Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: Mastermind by Maria Konnikova

Maria Konnikova
Title: Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
Published: 2013 by Canongate Books Ltd.
Pages: 259
Genre: Non-Fiction
My rating: 4/5

Goodreads Blurb!
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.

My Thoughts!
Mastermind is a useful book. Oozing with optimism and smartness. If you're already quite smart, this book would make you feel awesome. Plus, you'd even know where your smartness comes from, while learning jargon-ic words. And if you've been struggling with those very things they give Holmes-ian solutions to, you'd feel like you're on the path to mind-improvement!

The book's divided into four parts, beginning with an understanding of oneself, our brain and capacities and abilities. What we want, where we want to reach, how do we look at things, what is our approach? The next section focuses on the power of observation and imagination, what it is to be mindful and how it helps, techniques for observation and value of creativity. The third section talks about the art of deduction, understanding meanings from what information is available, education and self. The final part deals with the science and art of self-knowledge. Jeez. This seems like such a ramble of jargon.

But the book isn't that way! It's based around all these concepts as Sherlock Holmes, the famed fictional detective used them. According to the book, 'the detective who elevated the art to a precise science'. He's a legend in the field of detection and mysteries, solving crimes in a way that people find impossible. The book takes his perspective into account and supplements the theory with cases and examples from his mysteries. This makes the book a lot more interesting than how it'd have otherwise been. It states the differences between Holmesian thinking and Watsonian thinking, and how we could shed the latter for the former. 

I definitely underlined a lot many paragraphs from this book, primarily because I felt that to know the gist of the whole book, one could simply read those paras and be done with it. The only thing I felt somewhat lacking was that it seems repetitive, in the sense that it goes into great detail for each concept. Probably that wasn't necessary. That was what sometimes made me not pick up the book even after long breaks. But yes, once in the flow, you get into the rhythm and enjoy reading about how one can be a better observer, deduce from what information is available, using imagination and creativity! *_* 

I'd include some lines from the book that made me learn quite a bit. 

'You think; you judge; and you don't think twice about what you've just done.' 

'Happy mood = wider sight, bad mood = limited sight'

'Motivation matters. Individuals who are motivated correct more naturally, and more correctly.' 

Then there was this concept that suited so well with my situation while I was reading this book: 'Need for Closure: a desire of the mind to come to some definitive knowledge of an issue.' Our minds don't rest until they're clear about the issue.

The book also talks about how even though we thrive on the idea of creativity and imagination, we value creativity only on the surface and imagination can scare us like crazy. "As a general rule, we dislike uncertainty. It makes us uneasy. A certain world is a much friendlier place. And so we work hard to reduce whatever uncertainty we can, often by making habitual, practical choices, which protect the status quo."

There's also discussion on habit, self-confidence, uniqueness, adaptability and beliefs. All relating to Holmesian thinking. I found the book quite innovative and unique in this aspect. It discusses the psychology of mind with examples from a fabulous fictional character, and hence the book seems like such an easy read! It isn't hard to decipher, there's enough explanation for the novice to understand. I found some tips and concepts quite useful and they come up when something related to them happens in reality. Coolness, actually. 8| 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that will make you cry!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, with a different 'Top Ten' list each week. This week we're talking about: Books that will make you cry! 

While I know some titles that will definitely make me cry, I haven't read them yet, mostly because of my aversion to very sad stories. But still, ironically I love emotional reading and books that make me cry. Going by the books I've read, I'll list those that made me cry. (Crying while reading an emo book, by the way, is in no way a bad thing. It just tells you how awesomely expressed it is! :') )

In no particular order (except for how they pop into my head):

1. Looking for Alaska by John Green: There's something heart-breaking about that story, facilitated by the way the book's written: filled with metaphors and philosophy. You realize it's so not a normal book. It won't promise you happy endings, but it'll give you the reality you need to know. 

2. Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead: This is the third book in the Vampire Academy series, supposedly all badass and "cool". Yep, but I found this book quite high on emotions and the ending (although the story's going on in the subsequent books, but still) made me shed a tear or two. Complete with that feeling of emotional surge!

3. Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult: Jodi Picoult's books are based on familial ties and health problems that affect them. Those stories are so detailed, going into the life of each character, that I can't help feeling empathetic for all of them. And with this book, the last chapter was "Ohmygoodness NOO!!!" :'( Perfect cry-material. 

4. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks: Probably the only Nicholas Sparks book I've ever read, but boy, did it make me cry! Towards the end when tragedies happen, you'll feel sad about it because you've so grown used to the characters, edging them on to optimism, and then BAM!

5. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: I admit to not having read this book in totality. Okay, I did not even read less than half before it made me cry twice already! I like emotional books, but this was an open invite for a torrential tear-storm! I still haven't plucked up the courage to start reading And the Mountains Echoed. 

6. The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna: I don't recall if it made me "cry" per se, but it's one of those rare books with a fantasy base but so emotional, it'll make you feel the same emotions like the characters do. It's one my favorite reads in the past year, and among the top favorites by Indian authors. :)

7. Angry River by Ruskin Bond: I haven't read this in years! I just remember reading this book as a kid, and crying over the scene where this little girl is stuck in a tree due to the flood that took her home, and grandfather away, and then her favorite doll who's like her friend slips from her hand and into the flooding waters. God!

8. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult: The ending! *wails* One, that wasn't expected. Two, it was just too sad to not cry about. Three, Jodi Picoult is Jodi Picoult is a heart-breaker. 

9. Hold Still by Nina LaCour: Dealing with a friend's suicide, this book portrays the feelings of grief, anger and sadness in the protagonist and the way she comes to closure. It's painfully beautiful. :')

10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: I admit to having this book making me feel a little less 'Oh-God-I'll-cry', but the tears came nevertheless. Why's Mr. Green such a heart-breaker? 

What about you guys? Which books made you tear up?! If they're not too devastating, I'd love to read them!


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