Summary: When Jon Ronson is drawn into an elaborate hoax played on some of the world’s top scientists, his investigation leads him, unexpectedly, to psychopaths. He meets an influential psychologist who is convinced that many important business leaders and politicians are in fact high-flying, high-functioning psychopaths, and teaches Ronson how to spot them. Armed with these new abilities, Ronson meets a patient inside an asylum for the criminally insane who insists that he’s sane, a mere run-of-the-mill troubled youth, not a psychopath—a claim that might be only manipulation, and a sign of his psychopathy. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud, and with a legendary CEO who took joy in shutting down factories and firing people. He delves into the fascinating history of psychopathy diagnosis and treatments, from LSD-fueled days-long naked therapy sessions in prisons to attempts to understand serial killers.
Thoughts: A lot of my thoughts right now centre around ‘what just happened?’ The Psychopath Test is only a couple of hundred pages but it is a pretty intense read with a lot of things happening with it. I feel a little mislead by the review on the book that said it is ‘hilarious’ I personally found it more a little overwhelming and confusing.
I found the narrative interesting, it was clear that Ronson was fascinated by the subjects he was exploring and his way of writing on them made them interesting to me. I certainly took a lot in, especially about Bob Hare’s checklist and whether or not child Bipolar exists. The subjects were fascinating and it was brilliant to see them explored from different angles and opinions.
The issue I mostly had with the book was the way it seemed to jump from one idea or topic to another. I understand that that was the way Ronson’s journey took him, but in a book I felt it was a bit fragmented. A lot of the points felt really disjointed and there was no real clear idea of how Ronson felt about a lot of things. It was clear that he felt through a phase of thinking he could diagnose psychopathy but otherwise it is very vague. For me to truly have got something from the book, I feel there needed to be more cohesion.
That all being said, I did enjoy the book, it did peak my fascinations and I would definitely read more by Jon Ronson in the future. I believe I would even revisit this one.