Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness IndustryThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for a book club. It's not one I would've picked for myself, but I'm glad I read it. It's the most entertaining nonfiction non-memoir I've read in some time.

The Psychopath Test follows Jon Ronson through several interviews and meetings with people confirmed to be psychopaths, or who may well be. Along the way, he learns the twenty criterion from Bob Hare, interviews a notorious businessman known for firing people without remorse, sees a young man freed by Scientologists, and solves a mystery.

There is information within this book, but most of it serves as a darkly funny narrative about the dangers of misdiagnosis and the quirks of the psychological industry. Ronson never really gets into how a diagnosis requires that the disease interferes with everyday life or poses a threat to others, nor does he interview anyone for whom a diagnosis has helped. He also shows a lot of sympathy for Scientology and its claims about the total uselessness of psychology.

Still, the book gets points for its entertaining narrative, as opposed to the dry rendering in the last few nonfiction books I've read. The story is an amusing one, and it's easy to get through. I learned just as much about the narrator as I did about the subject at hand.

I listened to this book on audio, narrated by the author. Jon Ronson is British, which is always pleasant for this American to listen to. He speaks clearly and understandably, and his tone certainly adds to the humor of the story. If you decide to pick this up, I recommend the audio version.

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