I’m sorry, friends, but the alliteration? It continues.
First, I should tell you that I’m not actually “reading” The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson. I’m listening to the audio book from Tantor Audio read by the author. I grew accustomed to Ronson’s voice from his frequent contributions to the radio program, This American Life, and thought he would be a good choice for my first audio book experiment. Ronson is Welsh by birth, and I enjoy his accent. But even a pleasant accent and interesting subject can’t make up for being stuck in my car two long hours each day.
The book primarily speaks to a test administered by health professionals and law enforcement personnel to identify psychopaths. Wikipedia tells us:
“Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness.”
Right around the point when I started worrying that I had plenty of psychopathic tendencies myself, Ronson assured me that the act of worrying that I might be a psychopath proved, in fact, that I wasn’t a psychopath. Okay, then.
It’s a good book, but I feel like it jumps around a bit. I’m not sure if that’s because I can’t focus on the audio-book format the way I would with a book, or if Ronson just has a sort of hodge-podge writing style. I haven’t read any of his other books (or even seen The Men Who Stare at Goats), so I can’t compare this one to his other works. His NPR stories are shorter and, therefore, more focused. Some of those stories were pulled from this novel. I’ve recognized at least two excerpts thus far.
I appreciate Ronson’s self-deprecating manner. He’s not afraid to make himself (or his shortcomings) part of the story. He doesn’t seem to come to any conclusions, but the human mind is endlessly fascinating and perhaps, most interesting when it’s a bit insane. No one has all the answers, but Ronson has done a good job of illuminating some of the questions.
If you’re the curious sort and enjoy non-fiction, I think you would like this book. It’s not for everyone, but I’m a fan.