Shortlisted for: Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year - Specsavers National Book Awards 2012
This is a story about madness. It all starts when journalist Jon Ronson is contacted by a leading neurologist. She and several colleagues have recently received a cryptically puzzling book in the mail, and Jon is challenged to solve the mystery behind it. As he searches for the answer, Jon soon finds himself, unexpectedly, on an utterly compelling and often unbelievable adventure into the world of madness.
Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he's sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths.
Jon learns from him how to ferret out these high-flying psychopaths and, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, heads into the corridors of power...Combining Jon's trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is a deeply honest book unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.
©2011 Jon Ronson (P)2011 Macmillan Digital Audio
"Ronson's gift is his ability to illuminate impenetrable worlds. Hare's checklist is already the subject of criticism, but Ronson details many studies showing how bad psychiatry has been at diagnosing mental illness."(Nature Magazine)
"In case you get really worried about a member of your party, then we'd suggest packing Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test, a compelling adventure into the world of madness . Funny and revealing this book will change the way you look at your boss, boyfriend or bank manager forever." (The Guardian Bookshop Guide)
"In case you get really worried about a member of your party, then we'd suggest packing Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test, a compelling adventure into the world of madness . Funny and revealing this book will change the way you look at your boss, boyfriend or bank manager forever." (The Guardian)
"Ronson's gift is his ability to illuminate impenetrable worlds. Hare's checklist is already the subject of criticism, but Ronson details many studies showing how bad psychiatry has been at diagnosing mental illness." (Nature Magazine)
Quirky is the best word I can find for this book. It opens with a mystery book, sent to various neurologists, by an anonymous sender, who Ronsen tracks down. After that, it's an enjoyable ride through psycho-land to meet Bob Hare, the leading world expert on the test for psychopathy - the Hare test, and then to meet and interview a series of gangsters, hatchet-CEOs, and other possible psychopaths to see if they fit the pattern.
However, Ronsen admits after a while that he starts seeing psychopaths everywhere... And it might be sending him a bit odd.
This is fun, with a serious message, and I liked Jon Ronsen as the self effacing narrator and author. The book contains many facts and references to other reading on this subject, while never getting boorish. I winced several times with embarrassment at his interview style, openly asking his subjects intimate details to gauge their psychopathy. The opening chapters are unusual, and have little to do with psychopathy, with references to the nerd classic "Esher, Goedel, Bach".
Overall however, i learned a lot about Psychopathy, DSM-4 and psychiatry, without seeming to. Best of all I liked Jon's self conscious admission that looking for psychopaths might just be creating non-human aliens in his own mind.
I've long been a fan of Ronson's work. He's a rare breed of journalist these days - one who will spend years researching a topic - and this commitment shows. The Psychopath Test is about his investigations into what a psychopath is and how psychopaths have been perceived. Characteristically, the investigation leads Ronson to question his own behaviour as an investigator and the integrity of journalism in general. It's a thoughtful and humane book.
My only criticism is that Ronson repeats some points several times throughout the book. My suspicion is that this might have been more necessary in print than it is in audio. It's mildly annoying in an audiobook, but hardly a dealbreaker.
Ronson isn't an actor and this is evident from his reading. I think this adds to the charm of the book: its nice to hear him describe his own anxieties in his own slightly anxious voice. That's what the book's about, after all.
When I initially read the blurb for this book I thought it was a novel, as it sounds a lot like one of those books by Carlos Ruiz, with important books at the centre of a mystery, It's not a novel, although it contains plenty of material that would make a good one.
I looked forward to hearing about who he was going to talk to next, and whether they would turn out to be an actual psychopath. I would have liked to have heard more about psychopaths in industry, and whether David Icke might be onto something. It is a little bit superficial, but I wasn't looking for an academic text, I like audio books in particular with a bit of a lighter tone.
The book is about the author's encounters with people who might or might not be psychopaths, how he interacts with them, and how he feels about them. There is a a little bit of history and background, but most of the time he refrains from any exposition, relying on straightforward accounts of what happened when he met these people, and leaving you to draw your own conclusions.
There is, as another reviewer said, a certain amount of repetition. There is also an awful lot of "I said", "he said", which I think is the author's writing style, and didn't annoy me, but I did notice it. I thought it lost focus towards the end, and became more about madness in general that psychopaths in particular.
However, none of the negatives spoiled it for me, I enjoyed listening to the author read his own book, I wish more would.
If you are interested in this, look out for the Horizon program "Are you good or Evil", on BBC. It's not available at the moment, (Sept 2011), but I am sure it will be repeated.
I found the subject interesting, and the book was engagingly written and told, and I am coming to believe that the narrator can make or break an audio book.
The blurb for this book says it is "utterly compelling". Those were precisely the words I wanted to use to describe this book, so I've rather had the wind taken out of my sails.
I found this book especially interesting as I and family members have experienced mental illness. I was dumbfounded by the story of how the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental health problems was put together. However, that's by no means to say that personal mental misfortune is necessary to be fascinated by The Psychopath Test.
Ronson makes the process of journalism rather more transparent than other writers and his thoughts and feelings are often to the fore. His journeys to meet people are described and his thought processes are laid out as he interviews them. I find that interesting as someone who occasionally harbours journalistic pretensions, but I think anyone would enjoy getting some insight into how journalism is carried out.
If you're already a fan of Jon Ronson then I think you will be delighted by this. I would warn that it is a fair bit darker than his other books. You may guess that to be probable from the subject matter. There's fewer quips. But it is as interesting as his other work.
If you're new to Ronson I'd probably recommend "Them: Adventures With Extremists" though I don't know if that comes in an audio version. But if you're curious about this book in particular for any reason then please do make the leap and get downloading. You won't regret it.
In the book you are given a widely used checklist of traits that are thought to be part of a psychopaths make-up. One thing that you'll almost certainly find yourself doing is asking yourself: "do I know any psychopaths?" I am pleased to say I don't think I do. But with 1% of people thought to be psychopaths (rising to 3-4% as you reach the higher echelons of income and status) you may well find that you do.
A great listen and all the more so for Jon's own excitable voice reading the text. No fear here of the narrator ruining the book, it's an enhancement for sure. Anyone who is a fan of his BBC Radio 4 show will be familiar with his unique tone and here is no exception.
His journey through the book is interesting as always, as he gets to grips with the nature of pyscopathy. A joy! I did the test, I reckon I'm safe.
If only Men Who Stare At Goats was narrated by him.
This is one of the best non fiction books I have read for a long time. I love the honesty of Jon Ronson as he explores the world of psychiatry. Gripping and thought provoking. If you have any interest in the mind and the human condition you should enjoy this. A great read.
Jon Ronson reads The Psychopath Test himself in a deadpan tone that can be interpreted as you wish. Is he ironic, scared, appalled or simply as mystified as the rest of us? His investigation is a hunt for judgement, but the story is as full of triumph and disappointment as any thriller.
Ronson's writing is vivid to the eye, which is what you want from an audiobook. He snakes unstoppably through the world of the apparently sane and the apparently mad and the ground shifts beneath your feet. He raises questions, makes sense of the bizarre, exposes the sinister and insensitive, and does it all elegantly and with humour. I love this audiobook.
A quick warning: the subject - psychopathy - naturally leads the book down some pretty dark alleyways at times - this probably isn't a book to listen to in earshot of the kids. That said, Ronson brings typical deadpan wit to the writing, skilfully avoiding letting things get too bleak.
It's an entertaining book, then, despite its unsettling subject matter, but Ronson neither goes for the jugular in skewering some of the more unpleasant people he meets, nor reaches any real insight of any sort. He also does a brilliant job of disguising what is actually a series of medium-length anecdotes about the generalities of madness as a coherent exploration of his subject - tangents are followed at length, and I frequently suspected he'd either lost his direction or at last found a really meaty angle to pursue, only for him to steer back to the safety of the middle ground.
A lot of conclusions are left for the reader/listener to draw, but there's little you'll find out that you wouldn't already know merely by virtue of being a human being who's lived long enough to read this review - we're all a bit mad, and how we define that madness is pretty mad too.
Still, it's a fun journey, and Ronson's reading of it - while not remotely thespian (he voices other people's words the same way he voices his own, which is absolutely fine, but can make it sound a bit like a neurotic having an argument with himself) helps drive home the absurdity of some of the situations and conversations he finds himself in.
"i failed.. twas a relief"
i do not envy poor Ronson for having to spend so much time with some of these people.. however i am glad that he endured.. to bring such a wonderful insight into the thoughts socio-elite.. they lurk around every corner.. hide in all the crevices.. or just stand there.. out in the open.. saying "hey,look at me".. but seriously.. fascinating stuff
"Couldn't stop listening!"
Ronson has a very unique speaking style and I was absolutely transfixed by it! He has an ability to make serious, frightening and sometimes disturbing topics somehow hilarious. At times I was surprised to find myself so amused and entertained by a book about psychopathic behaviour. As some others have mentioned, this book is not a serious review of the "Madness Industry" but instead a collection of fascinating interviews and bizarre stories that the author discovers along his journey. The way Ronson describes himself as a bit quirky, introverted and anxiety-prone makes him seem like an unlikely interviewer for his many subjects, which I think makes his encounters with these individuals all the more entertaining! A really great listen. I plan to listen to more books written and/or narrated by Ronson!
very intriguing account of psychpaths and the history of psychiatric field. Well written and worth the money.
"A fascinating and thought provoking listen."
The author writes in a very accessable and entertaining manner. His approach to the subject matter is open minded and non judgmental. The book is packed full of interesting specific story's of people on the fringes of society but also raises questions about the how those on the fringe are treated and categorised by those supposedly in the centre.
"Could have been condensed somewhat."
I found The Psychopath Test to be fairly entertaining and informative. I'd suggest to any potential reader that it would be well worth reading Dr Robert Hare's "Without Conscience" (also available on Audible) before or along with TPT. Ronson regularly references Dr hare's work regarding the study of Psychopathy.
The Psychopath test is filled with plenty of interesting stories which serve well to get the information across without presenting it in a dry or boring manner. I found it to be particularly informative in regards to the process used to identify the various forms of mental disorders over the last few decades, and the impact this has had on the medical and pharmecutical industry. I believe most readers will find this aspect to be quite interesting.
I definitely found that the book inspired curiosity and raised many questions in areas which I had not expected to be considering when I started reading the book. This is a definite positive.
I did find Ronson's narration to be rather bland and slightly tiresome, and found my attention waning and wandering on a number of occasions throughout the book as a result. A number of times I also often found myself questioning where a story or recounting of events was headed, and what relevance it had to the overall topic. This often gave parts of the book a 'padded out' kind of feeling. I think TPT could have been condensed somewhat and that a few of the stories could have been culled in order to change the pace of the book for the better.
I enjoyed The Psychopath Test for the information it contained and the questions it raises within the reader on a number of topics. However I would not recommend a potential listener to do so while driving, especially on a long trip.
"Disturbing yet Intriguing"
I would definitely listen to the Psychopath Test again but I may leave it for a while as its taken me a few weeks to phase out trying to identify psychopaths in the real world.
This book makes an especially great audio book as it read by the author himself so it feels like one long tale of obscure and at time ludicrous adventures. To begin with the book feels sinister and at times gruesome but as Ronson starts to delve deep into the world of spotting psychopaths surprisingly he puts you at ease and ends leaving you questioning whether you can really judge who a psychopath is.
This is an insightful and entertaining exploration into the darker side of the human psyche.
"A little too anecdotal"
There is nothing wrong with some good stories, and Jon Ronson has them. I just wanted it to be more informative and less anecdotal.
"Pity that Jon Ronson wants to read his own book."
The information is interesting, but Jon Ronson should have left the reading to an expert. He makes it very difficult to listen to the book.
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