms show,and RTE’s Radio 1 – and a few podcasts, with Little Atoms and the Baker Street Babes. I also did a live Q&A with the Guardian (which includes a link to the podcast we taped while I was in the UK) and a Reddit AMA, which was a lot of fun. And last of all, some written Q&A’s that I did for Pursuit Magazine, the Baker Street Beat, Robert Morris’s Blogging on Business, and the Page 99 Test.

More updates to come, but for now, I’m fairly updated out…as, I am sure, are you.

Image credit: Boris Kulikov, from the March/April 2013 issue of Harvard Magazine.

Some UK tour highlights

January 28, 2013

This weekend, I got back from my week-long UK book tour . Well, London book tour would be slightly more accurate–but  there were a few other geographic highlights, to be sure. This snowman, for instance, made my acquaintance in the lovely city of Bristol, after I spoke at the Bristol Ideas Festival:


And this video, an interview with Team Locals, was shot in none other than Portsmouth, home of one of the largest collections of Arthur Conan Doyle papers in the world. (Sadly, the whirlwind tour came with a side of flu midway through, and I couldn’t peruse the archives as I’d wanted to do.)

The rest of the trip was spent in London, where I spoke at the RSA (audio of the talk is already available, and video will be up shortly; I’ll update the link when it is) and the School of Life, and discussed Books for Breakfast at London’s Soho House. And then, of course, were the radio and podcast turns. I had a great time at the BBC, speaking with Matthew Sweet for Night Waves (and it was lovely to meet Alan Rusbridger there, as well!).

BBC Night Waves

I also enjoyed speaking  with Robert Elms for BBC London 94.9, Tom Dunne for NewsTalk, and RTE1 Arena. Equally fun were my conversations with BBC’s Live Up All Night and BBC Radio Scotland’s Book Cafe; the audio for those, alas, is yet to be located (if you come across it, drop me a line!). I also enjoyed doing several podcasts, with BBC Focus, the Guardian,  and Little Atoms. The audio for those will be online soon, and I will update this post accordingly. Aren’t the Guardian’s offices gorgeous?

Guardian podcast

And how cool is this? I had a chance to film a conversation with Canongate at 221B Baker Street itself.

221B Baker Street

Now that was pretty amazing. The video itself will be available soon.

Finally, two original pieces that I wrote for the UK: a piece for the Huffington Post on Holmes’s fallibility, and one for Big Issue on Holmes’s thought process.

And now really finally, Canongate created this super cool game to promote the book. It’s addictive. And I’m not just saying that.

MASTERMIND debuts (and stays) on NYT Bestseller list–and other updates

January 28, 2013

Just over a week ago, I was thrilled to find out that MASTERMIND had debuted at #21 on the New York Times Bestseller list in its first week of sales. I couldn’t have anticipated such a great response!

bestseller 1-12-13

And I was incredibly honored just a few days ago to see it holding on for a second week, at the same #31 spot.

Bestseller 1-19-13

I’ve been lucky to get some wonderful press surrounding the book over the last few weeks. BusinessWeek featured it in its weekly roundup of best new releases, and science journalist and editor Alexandra Witze reviewed it for the Dallas Morning News, calling it “a clearly written guide to the mysteries of logical deduction”. The Washington Post‘s Maggie Fazeli Fard wrote about it for the paper’s science section and Jennifer Miller beautifully highlighted some of its key points for FastCoCreate. Steve Rubel included some high points of our conversation on his LinkedIn blog (and I was thrilled to see it become the top LinkedIn story of the week! thank you, Steve) and Women’s Wear Daily got my take on all things deerstalker and houndstooth for the magazine.

I had a wonderful time discussing the book with Chris Mooney for his Point of Inquiry podcast and talking about Sherlock Holmes’s take on mindfulness and creativity with Big Think. And what a great chat with the lovely Baker Street Babes! Thank you for having me on your show, ladies.

MASTERMIND was also featured in SheKnows Books for a Better You for 2013, Shutterstock’s “5 New Books That Will Jumpstart Your Creativity in 2013,” and Next Avenue’s 9 best new books for baby boomers. And to round out the week, some reviews from We Love This Book, the popular BBC-Sherlock-inspired blog Sherlockology, the reading-centric blog the Feminist Texan, Entomology of a Bookworm, and, in keeping with the bookworm theme, Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. Finally, the Houston Chronicle asked its readers to reflect on their own brain attics in this piece from culture blogger Kyrie O’Connor.

As ever, thank you all for the phenomenal support!


And the first week post-launch concludes!

January 11, 2013

It has been a busy week or so with MASTERMIND’s release. It started with a reading and book signing at BookCourt:

This 10-year-old wanted to know whether he was too young to think like Holmes. Never!

The reading was topped off by MASTERMIND’s first post-release reviews, including the Wall Street Journal (“ingenious” and “thoughtful…she covers a wide variety of material clearly and organizes it well”); the Boston Globe, “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 New York Post (“Required Reading”);  the Toronto StarCriminal Element; Katherine Ramsland’s Psychology Today blog; and Big Think.

MASTERMIND also received this wonderful recommendation from Maria Popova’s Brain Picking and a mention in the February issue of Vanity Fairin the “In Short” section, and was included in The Stylist‘s list of soon-to-be-cult books of 2013, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Books for a Fresh Start for 2013, and Poets & Writers anticipated books of 2013. The book was also featured on GigaOm, including a series of video interviews that I had with Om Malik this December in San Francisco, and was reviewed by the Sherlockian blogs Better Holmes and Gardens and the Well-Read Sherlockian and the science blog Doing Dewey.

Then, a few additional excerpts ran, in Scientific American, io9, and BoingBoing, as did one original essay, in The Atlantic. There were also some profiles, including this interview for CNN, this profile  in The Scientist, this conversation The Scotsman, and some conversations in American Airline’s and Southwest Airline’s in-flight magazines, American Way and Spirit. I also completed a Q&A for Shelf Awareness’s Book Brahmin and one with Jonathan Gottschall, author of the wonderful The Storytelling Animal, for his blog on Psychology Today.

And then, there were the radio spots. On Monday, I spoke with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer.

Courtesy of Brian Lehrer show.

I also chatted with WAMC’s Joe Donahue and Veronica Rueckert for Wisconsin Public Radio’s ideas network, and had a conversation with Michael Cohen for WILS’s Capital City Recap.

It has been a busy week. Thank you all so very much for your incredible support–and I’m glad that even the felines are helping book sales. You are the best!!

Book Court and cat photography courtesy of the mighty photographic skills of Cara Zimmerman–who also happens to be the artist behind the site’s original images.

US Publication Day is here!

January 3, 2013

Today is the official US Publication Day for MASTERMIND! Cue the excitement.

To mark the date, a few things: first, a look back at my first ever Holmes piece for Scientific American. Then, an excerpt from the book over at Reuters. And finally, a new essay on the journey that led to MASTERMIND for Slate. Happy reading!

And I would love to hear your thoughts on the book. Like it? Hate it? Please share a review on Amazon. I would greatly appreciate it.

With one day until the US release, some new MASTERMIND reviews

January 2, 2013

Just one day to go until the US release of MASTERMIND! In the meantime, a few more advance reviews for the book, from Kirkus Reviews, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Kirkus calls MASTERMIND “bright and entertaining … Will enthrall Baker Street aficionados while introducing many readers to the mindful way of life.” In the February issue of Psychology Today, Marina Koren includes MASTERMIND in the “Bookshelf Insight” section of the magazine. And Anna Kuchment includes the book in Scientific American‘s “Recommended” list for January 2013.

I’ve created a Facebook event to share tomorrow’s big day with you. Let the countdown begin!

Don’t know who this is, but it’s how I feel. Image credit: Creative Commons, Alexandre Normand’s Flickr photostream.

I’m totally making this face right now.

MASTERMIND appearances, reviews, and other assorted thoughts

December 27, 2012

There’s been a lot of great MASTERMIND news in the last few weeks – and I’ve been terrible about adding updates to the website. So, I’ve decided to just lump everything in here.

First, I’ve done two radio appearances that I’ve enjoyed very much, one on MASTERMIND specifically, for NPR’s Dinner Party, and one on a piece that I wrote earlier in the month for The Boston Globe, on attention and boredom, for WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show.

MASTERMIND has also received two new reviews. Nature‘s “Books in Brief” writes: “Devotees of Arthur Conan Doyle’s conundrum-cracker will be thrilled by this portmanteau of strategies for sharpening cognitive ability.” A pdf of the review is available here. And Scott Huler adds MASTERMIND to Skeptically Speaking’s “Science Books for Your Gift List.”

There are also a few interviews and mentions that have come out in the last few weeks. I did an interview for Publisher’s Weekly, and the pdf is available here. Here are some questions I answered for the “Slightly Bookist” blog. And here is a lovely write-up of my writing that ran in Library Journal.

And in some miscellaneous news, the wonderful tech blogger Om Malik included MASTERMIND on his holiday reading list. I’m thrilled to be right next to Nate Silver on this one. And my piece on Holmes and mindfulness, “The Power of Concentration”, spent a week on the New York Times most-read list. Thank you for your support!

Oh, and tour dates are falling into place. Check out the “News and Events” section of my website. I hope to meet some of you in person in the coming months!

Brain World interview

December 12, 2012

A few months back, I did an interview with BrainWorld Magazine’s Julie Hare. It appears in the winter issue–and even though it’s not currently online, you can read it here. Brain World – Mastermind.

I hope you enjoy it. I’m getting excited for publication. Only a few weeks to go!

Unfilmable books, on NPR’s Morning Edition

November 21, 2012

Yesterday, I spoke with Elizabeth Blair on NPR’s morning edition about unfilmable novels (I’d written a piece on the topic for The Atlantic back in October). I really enjoyed our conversation – but the most exciting part to me was that I had a chance to be on air with David Mitchell, one of my favorite contemporary writers. I only wish that I’d had a chance to meet him in person.

I’ve actually yet to see Cloud Atlas the movie; I must admit, I’m stalling because of my love for the book. I’m too afraid of being disappointed. That’s actually something Elizabeth and I discussed during our conversation, though it didn’t make it to the final cut: how do you approach the films of books that you’ve loved? Do you avoid them for fear of ruining a dear mental image–or do you embrace them on their own terms? It depends on the film and the book in question, of course, but it’s always an interesting conundrum. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And a related question: have you ever read a book after loving the movie? And if you have, were you ever disappointed?

listen to the NPR segment here

Lifehacker interview on Sherlock Holmes

November 19, 2012

Last week, I spoke with Lifehacker’s Thorin Klosowski about Sherlock Holmes, deduction, and observation, as part of the site’s Spy Week series. The result is this article, How to Develop Sherlock Holmes-Like Powers of Observation and Deduction.

I think Thorin did a great job summarizing our conversation, and I hope you enjoy the piece!