“Funny books about unfunny things” (How Ron has described his own work)
Spoiler! I scored a 7 on the psychopath checklist, so you should be cautious around me, but I’m not going to murder anyone anytime soon, according to the numbers.
I don’t even care what Jon Ronson writes about, I just like his books. He always makes me laugh, I always learn something from him, he’s always over-anxious and self-effacing, and he knows how to tell a great story.
I have a similar reaction with books by Mary Roach and Bill Bryson. When I’m done I realize that I enjoy hanging out with the authors as much as I do reading about the subjects of their books.
The Psychopath Test: a journey through the madness industry, is no different. It might be my favorite of Ronson’s books yet. The title refers to a psychopath-spotting checklist developed by psychologist Robert Hare, author of Without Conscience, the Disturbing world of the psychopaths among us.
Early in the book, Ronson attends a seminar by Hare in which he learns about the checklist and many of the traits by which psychopaths can be identified. Then he goes about his business–his business of being an overanxious journalist dealing with odd people–of trying to figure out if various CEOs and politicians might actually be psychopathic.
Might it actually be the key to their successes?
A man who allegedly faked insanity to get out of prison, only to find himself imprisoned in Broadmoor Asylum for 12 years. Turns out it was much harder to prove that he was insane than to demonstrate his sanity.
Scientology leaders who explain their war on psychiatry to him.
Former CEO “Chainsaw Al,” Al Dunlap, a man who now lives in a mansion filled with enormous paintings of himself, gold chairs, and surrounded by statues of predatory animals in the act of devouring their prey.
David Shayler, a former MI5 agent who became convinced that he was Jesus Christ.
A disgraced criminal psychologist profiler, Paul Britton.
Robert Hare, the developer of the checklist.
It’s a fascinating read. I want to mention that I listened to the audio. I’d never listened to Ronson before and I found that I enjoyed him on audio even more than in print.
He sounds exactly like what he says he is: an anxiety-ridden, curiosity-driven journalist who often puts himself in situations that aren’t entirely comfortably for him.
A wonderful book full of intriguing stories that asks some provocative questions about the media’s fascination with stories of madness.
Now please go take the test and tell me just how worried I should be about associating with you.
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