Oooh how I love psychology. I always have. It is what led me to teach in a psychiatric facility for adolescents. Mental health has intrigued me for ages. The study of the mind is something I find thrilling. Also, I have a special place in my heart for the study of psychopaths / sociopaths (and pathological liars / manipulative personalities) because for the last 5 or so years I have had someone that lurks around the corner of my life who seems to fit into these personality traits. This is part of the reason I picked up The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. Once I started reading, I was totally engrossed in this book... I'll let the synopsis speak for itself.
"In this madcap journey, a bestselling journalist investigates psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and everyone else who studies them.
The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath.
Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges."
The story begins with the mystery of an anonymous small scale published book which has been sent to top academics in various fields. It appears to be some sort of riddle which no one can decipher. The academics struggle to make sense of it all and take to the internet to weave their tales together in an effort to find a connection. When that fails, they go looking for an investigative journalist who might be able to unravel the mystery. That is where Jon Ronson comes in and begins his journey through the brain.
I must admit that Ronson did a phenomenal job keeping the reader engaged and interested. I ate this book up in a matter of a few reading sessions. Each chapter was humorous and at times, insightful. While I originally went into this book looking for more information on psychopaths and dealing with them, I was pleasantly surprised when I found more anecdotal bits of information. We learned history and science as we explored the brain with Ronson. He drove us down memory lane too- he explored great breakthroughs and anecdotal stories in psychology. It was interesting, as he took an investigative stand and presented the information he received from those close to said projects and breakthroughs.
My only complaint throughout the book was that Ronson was sometimes jumping around a bit. He would jump from one story or breakthrough to another. There were a few times where I had to go back and search for the connection. Overall Ronson certainly delivered with this book and I highly recommend it. You won't be let down!
write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow