The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
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The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  34,762 ratings  ·  3,422 reviews
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 indu...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 12th 2011 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published 2011)
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Simeon
  ***Warning: this review is not for the fainthearted.***

A video recently went viral of a Texas judge savagely beating his disabled teenage daughter with a belt.

(view spoiler)...more
Lynn Weber
If you're interested in this topic, I'd recommend starting with Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door rather than this book. The problem with this one is that it's more "Follow me as I delve into this crazy world and have surreal experiences" than it is a study of sociopathy. And that ultimately makes it less gripping. I remember clearly the first section of of Stout's book, as it took the reader on a tour of one man's mind as he faced a simple but telling moment of moral decision-making. It wa...more
Courtney
Jun 05, 2011 Courtney rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: People who want to learn to spot Psychopaths
I read this in about a 4 hour span, from 12 am - 4 am. It freaked me out and I slept with the lights on. But on with the review.

So I've read things about psychopaths previously. How their brains are actually wired differently and they are unable to feel empathy, etcetc. Psychopathy is incurable. Psychopathy, in its violent and sexual strands, is outright fucking terrifying.

But Ronson's book talks more about the frequent misdiagnosis of psychopathy. And the misdiagnosis of many other "mental il...more
G
To write something like “I loved this book” or “I found it incredibly insightful, entertaining and downright frightful” wouldn’t give you the exact depth of my passion towards it. For the past 48 hours, I’ve been thinking about the precise words I need to come up with to describe my joy with the novel Ronson has written, and I can’t. I can only tell you that if someone like me–jaded with years of dealing with mentally ill family members, overloaded with information from 6 psychology classes and...more
Cyn
Only decided to read this because I saw Jon Ronson on "The Daily Show" promoting it. He was entertaining and the book sounded interesting and I was looking for some non-fiction so all the stars aligned to get me to read it.

Because of what a fabulous storyteller Ronson is, I finished this book in one day, only putting it down for lunch, dinner and "Glee". :) It was well worth the price and the time.
Mike (the Paladin)
This is what I might call "an oddly interesting book". I say that because in retrospect I'm a bit surprised that it holds the interest so well. Mr. Ronson begins with a strange little mystery concerning running down the source/writer of an (to use the same word) odd book that has been mailed to certain people. From this the book springboards into a look at Psychopathy, its diagnosis and by extension the way in which psychiatric disorders are not only diagnosed but agreed on (that is agreed to ex...more
Jason
I thought this would be a great tool for self-diagnosis, but actually Ronson skitters from one case to another without really making any definitive point. But maybe that’s the point. Psychopathy is probably not an absolute for most people, as there are many among us who exist in some sort of sociopathic gray area (myself included). Me, I scored a 10, so I’m a partial psychopath. (Surprise, surprise!) My downfall? Apparently, I don’t really care too much about other people.

Here, take the test!
Stephanie
“There is no evidence that we've been placed on this planet to be especially happy or especially normal. And in fact our unhappiness and our strangeness, our anxieties and compulsions, those least fashionable aspects of our personalities, are quite often what lead us to do rather interesting things.”

Jon Ronson, in preparation of writing this book took a course from a top psychologist on how to spot a Psychopath. Below is a list of traits from the first factor called "Aggressive Narcissism". The...more
Caroline
.

This review contains spoilers


This is an hilarious book by a wonderful writer. He injects himself into the story in a way not dissimilar to Bill Bryson. It had me bellowing with laughter – laughing at him, with him and at the strange and startling anecdotes that unfurled themselves one after another as the book went on. This book is a glorious example of truth being stranger than fiction…

Okay, so that is one aspect of the story. The other aspect is that he dealt with some important issues. In th...more
Justin
I've never read anything by Jon Ronson so I wasn't sure what to expect. I heard an interview with him about this book and was fascinated by the subject matter. I was not disappointed, this book is extremely interesting. I like Ronson's style a great deal, and his writing is very approachable. I came to respect him a lot for his ability to acknowledge his weaknesses and then go forward despite them.

Ronson has a great ability in communicating his perspective to the reader. He is very clear about h...more
Danny
An entertaining romp and with a fair bit of food for thought. I liked this book, while at the same time being disappointed with it.

My main problem with the work was that I had heard that this book dealt extensively with the idea of psychopaths as possessing traits that tended to land them in positions of power. This is a fascinating topic, is of personal interest to me, and is a concept well-worth a full-length journalistic book. Unfortunately, this is not that book. A clever agent is selling th...more
Lightreads
A book about psychopaths that I actually liked, minor miracle, and that made me think a lot about compassion.

Okay, qualifications – the book is more about “the madness industry” – the complex of media and medicine and science and big pharma and fucking weirdness that informs our understanding of people who are mad. It’s a wandering book, tracking Ronson’s haphazard introduction to psychopathy, to spotting psychopaths, and then onto a survey of madness criminal, madness florid and newsworthy, mad...more
Nancy
It is self explanatory that this review will make me enemies. Fortunately, those who know me are really the only ones at risk.

Like many people, I took my first psychology class in high school and my interest was piqued. My second psychology class was during college, as was my third and fourth. I then diverged into the world of sociology which fascinated me and graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor's degree in sociology. Yay for me! Like the hundreds of psychology graduates, I was...more
Willow
Jon Ronson is a hoot. It would be great to have lunch with him. He puts so much of himself into his writing bringing up his own little insecurities and observations, pretty much showing that he’ll be happy to go anywhere or do anything provided there’s a good story. This book is all over the place, following Jon around, bringing up different case studies after another, and I’m not sure they really had that much in common with each other except that Jon decided they were worth investigating.

This...more
Paul
Reads very easily and is well written in a journalistic sort of way. Ronson meanders through the mental health industry in a rather idiosyncratic way. The basis of the book concerns the psychopath checklist developed by Hare and Ronson manages to get himself invited into various high secuity institutions to talk to various inmates. His wanderings extend to a brief look at diagnosis of bi-polar in childhood and some thoughts on the medication industry. The growth of the DSM system is explained an...more
David
Mar 13, 2014 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: psychopaths, people who study psychopaths, job-cutting CEOs, Scientologists
While Jon Ronson reveals a great deal about his own neuroses in this book, he casts little light on the psychopaths he is allegedly researching, though he does give some interesting insights into the "madness industry" of psychologists who have studied, categorized, labeled, and tried to treat psychopaths, mostly without success.

Ronson begins with a strange introduction to the field of psychology and mental illness thanks to a group of Scientologists, who chose him to "expose" the evils of psych...more
Holly
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: audio, 2011-reads
Wonderfully droll (and sometimes hilarious) tone and thought-provoking subject matter. Listened to the audiobook read by the author himself, and was hooked after only a few minutes; then when Ronson started talking about Douglas Hofstadter and Scientologists I had to think "I am so lucky to be listening to this book!" I learned about how the original DSM was created - how arbitrary all those diagnoses are - and that's (can I say:) depressing. I should write a thoughtful review but I am pressed f...more
Donna
Saw the interview on 'John Stewart', then ordered it like a cubic zirconia tennis bracelet from The Shopping Channel. I got a slow start with it. The Kindle app formatting is kinda shitty. stray lines. Typos. I kept asking myself whether anybody checked it out beforehand. Then again, maybe they wanted it to look that way. Once I got used to this clash of esthetics, I found it a great deal of fun. Wha? A book about psychopathy fun? He doesn't just seek out the usual suspects. He talks to Bob Hare...more
Kate Woods Walker
The subtitle, “a Journey Through the Madness Industry,” should have tipped me off. This was to be a self-consciously iconoclastic, too-cutesy look at psychiatry.

I am a fan of Jon Ronson, but less so after this book. I enjoyed Them. I thought the sly Ronson did a stellar job of bringing the horror of U.S. torture at Abu Ghraib to public consciousness in The Men Who Stare at Goats.

But I now realize I was making excuses for his irritating, postmodern, bemused style. He's too intent on inserting hi...more
Lea
I am a huuuuuge Jon Ronson fan, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed this book too.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry lives up to its title -- Ronson really does take the reader on a journey through the "madness industry". The book opens with a bit of a mystery concerning an unusual book that was mailed to various academics throughout the world. At first it doesn't seem to fit the theme of the book, but Ronson ties it in eventually.

His typical style is to jump around bet...more
Nicola
The non-fiction genre can basically be divided into two groups: mediocre books by experts; well-written books by non-experts. I’d normally err on the side of wanting to read the latter kind of book, because who the hell wants to endure shitty prose? However, non-experts writing about a highly complicated subject matter is not without its pitfalls.

Imagine, say, a journalist wandering into a woman’s home, observing her kids for a few minutes and drawing the conclusion that they’ve been wrongly dia...more
Gregory
Mr. Ronson puts forth ideas, scenarios, and real life observations in a easily read format. He writes so fluently that reading this book is like breathing. I just started it yesternight and about a 1/3 of the way through, he also highlights certain aspects of the study of the mind in relation to its historcal perspective(s).

Although the subject/topics are a bit challenging, if you think you may be interested in this book, It is well worth your time. Also, I think his paradigm exposes/shows us co...more
Patrick
I blame Ronson for turning me on to mega-nut David Icke and his endlessly entertaining Lizard people conspiracy theory in "Them: Adventures with Extremists."

In this one he's asked to investigate an elaborate and weird hoax involving a book called "Being or Nothingness," by Joe K. - which takes him to Indiana and Douglas Hofstadter ("Godel, Escher, Bach").

That in turn sets him off on psychopaths, the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Lots of oddballs emerge.

Ronson's got a funny style, and apparently a...more
Nikki
Entertaining and a surprisingly breezy read, The Psychopath Test is a somewhat rambling and ultimately non-conclusive record of an investigative journey into the mental health industry, conspiracy theories and scientology. The author meets some very interesting people -- about whom you can form your own conclusions: I was never exactly happy about Bob Hare.

I enjoyed reading it, but oddly I'm not sure I can recommend it. Looking back at it, there's not much substance, and isn't as hilariously fun...more
Christopher
Should you choose to read the words in this book by listening to the phonemes within a digital file of the audiobook version of this book, you may recognize the narrator/author's voice from such programs as This American Life and probably other crunchy NPR radio programs. The comforting, lilting, British voice, somewhat like a gay Neil Gaiman, would tell you all about his adventures researching madness. It would relate the story of an accused man who decided it would be easier for him to live in...more
Laura
Dec 30, 2013 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: This American Life (NPR)
So Jon Ronson, the man who brought the theory that the world is run by extraterrestrial lizard people to the world's attention, turns his worried gaze to psychopaths. He wrote something like a deeply ambivalent travelogue of his time writing this book. We meet death squad leaders and CEOs who love firing people. We meet a man wrongly picked by a criminal profiler as a brutal killer and we meet Scientologists. We meet the man who helped get homosexuality out of the DSM as a psychiatric condition...more
Tim Pendry
This book is being promoted as 'comic'. Sadly, it is not. It is quite a sad read. I laughed once out loud and smiled twice but only in the first chapter. If you end this book laughing, you have not ‘got it’. You should leave it a little angry and troubled.

Ronson exhibits all the graces and the flaws of modern British journalism. It is an easy read. The man is self-questioning (though clearly not too deeply lest he cease to function) and he is honest. But he is also skimming the surface of issues...more
Jafar
This book is quite lame, to put it simply. I watched The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was pretty damn funny, and I thought I’d read a book by Ronson. This book neither has much to say, nor is it that entertaining. It starts off with a bizarre (and unrelated to psycopathy) “mystery” that Ronson is called upon to solve. During the unfolding of that dull “mystery” Jonson hears about the true meaning of psychopath and goes off to understand and investigate it. If you’re like Ronson and don’t know t...more
Morgane
Funny and terrifying, to quote the Oprah Magazine review. As an anxious, neurotic person, I started wondering if *I* was a psychopath, but then there's a section that explains how anxiety is the exact opposite of psychopathy, and I was so relieved to be crazy in all the right ways. The author reacted in much the same way. At least our amygdala issues don't ruin the fabric of society, you know?

But anyway, I learned a lot from this book, especially around how we treat and react to psychopathy, and...more
Shelley
I will make two clichéd statements about this book.

The first is that "it is more about the journey than the destination" -- a cheesy comment that is very true of The Psychopath Test. The book doesn't offer too much in the way of useful information or well-argued conclusions. In the hands of a less talented author, it would have likely been a tedious, meandering, without-a-point mess. But Jon Ronson makes the manic-pinball-journey fun. There were many times when I felt like I was blindly giving...more
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Jon Ronson is a writer and documentary film maker. His books, Them: Adventures With Extremists and The Men Who Stare At Goats were international bestsellers. The Men Who Stare At Goats was adapted into a major motion picture starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.

He's written the popular "Human Zoo" and "Out of the Ordinary" columns for The Guardian, where he still c...more
More about Jon Ronson...
The Men Who Stare at Goats Them: Adventures with Extremists Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness The Amazing Adventures of Phoenix Jones: And the Less Amazing Adventures of Some Other Real-Life Superheroes

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“There is no evidence that we've been placed on this planet to be especially happy or especially normal. And in fact our unhappiness and our strangeness, our anxieties and compulsions, those least fashionable aspects of our personalities, are quite often what lead us to do rather interesting things.” 92 likes
“‎I have panicked unnecessarily in all four corners of the globe.” 43 likes
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