The world’s most famous consulting detective seems to be on everyone’s minds of late. Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey, Jr., Ian McKellan, and Jonny Lee Miller have all taken on the role of Sherlock Holmes in the last five years, and audiences keep coming. Read Paula Marantz Cohen on the character’s sustained appeal and Fred J. Abbate on how the most devoted fans are trying to learn to think like Sherlock. (philly.comThe Smart Set)

For many bookish library-dwellers, the pages of a book are sacred and the margins are a no trespassing zone. For others, doodling, scratching, and commenting — the art of marginalia — are an indispensable part of understanding a text. Read Dustin Illingworth on the intimacy and beauty of parallel text and Mike Miley on stepping into the mind of David Foster Wallace. (The MillionsThe Smart Set)

What one chooses to read speaks volumes about the reader. Books are often a political or ideological statement. Choose wisely. Read Rebecca Solnit on Esquire’s “Books Every Man Should Read” — and which ones women shouldn’t and Jessa Crispin on why nothing is a “must-read”. (Literary HubThe Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.


At the Museum of London earlier this year was an exhibit titled “The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.” As a long-time Sherlock Holmes enthusiast as well as a practicing philosopher, I know this to be true. Since his first appearance in 1887, the great detective has been memorialized by over a hundred actors in dozens of plays, films, radio, and television adaptations, as well as in countless works of fiction. In the last few years alone, Holmes’s immortality has been demonstrated in original television series like Sherlock and Elementary and in highly imaginative movies like the blockbuster action series Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr., and the poignant elegiac Mr. Holmes, starring Ian McKellen.

What lies behind our enduring fascination with this character and this surge of current interest in particular?

Holmes offers Watson a number of rules for what directs his work as a detective. I have extracted these rules from his stories and novels as follows:
More… “The Many Minds of Sherlock Holmes”

Fred J. Abbate is a professor in the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University. He has written several books and numerous articles on philosophy, as well as a mystery novel.


When I started walking the 450 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I wanted to hear birds and waves and let my mind wander towards contemplations of life and philosophy and the divine. That was what I hoped for. My brain, however, had its own agenda.


The trip began pleasantly enough on a clear and cool October morning, following paths and small roads that hugged the crenulations of the northern California coast. In those first few days everything was novel: I felt the weight of the backpack, enjoyed the breeze coming off the coast, smelled the salt air.

That first night out I met a middle-aged man named Gary who was riding his bicycle down the coast. He was overweight and out of shape and had to push his bike up hills, so for a few days… More…


Daily relaxation is now a doctor’s order. It comes from one of the most influential names in medicine, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. At a recent meeting of doctors and health policy makers, Satcher presented an amended version of his long-touted “prescription for health”. The prescription advises Americans to practice regular physical activity, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid toxins like tobacco and illicit drugs, and be responsible in sexual behavior.

Recently, Satcher added a fifth item to the list: Participate in relaxing and stress-reducing activities daily. The benefits of relaxation, he said, are invaluable for good health, especially good mental health.

When I went to check the scientific basis of this welcome proclamation, I discovered that one of the most reliable methods of relaxation — meditation — had become a serious subject of scientific investigation in… More…