Monday, June 25, 2012

The Psychopath Test

by Jon Ronson

As you might be able to tell from the style of the cover, The Psychopath Test is not a clinical diagnostic tool. It's more of a light-hearted tour of the dark world of psychopaths and what Ronson calls "the madness industry," those who diagnose, treat, and work with psychopaths. Ronson's style is a bit madcap and scattered, which could be off-putting to some, but I found myself unable to put the book down. His investigations take him from topic to topic, pouncing on mysteries as they arise, and then diving into the deep background as needed. Ronson sits down with several psychopaths, including a man who claims to have faked his way into a mental institution and was then unable to convince anyone he was sane.

After meeting with Robert Hare, who literally wrote the book on Psychopathy, Ronson learns the famous checklist and starts to feel that he can identify psychopaths after briefly talking with them. But is such a diagnosis possible? Are psychopaths a different breed, or is psychopathy a spectrum? Can a psychopath ever be cured, or does the diagnosis doom you to be locked away for life?

The more I read, the more it seemed that Ronson was the perfect tour guide into a world bordering on absurdity. His combination of thoughtful investigation and playful reflection made for a fun and eye-opening ride.

My Top 11 Favorite Books Read in 2011

Better late than never... 

  • Doc - Russell
  • Among Others - Walton
  • Graceling - Cashore
  • Caleb’s Crossing - Brooks
  • Habibi - Thompson
  • The Clockwork Rocket - Egan
  • Skippy Dies - Murray


  • The Warmth of Other Suns - Wilkerson
  • Rock the Casbah - Wright
  • Half the Sky - WuDunn, Kristoff
  • Feynman - Ottaviani, Myrick