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The Psychopath Test

Narrated by: Jon Ronson
Length: 7 hrs and 33 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (3,365 ratings)

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Editor reviews

Shortlisted for Non-Fiction Book of the Year in the Specsavers National Book Awards 2012, the best-selling audiobook The Psychopath Test is written and narrated by award-winning British journalist and documentary filmmaker Jon Ronson. Take a closer look at the subject of madness from every angle – the diagnosed, the doctor and the imposter. Ronson gives a humorous and insightful look at a subject still plagued by stigmas and stereotypes. He reveals a way to perform the psychopath “test” on anyone – from your boss, neighbor or your lover and be surprised how their answers compare. Available now from Audible.

Summary

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

Critic reviews

“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)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

It is indeed utterly compelling.

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.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Deft storytelling, good observations

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.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Quirky about Psychopaths (mostly)

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.

13 people found this helpful

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Insightful

Amazingly insightful glimpse into the world of the analysis of psychopathy. Having worked in a secure unit, I feel that John Ronson’s delicate but unromantic portrayal of the issue was excellently well positioned.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A joy for his radio 4 fans

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.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Very enjoyable

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.

8 people found this helpful

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Must read

Loved it. Perfect. I wouldn't add anything else but apparently you need a minimum of twelve words to submit your review so I wrote twenty-five.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Interesting subject carries a disappointing listen

What did you like best about The Psychopath Test? What did you like least?

I thought his revelations were interesting and the science of psychology was a brilliant base for the book. However, for me the style of journalism was ramshackle, felt like a lot of padding and diluted my interest in the subject.

Would you ever listen to anything by Jon Ronson again?

Probably not, this was my first attempt and I finished it but feel like other journalists might be more my cup of tea.

How could the performance have been better?

A livelier tone.

Did The Psychopath Test inspire you to do anything?

It rekindled my long dead A Level interest in psychology.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Should have got someone else to read it...

His reading style is very monotonous and stunted but the book is fascinating and disturbing.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Another brilliant listen from Jon Ronson.

I could listen to him talk all day. The subject matter is always interesting and he delivers it with charm, humour and warmth.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Erin
  • 15-02-13

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!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 26-03-13

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

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • William G Kewley
  • 06-08-18

Well read and highly entertaining

This was one of the first audiobooks I've enjoyed and powered through it in no time at all. Very well read and highly entertaining. My only criticism would be that the work's structure lacks some of the usually impeccable of Ronson's other work, and can feel like it's jumping around a bit. Still, this is a minor criticism of an entertaining and illuminating read. Highly recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jesse Sweed
  • 23-11-16

captivating

It had me engaged throughout the entire book. The mind is a fascinating thing to study and Jon Ronson has a style that's easy to listen to and constantly curious. I've learned a lot listening to this book and I'm going to study more.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Neil Taylor
  • 06-11-15

Fascinating and compelling

Jon Ronson is one of the most consistently interesting journalists working. While plenty of people have tried writing about madness, media and the mental health industry, many writers tend to play up the scary side for drama. But Ronson carefully avoids glamorisation, but still manages to deliver a compelling and enthralling story.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • lguinily
  • 11-09-19

I think im surrounded by psychopaths now

This book is more like a collection of experiences the author went through as he was writing this book or as he says, investigating about how or what makes a person a psychopath. Though i must say, the stories about the places he went and the people he talked to were very interesting to listen to especially about the conspiracies of psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies in creating new disorders just to get people to buy their miracle medicines. That said, i only gave 3 stars because while it was interesting to hear about Jon's wouldbe adventures, there were stories in between that just felt like fillers. I also had to play this in 1.25-1.50x speed because the narrator was too slow, but it is an interesting read nonetheless.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Creatrix
  • 18-07-19

had high hopes for the book

Got this book as a recommendation and was really looking forward to listening. I'm quite a bit disappointed. The writer skates on the surface too much, changes subject too often; at times it was a bit confusing and unclear what he was talking about. A lot of loose ends, so to say. Reads more like a sum of individual blog posts rather than a comprehensive book written by a journalist about a subject. Can say that I've read shorter and more in-depth articles, so quite disappointed with the book. The narrator was so slow and dull that I had to speed it up to be able to follow what he's saying. All in all, if you're not familiar with the subject it's an ok first read but if you already know more than the writer you'll be bored to tears.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-07-19

Brilliant

Simply brilliant. Sheds light and casts doubt on unexpected assumptions, not only about psychopaths, but also the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and normality. This should be prescribed reading for medical, psychology, and pharmacy students. Worth every minute.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • ruben
  • 21-06-16

Excellent

. Typical Ronson humour and insight into the human condition. Ronson`s reading is great too

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Miss C E Ince
  • 28-10-15

Loved it.

Interesting mix of crime, psychology and mystery with a fascinating cast of characters. Well worth a listen.