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Book Review – The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test by John Ronson

The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the madness industry by Jon Ronson

Ronson is well known for his humorous look at the quirky eccentric fringes of society. Often he sees the peculiar with great empathy as he considers himself, well, as quite peculiar. From the almost fantastical “The men who stare at goats” to the oddly understandable “Them”, Ronson’s “Journeys” are usually entertaining and quite enlightening experiences and gladly this book is no different. It all starts with some of the world’s top minds receiving an unusual package containing a book in code, in which Ronson is asked to decipher. What follows is a quest into the realms of the mental health world from the hippie days of acid taking psychologist’s anlysising the psychopathic mind, to the cold rationalising of the psychopathic test, used in the hope of ending the subjectivity in evaluating patients.

Ronson encounters murderers, ruthless businessmen, eccentric mental health experts, scientologists and even genocidal maniacs with a fascination for Mc Donald’s happy meal toys on his foray into the mental health world. Instead of looking at them with horror or incredulity he sees aspects of himself in all of them, constantly questioning whether he has some psychopathic tendencies of his own. The book then moves towards a more philosophical tone asking what is mental illness, ambitious psychologists were quick to get their own syndromes listed for the sake of their careers and greedy pharmaceuticals were quick to make profit on the latest the form of autism or depression. Ronson ponders about the very existence of insanity.

The book ties together all strands neatly, and Ronson’s style of writing really lets the reader hear his thoughts as though they were their own. The only criticism I could level against the book is that at times it feels that Ronson is meandering. I suppose it does help convey that feeling of a journey but it can get frustrating when the relevance of a chapter is only explained at the end. Each scene of this adventure is beautifully crafted by the author’s pose not only can you here Ronson’s thoughts but you can see through his eyes as well.

This book is brilliantly entertaining, an eccentric author meeting eccentric people regarding an eccentric topic, awesome!

Fountain News DigitalThis article was originally published in:
Fountain News Digital – December 2011 (Issue 7)

We are re-publishing all articles from our past newsletter, Fountain News Digital, and you can view all completed newsletters here. There were nine issues published in total between 2010 and 2012.

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