May 22

Book Review: The Psychopath Test

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness IndustryThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

The subtitle of this book reads: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, and that’s exactly what this book is like. A journey. It begins when Ronson starts to investigate a mysterious book, copies of which have been sent to various academics around the world.

I almost didn’t want to listen to this book, because the previous audiobook I was listening to was so dark, and a non-fiction book about madness didn’t promise to be a pick-me-up. However, I’m glad I gave this a chance. It’s charming and funny. It helps that Ronson reads his own book, so that we get his anxious, educated, “nebbishy” voice, like a British Woody Allen. He agrees to puzzle out the mystery of a hand-print version of a philosophy book, but his ulterior motive is that he hopes to find out why he himself is so anxious all the time.

When he discovers the perpetrator of the mystery, it gets him thinking about how a crazy person can alter the lives of so many other people. Ronson starts to investigate how the label of insanity affect a person’s life. He talks with a psychopath in Broadmoor hospital, speaks with Kerr, the author of the psychopath test, interviews a man accused of corporate psychopathy, and even talks about conspiracy theorists, scientologists, and the people who work for reality television, whose job it is to find people who are the right sort of crazy.

This book talks about psycopathy, and around psychopathy, and raises more questions than it asks. Ronson doesn’t claim to be an expert in the subject, except in the most self-deprecating way, and he’s generally very respectful to his subjects, even the ones who are mentally far out there. If you like psychology, travel, and fun stories about unusual people, this is a good book. If you want something meatier, with charts and graphs and a splendid bibliography, this might not fit the bill.

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