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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kerry jewell
I picked up this book because I am quite interested in psychiatry and the development of psychosis.

Unfortunately, for me, ""The Psychopath Test" did not pass my readability test. The pace is meandering, and the cases sited are not as interesting as others in books about Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissism.

Maybe it's only because it's summer, and I should be looking for beach reads, but Jon Ronson's book just did not hit the spot for me at this time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
maria montoya
This book should be read by everyone in the Mental Health industry. It gives a great insight to how our idea about tne mentally ill are perceived in today's world. Also Jon Ronson is a very entertaining writer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
yoana
First of all, this is a really cool book design. The cover is one of the best that I have come across in a long time. I looked up the book after I saw Jon Ronson being interviewed, but the cover definitely sold me. Buy the hardcover, not the Kindle version, it's worth the extra couple of bucks.

About halfway through this book, I was disappointed by the conclusions drawn on the cause of psychopathy. Essentially, it came down to a part of the brain not functioning in a normal manner. For my money, that was already self-evident. I may not have known exactly what that section of the brain was called (amygdala), but I knew psychopaths operating systems were different on a fundamental level. The more interesting questions aren't really addressed: Why does that piece not function correctly? Nature or nurture? Is it hereditary? What age does it show up? Is there any evidence that psychopaths have experienced similar trauma in their youth? How did they determine that about 1% of the human population are psychopaths? And so on. These are the questions that were hiding just under the text, but were never answered. The author backs aways from his blanket assessment by the end of the book, but the questions still remain unanswered.

Aside from that minor complaint, the book was absolutely excellent. Its the first I've read by Jon Ronson and I have already put his other two on my wish list (Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats). It covers a wide variety of subjects: psychopaths, scientology and the validity of psychiatry, bi-polar diagnoses in children, the nature of the madness industry, the pharmaceutical companies hand in disease proliferation, and much more. It's a great read and you could not ask for a better introduction to the subject. It reminds me of another one of my favorite books this year, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Who wants to read about the causes of psychopathy? Or how to memorize lists? Both of these authors have succeeded in writing books that transform the boring to the exceptional, mostly through the power of narrative.

The Psychopath Test is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time, but it was also too short. Just as I got interested in a particular subject of madness, the book veers off in another equally interesting direction. It really whet my appetite for additional books on the madness industry, and I wish more book recommendations had been given.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves books, madmen, or just a great non-fiction read.
So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (2015-03-09) :: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain :: Inside the Relationships of inevitable Harm With Psychopaths :: Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (2011-06-01) :: Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kenrick
This book is a great reading subject. It should have been easy for the writer to make it a good read. But instead Mr Ronson leaves readers guessing what the definitive measure of a psychopath is. He take the opportunity in the book to co-mingle the subject of the mentally ill with skeptics who challenge the government's version of 911. This he repeatedly does throughout the second half of the book.

Detecting the psychopaths among is an excellent subject for a book, Mr. Ronson turning this great subject matter into his own crusade to ridicule those who question his version of what happened on 911, is just one reason why this book fails to be a 4 star or 5 star read. It would be better to read the books authored by the creator of the actual psychopath test, a Mr. Bob Hare, which is the test Ronson refers to throughout his book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jiffy
Great book, but could have been so much greater. Would have been nice if he evaluated some influential historical figures and went more into more "macro" aspects of the the influence of "psychopaths". It was an extremely easy read, which was nice, and pretty short. Some books on scientific topics get WAY too "jargon" heavy, this one didn't, it was just right in this sense. Covered some interesting stuff, left me wanting more though.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christina t
A great read. Mr. Ronson presents some good current topics for discussion in a story form. I have been rethinking much of what I previously believed and have even tried to diagnose a few politicians myself.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeff porter
A well-written book, logically moving on from topic to topic, covering everything that you want to know about psychopaths and people who deal with them. At the same time, the author's choice of language is hilarious, makes you laugh out loud a number of times.
The book certainly makes you think about the world we live in-a bit scary sometimes!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sarah mundy
I thought Jon Ronson shared a great part of himself in the book and it was highly entertaining. Just goes to show how ridiculous real life can be. I would have given this book a 5 star rating, except I expected something more from the psychopaths in corporate America piece. Still it had a pretty good ending and punchline.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
stephanie joy
Good read but recommend that if you are interested in topic add the Martha Stouts book "The Sociopath Next Door" to your purchase. Really explains psycho/sociopath behavior and is actually easy to read.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
wealhtheow
This book has no meat to it. After reading it, I felt empty. Certainly I cannot understand all the rave reviews or that it is an the store pick. I am sorry I bought another book written by this author before reading this. Hope it is better.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nautilus sownfire
I picked up this book after seeing Jon Ronson as a guest on "The Daily Show." The book does a great job of showing each viewpoint associated with identifying psychopaths. Ronson also succeeds at creating interest and suspense regarding past events of true accounts. This is well worth reading.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
watergirl
I thought this book was amazing. It was extremely informative, but had enough humor in it to keep from being dry, and full of nothing but facts. Ronson did a great job investigating the inner workings of the madness industry.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jess cate
i did enjoy this book, wasn't that engrossing a read. It was a little hard to follow all the different story lines that he went back and forth through. i might have liked it more had i heard of any of the people he was talking about or the areas he was talking about. most everything takes place in europe so reference he made i did not identify with. i think i would have liked it more had i not had expectations going in from watching interviews where he talks about the book. all in all i would recommend this book just because it is a decent read for only 15 dollars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jonathan mandell
I bought this with the intention of reading it on a recent vacation, but it was done the day after I got it in the mail. I absolutely couldn't put this book down, I can't say enough about it. I have already lent it too two friends who also completely love it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cheryl bradley
The power to label is intoxicating. That's what Jon Ronson found after taking a 3-day training that gave him license to diagnose people as psychopaths. Armed with a 40-item checklist, the journalist went gallivanting around the globe, sniffing out prospective psychopaths from convicted murderers to corporate job-slashers and Haitian war criminals.

Ronson's chronicle of his two-year quest for the elusive psychopath is at times whimsical, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and always riveting.

Those in the field of psychology will be perhaps most intrigued by Ronson's interviews with Robert Hare, inventor of the faddish Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist at the helm of the biggest diagnostic explosion of all time, the DSM-III development, and reclusive figures from back in the old days who choreographed naked, LSD-infused encounter groups for psychopaths at the Oak Ridge hospital for the criminally insane in Ontario, Canada.

Ronson, a journalist, film director, humorist, and author of the bestselling The Men Who Stare at Goats, was able to gain the confidence of his interview subjects to the point that they let down their guards and confided some of their concerns about psychiatric diagnosis and the misuse of psychopathy in the legal world.

In particular, Hare expressed chagrin about how his PCL-R instrument is being used as a basis for civilly detaining convicted sex offenders in the United States after they have finished serving their criminal sentences, for acts they might commit in the future:

" `PCL-R plays a role in that," Bob said. "I tried to train some of the people who administer it. They were sitting around, twiddling their thumbs, rolling their eyes, doodling, cutting their fingernails - these were people who were going to use it.' ... He told me of an alarming world of globe-trotting experts, forensic psychologists, criminal profilers, traveling the planet armed with nothing much more than a Certificate of Attendance, just like the one I had. These people might have influence inside parole hearings, death penalty hearings, serial-killer incident rooms, and on and on. I think he saw his checklist as something pure - innocent as only science can be - but the humans who administered it as masses of weird prejudices and crazy dispositions."

The Psychopath Test only skims the surface, and Ronson's meandering and tangential style feels almost schizophrenic at times. I also found myself disappointed that in the end--after all of his skepticism--he seems to buy into the overrated concept of psychopathy. But I would still recommend the book to anyone interested in a fast-paced and humorous romp through the psychiatric labeling industry.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
will dewey
The book was not as funny as I thought it would be,after the review on the Daily Show. I was disappointed in it it was not well written. There are many CEO's like the one described at the Sunbeam plant they (the board of directors) trot them out at the first sign of recession. My mother talked about them during the first depression in the US. She said she did not know where they went at other times. My brother says that when you see a fancy sports car pull up its time to get out of town.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
richard guha
I found this book to be really fascinating, but then it sort of tailed off towards the end. I was interested to read a book discussing psychopaths though, that wasn't completely focused on serial killers and the like. I keep looking at Newt Gingrich and thinking to myself, "Hmmm, let me go find a copy of that checklist..."
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
aluap
It was a well written book. It was a very easy read.
Author is a good writer.
The journey he takes you through is crafted well.
I was expecting a little more depth on different aspects of 'psycopaths' in business and everyday life.
It stands alone as a good work though.
The price is rather high for such a short book though.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jennifer e cooper
Engaging read full of interesting things I knew nothing about. If you're not Jewish, and you've never been close to anyone who is, you're never confronted with all the world's garbage that people feel entitled to direct at Jewish people.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
roberto martinez
After I read the book, I re-read the cover and was surprised at how overstated it seemed. Maybe that's part of the joke on the reader.

Much of the book can be found on YouTube... word for word if you search for David Icke and Jon Ronson. If you want to read the transcripts of the video, and more like it, then this book is for you!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
maiabasas
This book begins well, and seems very promising up to about half way through. And then it's as if the author got the feeling that the whole book was a stupid idea, and he just threw in random stories of mental illness to complete the project. Big disappointment!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
sammy fonseca
I don't understand why Kindle books are still so peculiarly laid out, with words occasionally run together, jarring hyphen-ations for no reas-on, and occasionally messed-up justification. It's not good enough, particularly when you're often (usually) paying MORE for the Kindle edition than you would pay for a paperback copy.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
sergio
I don't understand why Kindle books are still so peculiarly laid out, with words occasionally run together, jarring hyphen-ations for no reas-on, and occasionally messed-up justification. It's not good enough, particularly when you're often (usually) paying MORE for the Kindle edition than you would pay for a paperback copy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ct turner
I love Jon Ronson. He's a good writer, and seems like a good guy. This book is entertaining and well worth it. The only knock against it is that I fear that Mr. Ronson - in the interest of being "provocative" sometimes feels forced to make his subjects more interesting than they actually are. But then again, he seems to admit to this at times, and I find his self-confessional style not only plausible, but refreshing.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
nicole lyons macfarlane
I, too, raced to buy this book after seeing the author on The Daily Show. Big mistake. While Ronson is witty and spins a good tale about his book on TV, his pitch has absolutely nothing to do with what's contained within the pages. I can't describe how disappointing this book is. It really isn't about anything and meanders aimlessly without really going anywhere. About halfway through I realized that I had been had, but soldiered on hoping for a big comic finish at least. Didn't happen. The author in his banter with Jon Stewart led us to believe that this book was about the surprisingly high number of people we all know or who lead our society who are actually psycho/sociopaths--and how to recognize them. An intriguing idea. If someone would actually write that book, I'd like to read it.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
sarah harrison
I was absolutely engaged by this book--kept me hoping for more from beginning to end, and though it's written with verve and enthusiasm, although perhaps a bit too breezy from time to time, it never quite lives up to its promise, or, in fact, the startling possibilities of its unsettling premise. That premise is stated succinctly on page 112 (of my Kindle edition). Drawing heavily on the pioneering work of Bob Hare, Ronson provides us with a tentative answer to some of the most perplexing we face in life: "Why is the world so unfair? Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty? The answer: psychopaths. That part of the brain that doesn't function right....We aren't all good people just trying to do good. Some of us are psychopaths. And psychopaths are to blame for this brutal, misshapen society. They're the jagged rocks thrown into the still pond."

I audibly gasped when I read that paragraph because it seemed like so much common sense. Our world is as screwed up as it is not because of global warming and corrupt political systems, but because the individuals running it, economically, politically, and socially, are irresponsible, self-absorbed, selfish, egotists who have a grandiose sense of themselves and care little or nothing about the impact of their decisions and actions on others. They have virtually no sense of empathy and are generally pathological liars. They are impulsive and refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. Usually, they demonstrated behavior problems early in their lives and have conned and manipulated their way through it.

These are a handful of the 20 items on Hare's Psychopathy Check List (PCL) which was first published in 1991 and has been translated into a dozen languages and has been the subject of many conferences, scholarly articles, workshops, seminars, books, and is generally regarded as the diamond standard of the profession. It has its detractors, of course, and though Jon Ronson touts it mightily throughout his "journey through the madness industry," even he has some reservations drawing the line between normal and psychopathic behavior.

The problem is that our society, especially certain elements of it, reward may of these traits. Corporate executives, for example, who devastate the employees of the companies they manage, and in fact even "enjoy" firing them are awarded large bonuses because profits matter more than people in much of the corporate world. Taking care of number 1 is an American virtue, and the novelist Ayn Rand built a reputation telling her readers how noble selfishness is, just as the 80's hit film, Wall Street made a mantra from the phrase, "Greed is Good."

Had Ronson stuck to his central idea and focused on helping us to understand how psychopaths have screwed up the upside-down world we live in today I think he would have produced a major work with universal application. While he does cross several fields (usually providing one or two examples from each) he could
have given us a wider range of examples that don't differentiate much between serial killers and business fraudsters (Hare remarks "Serial killers ruin families...Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies.")

As it is, the book seems to flit around from one subject to the next with less cohesiveness than it should have. Ronson flies to Germany to follow up leads, haunts the halls of mental institutions, interviews many Scientologists (who have an ax to grind against psychology and psychiatry). On the one hand, psychopaths are responsible for all the world's woes; on the other, he questions whether they really exist at all. He rehashes many of the critiques of the psychiatry DSM-IV volume which underscore how virtually impossible it is to accurate describe any aberrant behavior--then reminds us that the manual says nothing at all about psychopaths.

This book is a valiant effort, and I think Ronson is on to something. But like Einstein's search for a unifying theory of physics, a unifying theory of destructive human behavior is still a bit beyond our grasp.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
elle howells
I don't care what Ronson says anymore. I don't want to know his insights. He appears not to do much research, and fills in gaps in his "documentary-like" stories with personal emotional comments. I couldn't complete this book because of his constant personal and emotional input. If you care about any sort of research, or rigor in documentary writing, this isn't for you.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
aran liakos
They say every writer should burn his or her first book. Jon Ronson should have burnt his second book. I read his book, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" and thought it was a work of genius. I couldn't wait to get into "Them." I had no preconceived notions, no negative expectations. But this book was so underwhelming and felt like running through molasses.

I constantly felt like Ronson believed that we'd be really shocked at what he encountered but nearly everything people told him had me thinking, "Why is this important?" and came across as bland and disappointing. Adventures with extremists? What adventures? You mean when Ronson was being chased by the Bilderburg Group and then nothing happened? Or when he spoke to neo-nazis and then nothing happened? Or how about when he went to Cameroon and then nothing happened? The stories had me cringing hard. I never felt like Ronson was in any true danger at any time, even when neo-nazis questioned his heritage. (Not that I wanted him placed in any dangerous situation, but he seemed to be flaunting how dangerous his predicaments were.)

This book might as well have been called, "Listening to and hanging out with people who the general populace believe are crazy so I can write a book about it." Don't waste your time with this one. Read "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" instead.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kanishk
Uh... I was expecting something better, something more interesting. I didn't read all of it, but flipped through it a whole bunch. I really didn't enjoy what I read one bit. Felt like a bunch of mixed up garbage, with some voodoo crap thrown in as well.

Returned to the store, shipped with USPS for $2, and got a full refund.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
jeff munnis
I guess I picked this up awhile ago after seeing Ronson on the Daily Show. A few days ago I started reading it and didn't get past the first twenty pages. Maybe it gets better later on, but I couldn't get over the fact that it seemed like I was reading a poorly crafted detective novel written by a high school student. The main character referring to his "sleuthing adventures?" Come on. I'm not that picky, but this just didn't seem worth the time. Look for it in a box on my stoop labeled "free books."
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
len evans jr
I only got 40 pages in before giving up. Can tell whether this is even real or fiction. If it's fiction, the characters are profoundly implausible. If it's meant to be journalism, then the exposition is really rotten---full of ramble and confusingly bizarre assertions about the author kinda coming to believe that there really is a room where conspiracies decide everything (what? Surely he doesn't mean that he actually started to believe that), plus information about the people he met with that seems to be included only to get a cheap laugh---but isn't even funny.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
chris friend
Overall, an interesting and easy read. I enjoyed the collection of anecdotes the author pulled together for the book, but they felt like disjointed, individual short stories rather than supporting research. At times, some of the stories seemed altogether irrelevant. While the topic of discussion is psychopathy, some of the stories seemed to only cover general madness, which seemed like a stretch (i.e. I could have done without the book end chapters on the Being and Nothingness wild goose chase). I understand that madness is part of the title, but to me, general madness and psychopathy are not the same thing. It almost seemed that he didn't have enough material on psychopathy so he decided to piece together any and all anecdotes collected throughout the years that remotely relates to madness. This book may have worked better if he had taken on the freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell approach of disparate, yet related, stories. The anecdotes themselves were fascinating, but his attempt to weave it into 1 cohesive story wasn't particularly successful.

I was hoping for a detailed analysis of the Hare checklist and the application thereof to psychopaths in different walks of life, from your serial killers to CEOs to senators. The first half of the book was promising. He discusses psycho therapy methods in the 1960s, the conference where Bob Hare breaks down the checklist and finally his attempt to apply the checklist to former CEO Al Dunlap. The middle third of the book, Ronson applies the identification of madness to journalism and media. The relevance factor was starting to spread a little thin. His venture into conspiracy theories ironically seemed as if this knowledge of psyhcopathy was actually driving the author himself into madness.

if you're looking for a fun vacation read and just enough talking points for light dinner conversation with friends, this is it. if you're looking for a deep dive into psychopathy diagnosis, a pop psych book containing the observations of a journalist probably isn't your best bet.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
paulette rae
This is an interesting, often funny, “airport read” about psychopathy. It begins with a suitably oddball incident, after which Ronson explores psychopaths, their behavior, diagnosis, and the mental health industry’s attempts to treat them. He remains appropriately ironic, and the reader will wonder whether the psychologists who treat psychopaths - or the journalist who writes about them, or the reader who reads about them - has psychopathic characteristics.

Unfortunately, the subtitle highlights the book’s weakness, which is a superficial view of the “madness industry.” Ronson would have been better to stick with the disorder itself. Embedded in here is a critique of how the profession diagnoses people with any condition. Basically, a psychologist will use a checklist to score a patient from zero to 40 points, with an arbitrary threshold of 30 points for a diagnosis. Ronson implies that everyone gets a single-digit score, and that many healthy people have some larger numbers - but he doesn’t really explore the question or dig up any evidence on it. However, that question would provide a stronger foundation for the critique of the “madness industry” that he wants to make.

Even so, it’s a very well-written book into a fascinating subject, and well worth a read. He also manages to treat his subjects with empathy throughout.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
lyn polk
Well I was really looking forward to reading this book based on other reviews. Towards the end of the second chapter the author mentions Bob Hare, "the father of modern psychopathy research." When I did a google search, I found Bob Hare's website and a page dedicated to this book. [...]
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
alburton
The book is interesting, sometimes ( but not often ) compellingly so. Unfortunately it is also disjointed. The main problem, for me, was in the disjunction between the book's title, 'The Psychopath Test,' and its subtitle, ' A journey through the madness industry.' The book starts out with a compelling mystery created by, not a psychopath, as the reader might assume, but an eccentric, possibly an obsessive compulsive. And while this was the incident which got Ronson involved in psychopathy, it really has nothing to do with the subkect of his book. A great, intriguing, but ultimately irrelevant opening, which becomes a let down. There is interesting material on psychopathy, for anyone unfamiliar with the Bob Hare
checklist, but the author continually seems to remind himself of his central theme, the psychiatric industry, and busily goes off on tangents to pove the problems of that industry. Too often these tangents are on matters unrelated to psychopathy, such as autism, to build his 'case.' For this reader, whenever he loses focus on psychopathy, he loses my interest. A minor point: a Scientologist gets him into a psychiatric institute, and he attends several Scientology functions. Mr. Ronson, for my money, treats Scientology far far too respectfully, with a hands off attitude. I can understand his reluctance to be critical of them, in light of their highly aggressive, threatening behavior to anyone publicly critical of them. Still, the reader unfamiliar with Scientology, and the inherent madness in that organization, may well be intrigued by their radical anti-psychiatry stance.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
alicia j
First and foremost, I enjoy reading well argued "conspiracy theories". There is much insanity in the world that appears to have a tie that binds. This book neither presents a coherent argument not ties anything together. Ronson presents himself as an insecure little man who pokes and cajoles his interview subjects from an uninformed, unresearched, and unscientific approach. He goes into every encounter with his interview subjects as a complete skeptic, to the point of openly demeaning his interviewees, but never actually describes what he believes as a counter to his skepticism. It's now 2016 and the Internet has allowed many of the personalities he bumps into, to present coherent and extensive evidence that there is a much larger game at play than most people are aware of. Ronson's version of his dialogue with almost all of his interview subjects demonstrates extreme insecurity, even in his own retelling of how his conversations play out. He never takes the time to explore if there's any validity to his subjects like Omar's disenfranchisement or Alex's paranoia, which the world has seen grow larger under the foot of the current global empire. Many many books have been written on the secret meetings and society's across the world, but none of those are referenced to create a complex and nuanced understanding of how multi-faceted this subject matter is. He appears as a five year old with a very shallow understanding of how the world operates, and appears to have zero backbone or perspective in how he presents his engagement with both the people and they're stories.
If you're looking for a good book that offers insight into the deep state, stay far away from this book and don't bother giving your money to this teenager seeking attention.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ronin555
This is a book by Jon Ronson of 'Men who stare at goats fame'. The author decides to get to the bottom of the conspiracy theory that the world is really controlled by a secret cabal of industrialists (or possibly giant lizards). He meets various crack pots across the whole gamut of ideological extremes. From Islamic fundamentalists to tin-foil hats to Klansmen to shock jock radio hosts.

It's an entertaining read. There are some crazy people out there who really do believe the world s controlled by a giant conspiracy.

The problem is that the narrative is not really joined together very well, which means the conclusion (where he really does go visit the Bildeburg group) ends a bit flat. There is no tying up of loose ends. One could argue that each chapter is simply an article and the articles have been stuck together to form a novel.

Also the book is a bit dated. It starts just post-September 11th but most of the story occurs in 1999 or 2000. So the conspiracy mania that has exploded since then gets addressed as being more or less impotent or harmless than what it's evolved into today. This obviously isn't the writer's fault. But it does date the book somewhat. It could really do with a revision; maybe meeting the main characters again, or giving a postscript as to what happened. Did the islamic guy get deported? What happened to the Klansman who wanted to disallow the use of the n word? What happened to the guy who believed in the 12 foot tall lizards?

It's a fun book but ultimately a bit of a dissatisfying ending. For what it's worth, 'the psychopath test' similarly ends a bit flat. I think Men who stare at goats is a more well rounded book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carla jenkins
I picked this one up, in paperback, some time ago because I had enjoyed The Men Who Stare at Goats. It sat on the shelf for ages, a victim of the ease of the kindle. I started reading it as my at home book in late 2014 but only finished it earlier today.

I’m not sure what to make of Jon Ronson. He’s a sort of gonzo journalist, although perhaps a less extremist version. He seems to have a knack of making people tell him stuff that is ridiculous and that anyone sensible wouldn’t say in front of another person, let alone a journalist who was going to publish it. Perhaps it’s just my prejudice against journalists and media handling training coming out.

It’s car crash stuff. You can predict where it’s going and how. But yet it still makes you want to read it. It’s in the same vein as PJ O’Rourke and Louis Theroux but less obviously deliberately weird or funny. You know Ronson is showing you interesting characters and introducing the absurdities to you.

The basis for the book is the eponymous Psychpath Test developed by a psychiatrist to tell real psychopaths apart from the rest of the population. Ronson takes us through the signs that indicate psycopathy. He then meets some people that may be psychopaths and interviews them using the test to see whether or not they score highly enough to merit the psychopath label. These include a long term patient in Broadmoor, a former CEO and an alleged Haitian death squad leader living in the States.I picked this one up, in paperback, some time ago because I had enjoyed The Men Who Stare at Goats. I read that before the movie was even mentioned. It sat on the shelf for ages, a victim of the ease of the kindle. I started reading it as my at home book in late 2014 but only finished it earlier today.

The Psychopath Test is really about the absurdity of psychiatry and how normal behaviour can get you classified as mentally ill. We don't really know, or at least can't reliably tell the really bad people from the unusual ones. It's really sad.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
colum
Ronson's 'Them' is another humorous, investigative journalist piece, this one about (far right) extremists. As usual, Ronson does a great job of humanizing his subject matter. The reader isn't greeted with a caricature or with a long, detailed rebuke of the extremists and their views. Instead, we are treated to the extremists own words, and we are given the opportunity to draw our own conclusions. It surprises me that Ronson was able to gain access to interviews with so many high profile conspiracy theorists over the years, but hey, I suppose they have Google too and have learned through the grapevine that he provides a very fair, humorous report on subjects that are usually dismissed by mainstream or politicized authors. I will continue to read everything Ronson writes!

-Ryan Mease
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
zo guillen
"The Psychopath Test" is a fast read written in a style that I found a little off-putting. If you want a book that focuses on identifying psychopaths read Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door which is mentioned in Ronson's book but is far more about the subject where this book is really about the author. That's why I found it off-putting. It's a little narcissistic.

We are invited in to Ronson's self-effacing but self-absorbed world as he travels around identifying psychopaths. It reads almost like a travel journal. Here is me in front of the Eiffel Tower. Here is me in front of Big Ben. Here is me again. Only it's him with this or that psychopath or this or that doctor, with the author always in the foreground.

It's an easy read, though I can't say I'm sure it's worth your time. I did learn a few things--like how producers chose their subjects on those crazy reality shows and how journalists too pick subjects that are crazy enough to get our interests but not so off the deep end that we can't relate.

The overall subject and the idea that our country is run by psychopaths because exploitation and manipulation pays dividends is an important one, though that piece is only touched on in this book. I am simultaneously reading The Untold History of the United States which, after reading this book but especially Stout's, what has gone down in history makes more sense to me. (Stout says something like, when you start asking why--when you don't understand the motivation for the cruelty--you're probably dealing with a sociopath.)

I'm unsure what the distinction is between a sociopath and a psychopath is and for all my googling and reading of the two books I really couldn't see a distinction, despite the claims of there being one. One thing is for sure though, we all need to be aware that they are out there and be alert to them because the damage they do in our personal lives and on the world stage is horrific.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
salihmatin
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

In his book “The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry,” a bestselling journalist Jon Ronson, propelled by a mysterious hoax played on the world’s leading scientists, dives into the world of madness to explore just how mad we really are. During his two-year journey, Ronson not only interviews a bunch of madmen as well as several influential psychologists, psychiatrists and anti-psychiatric Scientologists but also practices his newly gained skill of using Hare Psychopathy Checklist to spot psychopaths. Unexpectedly and quite disturbingly, the author discovers the society’s drive for the ‘right amount’ of insanity, and often detrimental tendency to define individuals by their maddest edges.

THUMBS UP:

1) Intriguing introduction.
The first chapter of “The Psychopath Test” is THE BEST (mysterious, suspenseful and utterly captivating) introductory chapter I have ever read in a non-fiction book. The opening story is so bizarre it can be easily turned into a book itself.

2) Well researched, skillfully written.
Ronson’s style is quite humorous and engaging, making his non-fiction very readable and not in the least dry. Also, the author put quite some time and effort into researching and interviewing, which allowed him to explore the madness industry from multiple perspectives, which in turn enables the readers to form their own opinions on the matter.

COULD BE BETTER:

1) Not what I expected.
I guess it’s not really the author’s fault, but I was expecting this book to be more about psychopaths and less about everything else. Instead, at least half of the book has little to do with psychopathy as the author probes multiple issues related to general insanity. It works this way as well, but I was hoping for an in-depth exploration of the psychopath’s mind and thus was a tiny bit disappointed.

2) Fragmented and seemingly directionless.
While I was reading “The Psychopath Test,” I felt rather confused as if the story has been patched together from several seemingly unrelated parts: at first the book seemed like a really engaging mystery, then it became psychopath-oriented, but soon enough the chapters became quite independent, loosely connected by the general madness theme. Honestly, up until the final chapters I wasn’t sure where the story was going. Although at the very end the author’s intentions became more or less clear, Ronson could have done a better job guiding the reader throughout the whole book.

VERDICT: 4 out of 5

Although “The Psychopath Test” might seem a little fragmented and directionless, it is nonetheless a very entertaining non-fiction that carries an important message.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jodi renee giron
A few years ago I read a book titled "What is Madness?" and though interesting in parts and written by a psychoanalyst, it never came close to really exploring or explaining the very question the title asks. However, I feel Ronson's book does successfully explore this question even if no clear answer is ever given to the question: what is madness? Perhaps it is because Ronson is not a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health "expert" that he is able to tackle the question with such honesty that we finally get to see the paradoxes entailed by trying to define someone as mad. Ronson explores the issue of madness mainly through a particular type of madness known as "psychopathy," an illness now defined by the psychiatric "bible" of metal health disorders - the DSM - as "Antisocial Disorder." The psychopath or Antisocial Personality is someone who has an underactive fright response to stimuli that most people would find disturbing; displays self-grandiosity; impulsive behaviours; lack of empathy and a tendency to lie. These and other behavioural traits were identified by psychologist Bob Hare as features of the psychopath. In the book, Ronson having attended one of Hare's seminars then sets out to meet and possibly identify possible psychopaths. On his journey we meet Tony, a man who in attempting to fake his own madness inadvertently wound up being held indefinitely in a hospital for the criminally insane on the basis that only a psychopath would fake his insanity in the manner that Tony did. We meet a ruthless millionaire business man who sacked thousands of people for the sake of the company he was the CEO of. We meet a former freedom fighter from Haiti who is possibly responsible for the deaths of people in Haiti and is now in a US jail for mortgage fraud and we meet David Shayler, a former member of MI5 turned whistle blower who now seeks media recognition by making gradually making more and more outlandish claims in relation to both terrorism conspiracy theories and in relation to himself (he now declares he is Jesus). After reading this thoroughly entertaining book you may come to feel, as I did, that madness may not solely lie in any individual person but may instead lie in the context of the society in general. As Ronson stumbles along trying to understand the madness of the people he meets we find him wondering if perhaps the madness partly lies in Ronson himself or the circumstances the people he meets find themselves in. Perhaps we are all mad? No psychiatry textbook or abnormal psychology textbook can be this enlightening.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alison blair
Saw Mr. Ronson's interview on the Daily Show and immediately purchased the Kindle edition. I began reading, then looked at the clock and discovered it was 04:15 (I finished reading it later today). An entertaining, informative book which presents questions about mental illness in a balanced, but questioning, manner. A great way to spend several hours.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sitha
I was immediately intrigued upon hearing about The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson, which is probably fitting seeing as I was a psychology major during my undergrad years at UCLA.

People use the word "psychopath" flippantly in every day life to excuse the somewhat offbeat things that others do. But what is a psychopath? I turned to Ronson and The Psychopath Test to find out more. The statistics mentioned in the overview are baffling: "They say one out of every hundred people in a psychopath. You probably passed one on the street today." How is that possible? It's a statistic that's difficult to wrap your mind around. It's a fact that suggests that many of the people we interact with on a day-to-day basis could very well be psychopaths.

I found Ronson's personal experience in The Psychopath Test to be fascinating. He tells what he has recently learned about psychopaths and how at a chemical level their brains are wired differently. It is a condition that is incurable causing their brains to be unable to experience empathy, leaving them to be "manipulative, deceitful, charming, seductive, and delusional."

During the course of the novel, Ronson meets an influential and well respected psychologist who strongly believes that many of the business leaders and politicians in our world are in fact high-functioning psychopaths who have managed to use their condition in order to succeed in the professional world.

I found The Psychopath Test to be a fascinating read and loved accompanying Ronson on his "journey through the madness industry".
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
irene voyles
The author points out how subjective psychiatric diagnoses are. I once worked for a private psychiatric hospital and noticed that each doctor seemed to specialize in one kind of disorder: schizophrenia, adjustment reaction, schizoid personality, etc. I assumed that, when a patient came in, he would be assigned to the doctor who specialized in his disorder. Not so! Patients were assigned in the order they came in, regardless of their problem. It's just that one doctor would see schizophrenia in every new patient that came in, another doctor would see adjustment reaction, etc, etc. I had by that time acquired a degree in psychology and, after this experience, I was highly cynical about the whole field. This is not a science, as much as they would like it seen. It is a pseudoscience.

I got to know one psychopath quite well as my dorm roommate, and it was fascinating to try to figure out where she was coming from. She was so bored with the mundane that she consistently created drama out of her own imagination, and you learned to not believe a word she said. It soon appeared that she herself didn't really know the truth from a lie. She stole money whenever she could. She could get violent for no reason, at any time, but not through rage. She got violent when exciting things were not happening, so she created excitement, even if it meant throwing someone against a wall or pushing them down the stairs. She would say she was sorry, but it wasn't believable. I doubt if she would have killed anyone but just because she was too lazy to plan it or afraid of getting caught, not because it would have bothered her. No small animal was safe around her. For awhile at least, she was quite fun to be around and was charming and witty, but after a time, one got tired of her manipulations and drama if not afraid for one's own well being. I moved out of the dorm.

This book could have been more interesting with more case studies, but it wasn't bad.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
alisha shrestha
Ronson, though ever-engaging, wanders a bit too much in this book. This lack of focus and a clear path is exacerbated by the title, which is a bit misleading. While the majority of the book discusses psychopathy, a good chunk looks at other flavors of "madness". But this exploration of non-psychopathy madness feels scattershot and superficial. So neither is this a book merely about psychopaths nor a book that offers a complete journey through the madness industry. It is more of a book that catalogs Ronson's fascination with psychopathy and some short vignettes about other ways madness manifests in society. In the end, some of the vignettes that did not deal with psychopaths were more interesting and could have used a fuller treatment. Especially his all to brief discussions of (1) how we sometimes view madness as entertainment (see contestants on many reality shows) and how as entertainment we only like certain types of madness, and (2) how more recent iterations of the DSM have cataloged more and more behaviors as diagnosable conditions even as such behaviors veer closer to the line we consider "normal." While I enjoyed the book, its narrative felt disjointed, the conclusion rushed, and the most interesting topics left only barely discussed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lisa renz
This is an entertaining book more or less dealing with a test devised to determine if someone is a psychopath or any other type of mental illness. The writing style is very much in that British ironic style which makes it fairly accessible. If you are looking for something 'serious' on the topic this is probably not the book for you.

The first part of the book addresses what we normally think of 'psychos', those who commit heinous crimes like mass murder or sexual assault. It then differentiates between those who might be 'mad' and those who are 'cold blooded killers'.

It then addresses 'psychopaths' in the business world complete with some rather shocking stories about ruthless businessmen who sacked people 'for staying in the one job for 30 years'.

Where the book lost its way a bit was about 2/3 of the way through, where it digressed away from psychopaths into just plain weirdos like the guy who thought September 11 was an inside job, then thought he was Jesus, then turned into a cross dresser. I don't think that's a psychopath, that's someone with rocks in their head. I found that a bit of a distraction from the topic of the book.

I would have liked a bit more emphasis on the role of psychopaths throughout history (it's been said that all 'great' men of history were probably megalomaniacs, I wonder how many were psychopaths). I think that could have really made an interesting aside, especially the grim possibility that we 'need' psychopaths from time to time!

A fun book and entertaining read. Four stars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
james murphy
I got this for a friend because I joke that she is a psychopath, and she read it and liked it and passed it back onto me.

The book isn’t just about psychopaths, though it is the frame the whole book hangs on. It is more a look into the various people who try to peer into other people’s minds and try to know them – from the creator of the psychopath test to criminal profilers to the compilers of the DSM.

Overall, Ronson is an engaging writer, putting it all together in a readable, conversational manner. The problem is that he is so focused on some individual examples and hits the surface on a lot of things, but doesn’t establish the depth really needed to draw grand conclusions.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mario barreto
'People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get what they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.'
- Robert Hare, Ph.D

I've been hooked on Jon Ronson's writing since 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' was first published. Ronson cuts right to the heart of important topics by having the guts to ask the difficult questions. His literary style is equal parts journalistic rigour, deep compassion and incisive observational humour that often shines the light of ridicule on darker human behaviours. 'The Psychopath Test' explores psychiatry, psychopathology, medication and incarceration of 'dangerous' individuals. The book reads like a mystery novel, which - driven by Ronson's compelling prose - makes it difficult to put down.

The story begins with a meeting between Ronson and a history student who has received a cryptic book called 'Being or Nothingness' in the mail. The same book has been received by several individuals around the globe, most of whom work in the field of psychiatry. The book contains 42 pages, every second one blank. (This made me wonder...in 'The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy', the ultimate answer to life, the Universe and Everything was 42. Was this relevant? Was the mysterious author of 'Being or Nothingness' implying that his cryptic messages, if decoded, could lead to enlightenment?)

Ronson's journey leads him to 'Tony' in Broadmoor, who - when charged with GBH and facing prison 12 years earlier - had faked insanity in the hope of being sent to a comfortable psychiatric hospital. Instead, he had been sent to Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital (home to Britain's most dangerous psychotic prisoners), where he was being held indefinitely. Tony explains that he had picked characteristics of various movie lunatics then pieced them together into his 'insane' persona. Getting into Broadmoor had been easy, but getting out was proving immeasurably harder. A senior psychiatrist admits to knowing that Tony isn't insane, as a truly insane person wouldn't manufacture a new personality in the hope of avoiding prison...but a manipulative psychopath would.

Ronson meets Bob Hare, creator of the PCL-R Test, a 20-step Psychopath Checklist which gives individuals scores between zero and forty; the higher the score, the more psychopathic the person. Hare reveals that inmates at prisons and psychiatric institutions aren't the only ones who score highly on his 'psychopath test': many CEOs and directors of corporations qualify as psychopaths too. This prompts Ronson to wonder 'if sometimes the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath on Wall Street was the luck of being born into a stable, rich family.'

Al Dunlap closed Shubuta's Sunbeam factory (the economic heart of that community), showing no empathy while firing workers and effectively killing the town. While laying off employees, he even spouted jokes such as, "You may have a sports car, but I'll tell you what you don't have. A job!" Bob Hare flags Dunlap as a psychopath, so Ronson sets out to meet the man. When Ronson asks probing questions based on the PCL-R checklist, Dunlap's responses mark him as a textbook psychopath.

Hare explains the science of psychopathology: a part of the brain called the amygdala doesn't function in psychopaths as it does in other human beings. When a regular person experiences extreme violence or carnage (or even photographs of such scenes), his amygdala becomes overstimulated, provoking an extreme anxiety response in the central nervous system. When a psychopath experiences the same stimuli, his amygdala does not respond: no anxiety response occurs. This explains the psychopath's lack of empathy.

'The Psychopath Test' is a compelling read. Ronson's fluid style is the perfect balance of rigorous research, keen observation, poignancy and humour. Congratulations to Jon Ronson on another phenomenal achievement.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
domenica
This is my second Ronson read. Because of his subject matter, I don't think Ronson is likely to go down as one of the all-time greatest authors in history. His books are just too weird. That said, he's an exceptionally talented writer with a unique voice and prose style, which makes it a blast to read just about anything that he produced. Honestly, you just end up liking Ronson and getting excited to follow him on whatever adventure he's having in the book. Here, it's a study of psychopathy as a clinical and cultural phenomenon, but also a slightly wider look at the psychiatric industry ins general. If you're a fan of humorous investigative journalism and don't mind admitting to your friend that you're reading a book about psychopaths, read this book! -Ryan Mease
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
gesti
I do admit that I've been hiding under a figurative rock for a number of years; I had never heard of Jon Ronson until a few months ago when I came across a you-ube video of his quizzing some folks about their stealing his online persona (or something like that). The video didn't make me want to read his works, though I thought it was somewhat interesting, and brave of him to show himself being messed about with by some tos-ers who nonetheless had a point or two, annoying though they were.

Then, at a UK supermarket the other week, I wanted to take advantage of a "3 books for 10 pounds" offer -- basically because I wanted to have the new Steve Coogan book for a long flight (sadly it turned out to be not nearly as funny as I had hoped and I deliberately left it, half-unread, in a hotel room in the middle of my trip) -- so I picked this one (which I had never heard of) up as one of the other 2 books.

The outside/inside cover blurbs (some from some pretty cynical, extremely well-read folks who are known for having high expectations) were full of praise, and made it sound like the book would be right up my alley.

Having not read anything by Jon Ronson before, I didn't know what to expect, but if he could make a (self-described within the blurb) extra-grumpy and tired Will Self perk up and start laughing out loud in the first few pages, then I hoped I wouldn't get a side stitch from supressing certain spasms of laughter as I read this while my fellow airplane passengers were sleeping.

I've now finished the book (so it won out over the Coogan effort, at least), but I didn't laugh once while reading it. I didn't even chuckle once. It's not because I don't understand irony or a British sense of humour. For example, I do get Louis Theroux's (another of the blurb contributors) style of interviewing/writing/describing/investigating/poking fun.

[I got a scary feeling that I probably have a similar writing style to Ronson's, at least when it comes to breezy, everyday, mildly stream-of-consciousness writing that mainly amuses only myself and that *isn't* meant to be concise, structured, well-researched, and thoroughly entertaining like a published "sciencey-slash-humour-category" book from such a writer as Ronson apparently ought to be, and that maybe this is why _The Psychopath Test_ didn't seem that remarkable, hilarious, well-written, or eye-opening to me. And I'm not trying to praise myself with faint comparative damnation.]

The book also didn't blow my mind with its information or insights -- maybe it's 'cos I studied psychology or have something of an interest in psychopathology (having been around lots of the unincarcerated, more "successful" ones in the past couple of decades, and therefore forced to learn a bit about them). It was just ho-hum. Ho-hum and kind of sloppy/circuitous/suspiciously-tidy (in terms of plot elements falling into place).

At the end, I wasn't sure of the point that the book was trying to make. I was glad when it was done, but it didn't feel that it had come to a good stopping place/conclusion. It might be a "journey" through "the madness industry", but there was a huge amount that it missed. It wasn't amusing/enlightening enough to be excused for being low on content/incisiveness.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
stephaniebrown9
There's something that annoys me about journalists who ultimately make the story about themselves. We see it a lot with Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock: both of these documentarians try to make a point, but they end up involving themselves in the movie to the point where they movie is more about their own narrative rather than the issue at hand. British journalist Jon Ronson falls into a similar vein but with one distinct difference: where some journalists/documentarians are fueled by ego, Ronson is definitely fueled by the thrill of the chance. One thing that has characterized all of Ronson's books is his need to get to the bottom of whatever he's researching in. In THEM, he tried to get to the bottom of all of the zany conspiracy theorists/extremists. In THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS, he tried to unravel the truth in a bizarre series of events in the US Military. In THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, Ronson attempts to discover what psychopaths are, why they are, who they are, and how we know.

THE PSYCHOPATH TEST is funny, informative, and even suspenseful. I want to point out the first chapter in particular: the first chapter might be the best thing Ronson has ever done as a writer. The book begins with Ronson learning about a series of self-made books that have been distributed to an exclusive group of people internationally. The people who receive these books are primarily academicians and intellectuals, but no one can quite discern WHY they received this cryptic book. The book itself seems to be a coded message, and many of its passages are ominously foreboding. Ronson attempts to get to the bottom of this mystery, and it launches him into search for what makes a psychopath. This first chapter was such a joy to read, and things become so crazy and strange -- Ronson makes for a good character to lead us down this rabbithole. If you are on the fence regarding this book, sample the first several passages on the store, and that should be your litmus test.

The story that is told in the first chapter ultimately serves as the smoking gun for what comes later. Ronson interviews alleged psychopaths in a mental ward, researchers who pioneered work in psychopathy, the man who developed the current scale used to diagnose psychopaths, a psychopathic millionaire CEO, one of the first criminal profilers, and the man who devised the current form of the DSM (more on that in a bit). I do a lot of work in the field of psychology, so a lot of this information was not particularly new. However, with that said, the material that wasn't new to me was still fun to revisit. Ronson retells a lot of this information with incredulously wide eyes and in a dry, witty way that's hard not to love. If you've read any of Ronson's work before, you know that the man is a very anxious, neurotic individual. This trait is accentuated here as Ronson travels among murders and other unhinged individuals. As Ronson becomes more involved in the subject matter, the more neurotic and paranoid he gets. Is he himself a psychopath? Are psychopaths going to find him and kill him for exposing him?

Interestingly, I found that most of the best moments in this book came from when Ronson was interviewing the perfectly "sane" people -- the researchers who have spent their lives trying to pinpoint the identity of psychopaths seem to show the most psychopathic traits. This point is overtly made in one of Bob Hare's seminars. Hare is the inventor of the current scale used to assess for psychopathy, and one of the members of his audience stands up and proclaims the man to be a psychopath himself. Hare, along with some of the researchers in the field all exhibit strange, quirky mannerisms, and their curious interviews were more interesting than, say, when Ronson interviews a mass murderer later in the book. To that point, hearing about the creation of the Diagnostic Statistics Manual (or DSM; the handbook on which ALL current abnormal psychological disorders are diagnosed and informed) was one of the highlights for me. When this interview comes late in the book, it feels only tangentially related to the main thread of THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, but as someone who works in the field, I was captivated by the story behind the influential manual.

Including THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, I've read four of Ronson's books. Out of these four, THE PSYCHOPATH TEST is the best written -- while it can't compete content-wise with THEM or THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS, the book itself is a little more coherent than his past work. Don't get me wrong, these chapters are disjointed, but Ronson has been able to link them together narratively so that the transitions mostly feel natural. With that said, the book is still pretty scattered, and it shifts between the personal narratives of Ronson's travels and more expositional, historical accounts. The ending of the book is also pretty unsatisfying -- Ronson tries to tie it all back together, but he is never really quite able to make it whole. This rickety conclusion is made worse by the lack of content of the book -- even at nearly 300 pages, the book doesn't feel very substantive. Of course, this is both a compliment and a criticism: the 300 pages really fly by.

Even though the book left me somewhat vaguely unsatisfied, the adventure was a lot of fun. There's a ton of information for those who are both new and familiar with the field, and it is all synthesized in a way that is easy to digest and fun to read. If you've never come across a book/article by Jon Ronson, THE PSYCHOPATH TEST makes for a good place to start. In fact, I might even say that this is the best place to start; the book may be one of his funniest, and it is probably the least scattered/disjointed. If you are at all interested in psychopaths or the madness that lurks behind normal people, give this book a go.

A word about the Audiobook: If you enjoy listening to Audiobooks, the author himself narrates this book and does a wonderful job. Much like his other books, Ronson phrases and paces his own book terrifically. Because many points of the book involve Ronson introspecting, his own narration makes the book feel more personal than it already is. The length of the audiobook is approximately 8 hours (maybe 8 and a half), so it's not too long. Additionally, its chapters are all about 45 minutes or so, and they make a great natural stopping-point for those who have long commutes / jogs. THE PSYCHOPATH TEST is currently on Audible.com for relatively cheap, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an informative, breezy, fun listen.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
khaene hirschman
At least part of the fear of understanding the point of view of extremists comes from the notion that if we empathize with them in any way, that we ourselves will fall into some sort of racist/paranoid snare trap. That we will learn, to our horror, that our convictions are not half as ironclad as we publicly claim them to be. It’s this fear that makes reading Jon Ronson’s Them: Adventures With Extremists such a fascinating read, particularly in this day and age.

Published a mere two years after the attacks on September 11th, 2001, Them is still an incredibly informative read a decade later. Ingratiating himself with various extremists over the course of years, humorist Jon Ronson has found a way to humanize the fringe culture that many of us fear and revile. And although Ronson is an impressive journalist, it isn’t the use of some trick technique that causes these “wackos” to open up to him–he merely listens and records.

He uses this “technique” on everyone from forest-dwelling Libertarians to Klansmen to Muslim extremists. And the thing that they all seem to have in common is not terribly surprising: a desperate need for someone–anyone–to listen. It isn’t surprising, because in the long run it’s that very desire to be seen as relevant that molds people from all walks of society.

This common ground reshapes the boogeyman in our eyes. Omar the Muslim extremist is just a more highly motivated version of your overly religious uncle with the crappy jokes. He doesn’t seem all that threatening–he is just odd. Omar doesn’t feel like someone who could hurt anyone: he’s just a big dork. One could argue that this takes some of the power away from the stereotype of the brown-skinned terrorist with the 40 yard stare. One could also point out that this makes him and the other radicals in this book even more dangerous, as it might allow our guard to drop just in time for this seemingly innocuous man to hurt someone.

I would argue against this, however, as Ronson is constantly keeping us abreast of all of these men’s (they are mostly men) affairs. David Icke’s theory that many world leaders are 12 foot tall lizard men in disguise is outlandishly laughable until you realize how widespread his thoughts are. Then it becomes acutely frightening. The percentage of people who buy into his bizarre notions is small in the grand scheme of things, but Ronson’s record of the actual adoring fans who arrive at Icke’s conventions is alarming to say the least. So Them has the dual purpose of amusing the reader with the antics and seeming “ordinary” nature of these radicals, while simultaneously frightening you out of your wits.

What I mostly took from this book, however, was the sadness of such a life. Too often we think of Jerry Springer radicals–the ones who clearly just need the attention that they aren’t getting at home. They throw on a robe, they drop the N-word in public: Boom. Of course, the endlessly tragic stories of Waco and Ruby Ridge are here as well, and they’re treated with the respect they’re entitled to. But more often than not, you’re treated to the general rank-and-file of the Ku Klux Klan or the paranoid inner thoughts of conspiracy theorists, and part of you wants to give them a hug. I don’t fully understand it myself: so many of them just seemed… well… lonely. Like the odd kid you knew elementary school who just didn’t fit in, so he never stopped playing with his GI Joes. And his storylines got deeper and more intricate, until you couldn’t even play a simple game with him without knowing the 1500 pages of Cobra Commander’s backstory.

Do we retreat into this fantasy world as some sort of defense mechanism? Is mental illness to blame? The many examples that Ronson brings to light suggest perhaps a little from both columns A and B. Whatever its underlying root, the best thing we get from Them: Adventures With Extremists is a face to put on the conspiracy theorists that both fascinate and frighten us. But it isn’t the face that some knee-jerk readers would be led to believe–the understanding and “he really is a good guy” attitude painted on by sappy liberals that I’m not sure even exist. Instead, the humanity that Ronson allows us a glimpse of makes these paranoids even less likeable at times. It’s the very idea that the majority of these people seem like addled court jesters that makes the atrocities that they support that much more horrifying. A true incarnation of the idiom “it’s the quiet ones you’ve got to watch”. And then they say something that you can imagine being said by your old GI Joe-playing schoolchum, and there’s that awful need to help them all over again. It’s confusing, and even irritating. In other words: it’s humanity at its finest.

Beyond all of this postulating and theory, however, is a truly funny book. Jon Ronson does a wonderful job of keeping the reader informed and enlightened while also keeping a grin on your face. It’s difficult to be humorous for several hundred pages no matter what you’re writing about, so the fact that he can do this while writing about some of our world’s scariest people is that much more impressive. Hardly an exhaustive tome on the world extremism, Them: Adventures With Extremists is still a highly entertaining pinkie toe dipped in the swirling hot tub that is the mind of paranoia.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
heather miederhoff
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

“The Psychopath Test" is an interesting piece of investigative journalism on psychopaths. Award-winning author and documentary maker Jon Ronson takes the reader on a quirky journey that puts him across some curious characters including an interview with the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), Bob Hare. His newfound ability to “diagnose” psychopaths leads to amusing stories. This book is high on entertainment value but less so in substance. This entertaining 272-page book includes the following eleven chapters: 1. The Missing Part of the Puzzle Revealed, 2. The Man Who faked Madness, 3. Psychopaths Dream in Black-and-White, 4. The Psychopath Test, 5. Toto, 6. Night of the Living Dead, 7. The Right Sort of Madness, 8. The Madness of David Shayler, 9. Aiming a Bit High, 10. The Avoidable Death of Rebecca Riley, and 11. Good Luck.

Positives:
1. Engaging, entertaining and well-written book. A page turner. Ronson is a gifted writer.
2. A very interesting look at the madness industry. A serious topic handled in a quirky way.
3. The chapters are divided logically by anecdotes.
4. Interesting facts of cases throughout the book. “Broadmoor is Broadmoor psychiatric hospital. It was once known as Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. It was where they sent Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, who killed three children and two teenagers in the 1960s; and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, who killed thirteen women in the 1970s...”
5. An interesting look at Scientology’s war on psychiatry. “Anti-Scientologists believe that the religion and all that is done in its name, including its anti-psychiatry wing, are nothing less than a manifestation of L. Ron Hubbard’s madness.”
6. The Robert Hare Checklist which consists of twenty personality traits that is scored and used to determine psychopathy. Once introduced, Ronson makes repeated reference to it as it is applied.
7. So is psychopathy curable? Find out.
8. The rise and fall of the Oak Ridge program.
9. The book revolves around psychopaths and what they are about. “Psychopaths get bored easily. They need excitement. They migrate to the big cities.” “Bob said it was becoming clearer that this brain anomaly is at the heart of psychopathy.”
10. Midway through the book Ronson gets to the heart of it. “This—Bob was saying—was the straightforward solution to the greatest mystery of all: Why is the world so unfair? Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty? The answer: psychopaths. That part of the brain that doesn’t function right.”
11. Many case studies that illustrate the traits of psychopaths. There is an amusing story about Nicole Kidman doing research for a movie.
12. Psychopathy in business. A look at Sunbeam’s former CEO and inspiration behind the cover, Al Dunlap.
13. A very interesting look at what constitutes the best guests for reality TV shows.
14. The tale of the 7/7 conspiracy and the man behind it.
15. The story of the ill-fated psychopath hunt.
16. The man behind the DSM, the manual for psychiatrists. “DSM-III was a sensation. Along with its revised edition, it sold more than a million copies. Sales to civilians hugely outweighed sales to professionals. Many more copies were sold than psychiatrists existed. All over the western world people began using the checklists to diagnose themselves.”
17. A final chapter that summarizes to some extent the book.
18. Limited notes but bibliography included.

Negatives:
1. The mystery premise, though intriguing at first, was not satisfying.
2. Lack of scientific rigor. We must be very careful about making behavioral conclusions based on poor science. As an example, neuroscience looks like a very promising field but we have more questions than answers.
3. The book lacks cohesion. Entertaining but doesn’t flow as well as I would have liked.
4. Misses opportunities to provide readers with more information on psychopaths via links, appendices or other supporting material. An appendix of say the most notorious alleged psychopaths in history would have been a fun insert. A fun list of best movies with psychopaths. You see where I am going with this.
5. The notion that after just three days of learning Bob Hare’s Checklist Ronson felt empowered to identify psychopaths. Really?
6. Lack of visual material. No timelines, very few photos, charts, etc…
7. It leaves you unsatisfied. So how much do we really know about psychopaths?

In summary, this was a much more entertaining book than it was substantive. Ronson is an engaging and self-deprecating writer but it comes at the expense of knowledge. I was entertained by Ronson’s quirky and amusing approach but I wasn’t satisfied with the results. It is still worth reading if you are interested in said topic but don’t expect a comprehensive effort.

Further recommendations: “Without Conscious: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us” by Robert D. Hare, “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout, “Snakes in Suits” by Paul Babiak, “Psychopath: Enter the Mind of a Psychopath” by Clarence T. Rivers, “The Wisdom of Psychopaths” by Kevin Dutton, “The Psychopath Whisperer” by Kent A. Kiehl, and “Sociopath: Enter the Mind of a Sociopath” by Clarence T. Rivers.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
donna rhoads
This book was a joy to read! The author Jon Ronson is an incredibly intriguing story teller. This book takes you on a journey, primarily to find out whether or not one of the main characters, Tony, is a psychopath. This is done through many other weaving stories, all amazing in their own right. Each story that Jon brings you on throughout this book never has too much of a definitive moral, yet they are there and they add on each other in the best way possible. Throughout reading this book it feels like you are right beside Jon as he sleuths around interviewing everyone from psychopaths and psychologists to scientologists and Haitian warlords.

Because Jon is a journalist who happens to be writing about psychology, there is a very interesting point of view throughout that connects more with the normal non-scientific person. Throughout the book it feels like he learns things right along with you and never talks over your head. By the end of it, this book will change the way you view the world. After reading this book you may feel as if you might be qualified to administer the psychopath test, or are a psychopath yourself. But then again, that’s kind of the whole point.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ashley clarke
The "Psychopath Test" is best described by its subtitle - "A Journey Through the Madness Industry." The book can be quite disconcerting and unsatisfactory in scientific terms, but I think the author compensates it by admitting some flaws in the approach and not focusing on making scientific information seem credible.
Honestly I did not understand exactly what the author's purpose in this book. On the one hand, it can’t be considered a scientific book (has serious flaws, generalizations, preconceptions ...), but it it’s clearly not a piece of journalism, having some sort of diary format. Roson places himself in the center of the story and basically the reader accompanies him in searching for an easy recognition of psychopaths and how they are involved in society. The entire book always focuses on the perspective of the author and the various people who will enter in contact throughout this investigation.
The entire process Roson uses to identify psychopaths turns out to be ridiculous, mainly because of the overstatement that he falls identifying psychopaths everywhere. Personality disorders are difficult to diagnose. People do not necessarily have all the items of a check-list. That's why we talk about personality traits. These generalizations of mental illness is something that scares me. The author seemed too obsessed with the theme and mental illness in general.
The book doesn’t bring anything new or really interesting new material, it reads quickly and forget more quickly still.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kayla meyer
THE PSYCHOPATH TEST is somewhat better described by its subtitle -- "A Journey Through the Madness Industry" -- than it is by that flashy title, which leads the reader to expect a lot about psychopaths and how to detect them. The central spine of the book -- the most interesting, compelling sections -- are about psychopaths, and possible psychopaths, and the question of determining who is a psychopath, from ex-Sunbeam CEO "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap to a young man Ronson meets in the British high-security psychiatric hospital Broadmoor, but that's only one aspect of Ronson's larger goal.

Unfortunately, Ronson's larger goal is somewhat amorphous: he wants to investigate how people get tagged with psychiatric categorizations, and how useful that process is, and whether those categorizations really correspond to the real world. This was partially driven by his contacts with Scientologists, who famously dislike the psychiatric profession, since they have their own alternative theory of human behavior and mental illness. [1] And it was partly driven by Ronson's own general bent of research -- he is, after all, the author whose last book was The Men Who Stare at Goats, about military applications of supposed mental powers (which also became an odd movie), and, before that, a book called Them: Adventures with Extremists. Ronson clearly has a tropism for the quirkier and more colorful sides of the human imagination, and THE PSYCHOPATH TEST sees him trying to apply that more systematically, to see if the major system of taxonomy of those quirks and bits of color (the DSM-IV) makes sense and does what it's supposed to.

Ronson is a reporter of the go-talk-to-people school, which makes his books colorful and deeply readable, but some readers may wish that he had a stronger strain of sit-there-and-read-deeply to give more background and depth to his interviews and experiences. He doesn't really have a thesis to test, just an area to explore, and that area is so large that there's no obvious point at which he can say that he's explored it "enough." So THE PSYCHOPATH TEST is a collection of excellent chapters, ideas, and thoughts that don't precisely add up to one thing -- it's a constellation of thoughts about sanity, moral sensibility, and mental disorders rather than a systematic investigation of any one thing or explication of a specific theory. Ronson, though, is so engaging and immediate a writer that many readers won't even notice that he's bitten off more than any man could chew, though I expect many readers will wish that he'd been a bit more focused on the psychopaths, since they're the ones we want to know the most about.

[1] I will studiously avoid characterizing this theory, since it's outside the scope of this review, and I don't intend to seek out trouble. But those who know anything about that theory may be able to guess my opinion of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
debbie murphy
Mr Ronson is known for his biting descriptions of people who are just a little 'askew'. But in reality (if there is one) who is 'normal' and who is abnormal. DaVinci wrote backwards in his notebooks because he was left handed and it was easier to write this way and not smear the ink. Today if you did this you would be described as anti-social and belligerent, railing against conformity. But Leonardo was a genius and writing backwards was to him a better way for left-handed people, so what. Einstein was known to use a piece of rope to hold up his pants, he said it did the same work as a belt so what was the big deal.

The line between genius and insanity is very close. In fact it's more like a shadow than a line. The problem with today's society is that some people want everyone to be "normal", and keep trying to narrow who fits where under the bell curve. Should anyone who is two deviations or more from the median be declared 'abnormal' and subjected to government intervention? If Salvadore Dali wasn't a painter would he have been considered 'eccentric' or 'crazy'. Was Vincent van Gogh a great painter or did he just paint what he saw in his madness (anyone who has taken LSD can tell you about heightened colors) or was he just able to put his visions down on paper.

In a resent study, woman who were 'visionaries' like Joan of Arc were diagnosed as suffering from major lifelong migraines. Woman like her had visions that were always while they were awake, they didn't have visions as dreams. Migraines sufferers are know to see visions of 'spinning circles of light' and 'quicksilver rain'. How would an illiterate religiously devote person (in the Middle Ages) rationalize what they saw?

So read the book with a large amount of 'salt', and realize that the 'madness industry' is just one more way that we try to shrink the world down to a commonality. If you want to look for psychopaths, just look in the paper, Kim Jung Un is the leader of a small backward dictatorship that is ready to take on the US with maybe 2 or 3 nuclear weapons that his missiles at best can hit Alaska. Doesn't anyone tell him that we have nuclear subs that can put over one thousand nuclear weapons down on his country in less than one hour. Talk about a psychopath with delusions of adequacy?

It's interesting for it's asides and a quick read. But don't take my word for it, what do I know, and who told me I knew anything.

Zeb Kantrowitz
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
alison zammit
The Psychopath Test begins with an unusual mystery demonstrating bizarre human behaviour in which the author is asked to investigate copies of a mysterious manuscript being sent to academics around the world.
This initial search leads him down a rabbit hole of questions and current theories regarding our definitions of mental illness and its extremities.
Ronson interviews artists, prison psychiatrists who dabbled in bizarre drug experiments and merciless television executives scouring the land for the most outrageously dysfunctional people to appear on reality TV shows, each with their own unique experiences of the mental health industry.

Ronson, known for his interviewing style of mixing Gonzo journalism with a lot of self-deprecation, uses his questioning to diffuse the many dangerous places and situations he finds himself in, usually by making it seem inconceivable that anyone could find him offensive due to his passionate incredulity.

The book becomes a basic history of contemporary psychiatry and all of its obvious flaws and effects, focusing mostly on a test that purportedly can define a person as being psychopathic by their answers to a list of 20 questions established by Canadian psychologist Robert Hare.
Ronson, after initial scepticism, becomes a convert to, and advocate of, the systems accuracy and begins to find common links between violent criminals, ruthless businessmen and politicians who all seem to score highly on the tests evaluation.
But this power of being able to weigh up an individuals characteristics and antisocial potential begins to make Ronson paranoid and unable to fully accept the quirks of individuality without the taint of Hare's list.

I found this book quite ambiguous and light; it tends to flirt with all possible outcomes without addressing the full weight of argument.
That said, it's a book that's meant to entertain more than inform, I suspect, so this trait might be taken more as a caveat rather than a criticism.

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★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
liubov kadyrova
As a person with lots of minor and many imagined mental health issues myself, and as a mother of an inappropriately diagnosed "bipolar" child, I've read widely about the history and current research in the mental health field and industry, including some of the more cooky theories that have received accolades in their time. I started out as a stanch believer in the many forms of pathology and am now finding myself thinking that most people are examples of extreme but normal behavior. Ronson uses several case studies and the opinion of people on both sides of the debate to examine this point and I appreciated that he did not take a clear stand- I don't think any thoughtful person can. Each case must be decided on its own merit. Unfortunately, humans have a long history of medically screwing up quite a lot before they find their way back to the correct path, only to wander off again. It is important to keep questioning all human "knowledge" and to continue to test it against new information, to be sure that we are not stuck believing something because it sounded good and we are now flittering data it support our opinion. Guarding against this kind of investigator bias is what science is all about. However, even the most disciplined of scientists are at risk of doing just that, and we must all be careful to not accept ideas just because someone important said them or because they are appealing or because lots of people believe them or because they have been part of a culture for a very long time. To paraphrase a terrific musician and skeptic, Tim Minchin, ideas are not valid because they are tenacious. Ronson covers a lot of ground in a quick and pleasant read, while poking a bit of fun at both sides of the debate and especially at himself. You can read, enjoy, and understand this book even if you do not have an extensive background in psychiatric theory. And it will scare you to think that 3 to 4% of the people who run the world are heartless bastards.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rita crossley
Ronson writes a highly engaging account of the madness that permeates our society - that which is acknowledged and codified as well as that which goes unnoticed, exaggerated or rewarded. He concentrates his attention on psychopathy and Bob Hare's "Psychopath Test", highlighting the inexactness of the psychological sciences and the risk of their misuse, both in supplying false positives and false negatives (though I suppose I'd have to admit, even the physical sciences suffer from false results) as well as their inherent contradictions and unfalsifiable tests and propositions.

Through his travels he interviews an intriguing assortment of the key players in the field including, on several occasions, Bob Hare himself. His writing style includes the typically English dry humour and a clarity of expression that makes the book very easy to read (I think I finished it over two days). The anecdotes and examples he cites are both hilarious and tragic, but all are enlightening. For example his insights into the creation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, involving psychiatrists shouting at each other from across a room, and into the unintended consequences of reality television, are amazing.

I suppose the one failing of the book for me is that Ronson doesn't seem to have a precise point to his thesis; he draws no discrete conclusion at the end, but leaves the reader in ambiguous territory. Considering the complexity of the human brain, and the definition of so many mental disorders as existing beyond a certain point on a spectrum of normalcy, it is always going to be difficult to precisely diagnose the existence or non-existence of mental disturbance. As a result it might be that this failing in the book is unavoidable, but for someone who requires concrete conclusions like myself, I did feel that I'd been left somewhat hanging.

Nevertheless, Ronson manages to shed light on a vague and complex area of human existence. His probing questions take the views of his interviewees to their logical extremes, and shows them wanting in the rigour that at first glance they seem to possess. I don't think any reader would finish the book feeling uneducated and unentertained.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jennifer james
Jon Ronson is a journalist from the UK, and he generally writes about the odd, quirky corners of human life. Them: Adeventures with Extremists is one of Ronson's first published books -- for years previous, he had written for various newspapers and magazines. Most of his stories are told from a distinct first-person narrative, and readers are privy to his internal thoughts, feelings, and reservations. Importantly, Ronson does all of this with a nice sense of upbeat humor -- he may travel to, and write about, some of the strangest circumstances in the world, but he always seems game to follow the story to its ending, no matter how crazy things get. In this respect, Them: Adventures with Extremists is a through-and-through Ronson adventure with all of the advantages and disadvantages that entails.

SUMMARY: Them: Adventures with Extremists is a nonfiction, investigative journalist's account of his travels with fringe group members. Ronson travels with an extremist muslim, a member from the Ku Klux Klan, a man who believes that the world is run by a shadowy group of businessmen and government leaders trying to install a New World Order, Alex Jones -- the conspiracy theorist, and a man that believes the world is controlled by a group of alien satanic lizards that dabble in pedophilia. Almost all of these individuals are well educated, and many of them are personable and friendly, but they are all characterized with the belief that there's some group of people secretly controlling the world and oppressing its people. The book is written with the characteristic wit and humor of Jon Ronson who is unabashedly neurotic and anxious throughout his entire investigation. Ronson really throws himself into the fray -- traveling to Portugal to track down the Bilderberg Group, and infiltrating Bohemian Grove where many important leaders dress in robes and participate in pseudo-pagan rituals. All of these travels are colored with Ronson's humor, and it makes for a very enjoyable read.

Perhaps most interestingly, this book was published very shortly after the attacks of 9/11/2001 on New York City. The world has changed drastically since those terrorist attacks -- especially in regards to the fringe groups and conspiracy theorists out there. Today, this book feels strange because much of conspiracy theories today center around 9/11 conjecture, and this book is almost completely without it (besides a brief mention in the prologue). In this regard, the book is both an interesting snapshot of fringe beliefs before 9/11, and a dated account of the extremists in the late 1990's.

PRO'S: Jon Ronson seems very afraid to put himself in such close contact with these extremists and fundamentalists, but he does it anyways. A good deal of the humor in this book comes from Ronson's panics, neuroses, and fears as he travels into the dark shadowy world of conspiracy theory. The first person narrative that this book assumes makes it an immediate and enjoyable experience, and the story comes alive and more personal than if it were without Ronson's point of view.

CON'S: Cohesion has never been Ronson's strongest suit. His background is in shorter-piece essays and articles fit for newspapers and magazines, not full-length books. Additionally, the structure of this book doesn't lend itself well to cohesion: Ronson follows the story of a handful of extremists, and the only real through-line is that they are all extremists and convinced that the world is out to get them. While many of the chapters here work extraordinarily well on their own, they never really come together in a meaningful way. This lack of cohesion is probably most evidence by the book's ending -- the book mostly ends abruptly without much fanfare. Ronson's later books, like The Psychopath Test, gives himself a chapter at the end in order to sum up his thoughts on the matter and to put it all into perspective.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
zahit zcan
I was given this book by a new friend at our second meeting. She mentioned that it might be a weird book to give to someone you barely know - but she thought I would like it and maybe, if she wasn't wrong, I would get it after reading it.

That is pretty much the best sales pitch I know of to read a book. I have a strange job that leads me down lots of conspiracy theories and I'm just agnostic and curious enough to listen. Them is a perfect introduction to just how illogical and overboard we can all be. There are truly extremes on every side of a position. Being rational, calm, respectful, and a good listener can be just as misunderstood as a raving lunatic with a gun, phone, blow horn, or idea.

I am really impressed that Ronson get's these folks to let him embed himself with them and his honesty about being scared, insecure, challenged, uncomfortable, and entertained. This is a real person doing real investigative reporting coming from a genuine curiosity that not only makes the read entertaining, but makes me want to invite Jon to hang out with me. I am not sure if I am interesting enough - and I am certain he is.

Jessica Pettitt. Jessica Pettitt is the "diversity educator"; your family warned you about. Through teaching, writing, and facilitating tough conversations, she has figured out how to BE the change she wants to BE. Now it is your turn!

As she travels around the country, you can catch up with Jessica on:
Facebook: <a href="[...] target="_blank">[...]
YouTube: <a href="[...] target="_blank">[...]
LinkedIn: <a href="[...] target="_blank">[...]
Twitter: <a href="[...] target="_blank">[...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
oceans
While reading this book I learned two things. One is that I am definitely not a psychopath. The second is that I definitely know at least one.
With that said, this book was fascinating! It delves into what it means to be a psychopath on a diagnostic level and also discusses the traits that are used in everyday life. Like the fact that psychopaths have really short-term memories, which is why they can commit horrendous crimes more than once (because they don't remember what it feels like having done it the first time). Plus, they don't care or have remorse.

The author interviews people that were highly successful, like Al "The Chainsaw" Dunlap and people that have been committed for being psychopaths that may or may not be (like Tony). The problem is that even though there is a checklist, psychopaths are very adept at faking emotions and empathy, making it extremely difficult for the average person to weed them out. I'm really looking forward to reading Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work by Paul Babiak, Robert D. Hare.

My favorite line in the book basically says, "If you are reading this book and wondering whether you might be a psychopath, rest assured your are not". So, if you care enough about being labeled as one, you aren't one. This is comforting because I think that everyone, at some point in their lives, can ascribe at least one of the traits on the Hare's Checklist to themselves. It's nice to know a little bit of crazy is normal.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
martin sloane
This is a book about the author's self-confessed attraction to the study of psychopaths, its sometimes dangerous consequences, and of course, a look at some psychopaths. This is certainly not a tour or journey through the madness industry - it is too diffused a travel to qualify as such. This book is however a look at the world of psychopaths as seen through the author's interviews and the time he spent with people who may or may not have been psychopaths. The evidence certainly suggests they are, but you never know with the really good psychopaths, do you? After with such an array of impressive skills as pathological lying, ability to con and manipulate people, and superficial charm, how could you ever be sure?

The author is a self-confessed nervous person. I first saw him on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, and his demeanor matches his writing. Writing about psychopaths, interviewing them, and meeting them, sometimes in asylums, can ignite an overwhelming wave of anxiety in most of us. The author is no exception.
I began to yawn uncontrollably around Kempton Park. This tends to happen to me in the face of stress. Apparently dogs do it, too. They yawn when anxious.
While spotting the true psychopath can be difficult, some psychopaths are easy enough to spot, especially when you have this kind of an exchange as evidence.

"
WOODCOCK: I just wanted to know what it would feel like to kill somebody.
INTERVIEWER: But you'd already killed three people.
WOODCOCK: Yes, but that was years and years and years and years ago.
"

Perhaps the single most identifying hallmark of a psychopath is lack of empathy. They look at suffering and they feel nothing. If they do observe emotions and people exhibiting human emotions, it is nothing more for them than an opportunity to observe how people react, so they can then be better manipulated.
All those chats about empathy were like an empathy-faking finishing school for him: "I did learn how to manipulate better," he said, "and keep the more outrageous feelings under wraps better."

The generally accepted authority on psychopaths, who has studied psychopathy extensively, and who authored the medical profession's generally accepted checklist for diagnosing psychopathy in a person - Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) and Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) - is Bob Hare.

"
Bob knew we tend to jump a lot higher when startled if we're on the edge of our seats anyway. If we're watching a scary movie and someone makes an unexpected noise, we leap in terror. But if we're engrossed by something, a crossword puzzle, say, and someone startles us, our leap is less pronounced. From this Bob deduced that when psychopaths see grotesque images of blown-apart faces, they aren't horrified. They're absorbed.
"

Rob Hare's Psychopathy Checklist is a twenty point checklist. A trained practioner is supposed to spend time with a subject, try to evaluate him (or her) on these twenty traits, and assign points.

Item 1: Glibness/superficial charm
Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth
Item 3: Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Item 4: Pathological lying
Item 5: Conning/manipulative
Item 6: Lack of remorse or guilt
Item 7: Shallow affect
Item 8: Callous/lack of empathy
Item 9: Parasitic lifestyle
Item 10: Poor behavioral controls
Item 11: Promiscuous sexual behavior
Item 12: Early behavior problems
Item 13: Lack of realistic long-term goals
Item 14: Impulsivity
Item 15: Irresponsibility
Item 16: Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Item 17: Many short-term marital relationships
Item 18: Juvenile delinquency
Item 19: Revocation of conditional release
Item 20: Criminal versatility

Psychopaths, Bob said, will invariably argue that their victims had no right to complain. They had insurance. Or they learned a valuable life lesson getting beaten up like that. Or it was their own fault anyway. One time Bob interviewed a man who had impulsively killed another man over a bar tab. "He only had himself to blame," the killer told Bob. "Anybody could have seen I was in a rotten mood that night."

They're the spouse who marries to look socially normal but inside the marriage shows no love after the initial charm wears off."

Perhaps the boldest assertion is where the author states that Bob Hare seems to think the corporate world is over-represented by psychopaths at the upper echelons of power. Lack of empathy, pathological lying, superficial charm, manipulativeness - these are all attributes that can contribute to a ruthlessness that can drive psychopaths to success in the workplace. As opposed to the estimate of 1% of the general population and 25% of the prison inmates being psychopaths, it is estimated that 4% of leaders in the corporate world may be psychopaths.

"
Sociopaths love power. They love winning. If you take loving kindness out of the human brain, there's not much left except the will to win." "Which means you'll find a preponderance of them at the top of the tree?" I said. "Yes," she said. "The higher you go up the ladder, the greater the number of sociopaths you'll find there."
a big study he'd coauthored, "Corporate Psychopathy," had just been published. In it, 203 "corporate professionals" were assessed with his checklist--"including CEOs, directors, supervisors," Bob said--and the results showed that while the majority weren't at all psychopathic, "3.9% had a score of at least 30, which is extremely high, even for a prison population, at least 4 or 5 times the prevalence in the general population." [Highlight on Page 162 Loc. 2214-17]
"

"
I was more interested in Bob's theory about corporate psychopaths. He blamed psychopaths for the brutal excesses of capitalism itself, that the system at its cruelest was a manifestation of a few people's anomalous amygdalae. He had written a book about it--Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work-- coauthored with a psychologist named Paul Babiak. [Highlight on Page 137 Loc. 1874-76]
"

And when it comes to psychopath CEOs, the one name most thrown up is the former CEO of Sunbeam, Al Dunlap. The author goes to meet Dunlap in his Florida home, and spends a most interesting day there. Dunlap seems to have shed more tears for his dog than for the tens of thousands of employees he fired and the utter ruination he wrought upon the town where Sunbeam's factory was located. A high-scoring psychopath for sure.

This book is short and breezy. There are three of four other persons that the author writes about in some detail; that were suspected of being psychopaths, or were in prison or in mental health institutions because they had been diagnosed as such. There is a particularly interesting account of a person who entered a mental institution, to escape a jail term for assault, by pretending to be a mentally ill person. Once in however, he found it difficult to get out. Catch-22 if you will. These accounts are interspersed with the author's meetings with Robert Hare, Douglas Hofstadter (the bestselling author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, and I Am a Strange Loop), and others. The book will likely leave you wanting more, and I think some of the books listed below would help provide more details and information.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
monish
This was a fun, fast read filled with many flashes of insight, scribbled notes to follow up on various topics and at least one actual out-loud chuckle. It falls into the camp of what I call "self-discovery journalism," in which the author sets out of find out something about their subject matter and inevitably learn something about themselves in the process. Usually, I am not a fan, but Jon Ronson is a clever writer able to weave together an interesting narrative journey that stretches from mental institutions to hotel bars. He cherry-picks interesting characters to shine a light down the various dark alleys surrounding psychopathy, jumping from Scientology to forensic psychiatry to Wall Street to the pharmaceutical industry and more. The connection he makes are not particularly strong, but they are intriguing and indicate an agile mind with a great imagination and possibly a kind of attention surfeit disorder (I think I made that up) necessary to succeed in journalism.

I tend to like my nonfiction a little deeper, like Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain (Taylor); less about the author's thought processes and more about actual research, but at least Ronson has interesting thought processes, the good kind of neuroses, and makes the journey quite entertaining. I will likely check out some of his other works now.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cilantro
This audiobook is read aloud by the author himself, which I think adds quite a lot to it. As Ronson navigates madness - focusing primarily on psychopaths - he manages to include a surprising amount of humour, as well as his own varied emotions along the path of his investigation. He meets with a wide range of individuals as part of his research, and it is perhaps this wide scope that makes this both entertaining, but a bit scattered to listen to. There is an attempt to pull together the entire book in the mystery of a strange novel mailed to an international group of recipients (Being or Nothingness), but as a framework it really fails to support the meat of the novel - psychopathy.

From Scientologists to psychiatrists to psychopaths both imprisoned and free, Ronson collects a range of thoughts and opinions on the realms of mental illness. The entire industry from facilities, to patients, to doctors are tied in, The book moves along at a fast pace and it is genuinely impossible to predict what avenue Ronson will investigate next. With a narrower focus, the book would feel a lot more cohesive, but in this manner there are plenty of thought-provoking and fascinating ideas presented. All in all, it definitely made my commute a more interesting one!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kari anton
Ronson introduces his book by recounting a near-litigious encounter between himself and a religious leader (Ronson callously and ignorantly accuses him of being a psychopath, knowing little about the word's meaning beyond its pejorative nature). We also learn that Jon's son, Joel, is very insightful, and knows that journalists, such as his dad, are not the least bit averse to upsetting other people. It comes with the territory.

Soon, we are traveling through Europe with him as he delves deeper into the Being or Nothingness mystery, which is our first glimpse into the world of madness that this book scratches the surface of. Sitting at a Costa Coffee with Deborah Talmi, he learns that she, along with several other academics, have received a mysterious package, which included a 42-page book (half of which was blank), and a letter to a "Professor Hoffstadter."

After obtaining a copy of the DSM-IV (and subsequently diagnosing himself with several disorders), Ronson leaps into the second chapter. It consists primarily of an interview with "Tony" (arranged through Scientologist contacts), who allegedly pretended to be insane to avoid prison and be sent instead to Broadmoor, where he would be allowed to have "Sky TV and a Playstation." Now in a Catch-22 situation, Tony cannot interact with staff, for that would be seen as "responding to therapy," which would enable the doctors to keep him indefinitely detained and treated. During my second run-through, I found myself wondering, "Is Tony grinning because he honestly found his own comment amusing, or is he simply doing it to mimic his guest and get out of Broadmoor? I honestly couldn't blame him. Who would want to life adjacent to rapists and child murderers for a day, let alone a decade? Perhaps the company they keep, but that'd be about it.

Chapter 3 shows how well-meaning but untested attempts at therapy (such as Paul Bindrim's nude therapy) can cause more harm than good. Bottom line - LSD failed to cure psychopaths. Again we are reminded of our fallibility as human beings and how immature psychology and psychiatry are as medical fields. Even today, they are soft sciences. Fortunately, for societies willing to cough up the astronomical start-up costs, fMRI scans can weed out psychopaths and even the best liars.

The book's title is discussed in detail, through Hare's checklist and a seminar that Jon attended. Before the practice was outlawed, psychiatrists were permitted to use electroshock therapy in their research. Psychopaths brains were wired completely differently, it was learned. The prime characteristic that differentiates them from others, even schizophrenic patients, is the inability to feel fear, and are aroused or otherwise excited by gruesome images that would cause a normal individual to evacuate their latest meal. A quote I found particularly apt and revealing is "Psychopaths, Bob said, will invariably argue that their victims had no right to complain. They had insurance. Or they learned a VALUABLE LIFE LESSON getting beaten up like that." (emphasis added) Every Christian apologist who attempts to explain away the Problem of Suffering fits this description closer than a custom-made glove.

After the conference, Ronson felt light-headed with the new weapon he had acquired.

Moving along, Ronson then interviews Toto Constant, a former death-squad commander. Now living in Queens, he was convicted of mortgage fraud and sentenced to 37 years in jail (the usual sentence being only five). This is essentially a case study of sorts, and is similar to chapter 5, where he recaps Al Dunlap's tornado-esque path through the highest levels of corporate control, downsizing without compassion and expecting shareholders to foot absurd bills (including five jets for his family, a million dollar apartment for his son and $100,00 for wine). Al also had a knack for spin doctoring, turning almost every item on the Hare Checklist into a positive (at least in the business world).

Next, Ronson goes into detail about how madness has been exploited for profit in the media, with reality game shows such as Extreme Makeover. One poor soul was cut from the timetable because the expected length of surgery and recovery would not be quick enough for the broadcaster's schedule. What makes this even worse is the treatment she endured when her family, at the prodding and encouragement of the producers, insulted her, reinforcing what she knew all along - she was the antithesis of beauty (until then, they had been politely discreet).

The most moving and heartrending chapter is, doubtlessly, the penultimate one. The Unavoidable Death of Rebecca Riley chronicles the excessive reliance some parents have come to place upon drugs prescribed by their children's psychiatrists. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Rebecca died after of an overdose at the tender age of four. She was on ten pills a day, anti-psychotics not approved for use in children. Being given the stamp of authority from a trusted psychiatrist makes all the difference. Rebecca's mother later admitted that she was maybe "just hyper for her age." Psychiatry is still a soft science in many ways, and pills must be used only as a last resort.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
badr dahi
"'Grandiose sense of self-worth?' I asked him. This would be a hard one for him to deny, standing as he was under an enormous oil painting of himself."

I quite enjoyed The Psychopath Test, which combines the self-deprecating wit of its anxiety-ridden author, accounts of his interviews with several colorful individuals, and some serious ethical questions. The book begins with the story of a man named "Tony", whom Ronson meets in a mental institution. Tony is a personable, intelligent, stable-seeming guy who doesn't seem like he should be there. He faked insanity as a teenager to avoid a jail sentence for beating someone up and now the doctors won't let him out, now matter how reasonably he behaves.

As it develops, though, Tony, while not "mad" in any sense, has been diagnosed with psychopathic tendencies. In other words, he has trouble empathizing with others, a self-aggrandizing attitude, and a charming, manipulative personality. His legal status remains in limbo not because he's thought to be dangerous, but because many dangerous people have been like him.

As Ronson's explorations into psychopathy and its consequences unfold, we encounter some extremes of opinion. On one hand, there are those who distrust the entire psychiatric profession and accuse it of sinister motives, like Scientologists. But, not entirely giving lie to their views are the actions a group of a doctors and self-appointed criminal experts, who, with the zealousness of witch hunters, wield a questionnaire designed to ferret out psychopaths. Confusing matters further are the agendas of the media and pharmaceutical companies, and a long history of very dubious mental health diagnoses and treatment methodologies. Some of the people Ronson meets seem almost too bizarre to be real, but having worked at a company founded by someone a lot like the businessman with the oil painting of himself (and with about as many legal indictments), I know that they are.

Though Ronson focuses a lot more on the strange fringes than on scientific rigor, I found the questions the book raises quite interesting. Should society allow those who lack empathy to roam the streets or rise to positions of power in the corporate world? If not, then who should have the power to make those decisions, and is it right for a diagnostic checklist be treated as predictive of someone's behavior? When does that sort of thing cross the line into a Minority Report-like realm?

Normally, I prefer it when authors don't narrate their own audiobooks, but Ronson has an amusingly wide-eyed speaking style that I liked. I plan to check out more of his work.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nandini
This is the story of how a journalist, its author, attends a course on psychopath identification and then travels the world exercising his skills. The book is quite well written but does suffer by comparison to those written by one of Ronson's competitors in the reportage game, Will Storr, whose books I can thoroughly recommend. Though mildly amusing at times it doesn't have the wry, slightly self-effacing humour of Storr's books. Nevertheless, it supplies some interesting information about the world of psychiatrists and you can't help coming away feeling that a good many of them ought to be incarcerated along with their patients! A good deal of the book discusses the creation of a kind of manual for psychiatrists that enables them to diagnose a whole range of so-called mental disorders from `rhinotillexomania' (nose picking) to `Self Defeating Personality Disorder' (masochism). All they do is to ask the patient a series of questions (i.e. take a patient history) and compare the answers with the entries in their manual. The diagnosis then depends upon how many answers match a particular disorder symptom list! How much money do we spend as a nation training psychiatrists?

Ultimately, it's a reasonably engaging read but also somewhat worrying!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
meg downs
This is one of the best books I have read this year. Ronson does an awesome job of making abnormal psychology accessible to the average layperson. Those of us who have worked in any mental health field are very aware of psychopathy. The author does an excellent job of intertwining his own personal research with vetted medical research. The book goes through a relatively recent yet now defunct subset of psychiatry dealing with new age hallucinogenic treatment of psychopathy. He objectively demonstrates how ridiculous these types of treatment are. The book jumps around between different case studies in psychiatry all while keeping you entertained. Ronson illuminates how perverse and common the average psychopath is. This is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in personality disorders or criminal psychopathy. I would recommend this to laypeople and mental health professionals alike. A very good effort in bringing long misunderstood abnormal psychology to the masses.

Grade: A+
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
reanne
Another enjoyable book by Jon Ronson, this time on people in and out of the psychology business, meeting with psychopaths, talking with Scientologists, taking a course on how to detect whether someone is a psychopath. As with other of his books Ronson seeks out unusual people and follows them along with a certain amount of empathy, curiosity and withholding his criticism and opinion as much as possible.

Easy and fun to read. Interesting characters and subject matter. Recommended. From my experience reading other Ronson books I did not expect him to sum everything up in a neat tidy package. He shows us the issues and brings outlier individuals to life and leaves you to continue your search for more information or not after you finish the last page.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
dov zeller
Jon Ronson is a journalist obsessed with people on the extreme. Extreme religious fanatics and people on the extreme end of human mental balance.

He is called in one day to investigate the mystery of some books sent to neurologists all over the world an embarks on a haphazard journey through some of America's history of mental diagnosis of psychopathy.

What makes this so fascinating is that Jon is a journalist. When he's hanging out with Scientologists hellbent on discrediting psychotherapy or interviewing men (either in secure facilities or in their opulent mansions) we follow his everyman's view of psychology and psychiatric history as if we were discovering them ourselves.

Jon is anxious, overly self-diagnostic, and like many journalists, fixated on finding patterns whether they exist or not. Jon finds himself looking for signs of psychopathy in everyone he meets, and this is the most interesting part of the story for me. It isn't so much the absolute truth he is looking for. More, he incidentally finds insight into his own need to categorize things and look for patterns when he applies the psychopathy test to others.

Jon's interactions with psychotherapists, potential psychopaths, and the Scientologists who are their anti-groupies is fascinating. It makes you flinch at Jon's human weakness, and question what you know about mental illness and its diagnosis.

This Book's Snack Rating: Barbecue Pringles for the complex layers of tasted knowledge of mental illness and the compulsive readability of the prose
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
maura dailey
On its own terms, THE PSYCHOPATH TEST is almost completely successful: its informative about the trend towards systematizing diagnoses of mental illnesses since the establishment of the DSM; it's very funny in its author's anecdotes about his paranoid attempts to diagnose psychopathy/sociopathy in others; and its very self-critical of itself (and the culture of pathology it uncovers) in helpful, productive, and thoughtful ways. It also tells a compelling narrative (although its very beginning and ending, involving a book sent to a series of academic and intellectuals, seems staged and poorly integrated with the rest of the work).

Fascinated by the condition of sociopathy/psychopathy, Ronson (the author of MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS) learns how the condition has been diagnosed and treated since the Sixties; he attends a course on how to spot psychopaths from Robert Hare, the famous initiator of the 20-part test to diagnose those who suffer from the disorder. Ronson then comes to apply what he has learned to a Haitian former mercenary and (hilariously) a corporate executive, and then to question his own diagnoses when he thinks more carefully about the problems of the creation of the DSM and the dangers of amateurs using a series of criteria to pathologize others. Other than the superframe, the structure of the book unwinds very organically and intelligently: whenever you think Ronson's making things too easy, he stops to question what he's claimed in productive ways.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
chhama
Jon Ronson goes on a mental illness odyssey in his book, The Psychopath Test, which takes in some extraordinary people and facts, and is, by turns, a funny and serious read in alternating chapters.

As always, Ronson packs a ton of enjoyably kooky characters into his books. Like the Scandinavian translator sending out mysterious manuscripts to people that pertain to something only his mind knows. Also, "Tony" the Broadmoor inmate who faked mental illness because he was told he would have an easier time inside if he were in a mental hospital instead of prison - except now he can't leave! The Scientologists are involved in Tony's case and are campaigning for his release. With "Tony"'s case, we get an insight into why Scientologists dislike psychiatrists so much.

We're introduced to David Shayler, an ex-MI5 agent turned conspiracy theorist, who became notorious for suggesting 9/11 was faked and that missiles with holograms to make them look like planes were fired at the World Trade Center. He's also in turn a cross dresser and believes he is the messiah returned.

The main narrative is Ronson's investigation into the idea that most CEOs and world leaders are in fact psychopaths, but I felt Ronson didn't investigate this enough. He does write a lot about Al Dunlap, a CEO of an American toaster company called Sunbeam, and while the case for Dunlap is sometimes convincing, I felt that this wasn't enough for his thesis and that he should have investigated further (there are no interviews with world leaders or other CEOs).

The more serious side to this book gives it a stronger purpose. Like Ronson looking how a formerly reputable criminal psychologist who made a suspect fit the evidence in a rape/murder only for it to be later discovered that the suspect was entirely innocent. Also profiled is a psychologist who came up with a label for every type of behaviour which contributed to numerous misdiagnoses, specifically in children with illnesses like bipolar disorder, and how the current climate of over-analysing previously acceptable behaviour as dangerous can lead to over-medicating children, in some cases fatally.

Ronson's meandering writing style is similar to his previous books which I didn't mind as it was still thoroughly readable but can obviously be annoying for some readers looking for more structure. He can take complicated cases, such as the mistaken identity of the rape/murder or the psychopath LSD experiments of the `60s, and make them understandable to a wider audience who aren't familiar with the circumstances.

There's plenty to enjoy in The Psychopath Test as Ronson goes from gentle but eccentric personalities to more dangerous ones to some quite scary ones and one genuinely confusing one - I was enthralled every step of the way. Jon Ronson has written another fantastic and highly enjoyable book showcasing some very real problems with our modern world and the compelling eccentrics that populate it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
david simmer ii
A couple of months ago I was stuck at the airport waiting for my flight. I had a 2 hour flight to SC, a meeting, and 2 hours later back at the airport for the return flight. What could I possibly read to kill the 1 before the flight. I knew I would sleep on the flight and probably the return, so I really only needed to be entertained during the 1 before the flight. Well while walking through hudson news at the airport I came across this book (because of it's cover), and thought it seemed like it could at least hold my interest for an hour.

Jumping forward to the flight, I never got a chance to sleep. The book was just too interesting, just too much, fun. The book is a entertaining look at the legal and medical view and labeling of psychopaths. When I use the word ¨entertaining¨ i'm not using it as a flighty way to review a book, I mean it's truly entertaining in a fun way. The waitress where I usually eat my lunch saw me reading it, and after telling her what it was about and how fun the writer's writing style was, ended up buying a copy. After that we were both in a race to finish it first. When we both did, we were dis-appointed that it was over.

I honestly have'nt enjoyed a book so much in years. It's not just the topic, it's more the writers style that does it. If you buy this book, I guarantee you will have fun reading it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mrs reed
Jon Ronson (author of book-turned-movie The Men Who Stare at Goats) delves into the fascinating topic of insanity in his newest book. When confronted with terms like sociopath and psychopath (which, according to Ronson's research, are interchangeable terms), we tend to think of people like Ted Bundy or Hannibal Lecter. Both are by definition psychopaths but they're not necessarily the norm for the condition. There are plenty of psychopaths who aren't violent serial killers; they could be your neighbor, your coworker or even, (though I sincerely hope not) your spouse.

Ronson probes the world of insanity, visiting Scientologists (who are at war with the mental health profession), psychologists, psychopaths locked away in mental institutions and those free to roam the world of their own accord. He speaks with psychopath expert Robert Hare, whose Hare Psychopathy Checklist has redefined the makings of a psychopath. Know someone who exhibits "superficial charm", a "grandiose sense of self-worth", and "lack of empathy"? You might want to start worrying.

Be warned, if you read this book you'll be forever speculating about who that you know is demonstrating psychopathic tendencies. Don't worry too much, though - only somewhere between two and four percent of the population is legit.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lysle huddleston
I feel like this is misnamed. Not really about psychopaths, but about the recent history of psychology/psychiatry and what "normal" really is. The book starts with one of the best opening chapters I've ever read. I was instantly hooked and had trouble believing that this was a non-fiction account. There aren't even any psychopaths in the opening chapter. Though to be fair, there may not be any psychopaths in the whole book, but that's what makes it so gripping and thought-provoking. Ronson keeps flipping between saying, "We're all psychopaths" to "Some of us are psychopaths and the rest should learn to spot them and stay away" to "There's no such thing as psychopaths." And on this journey of figuring out which of those statements he agrees with, he calls into question the whole field of psychology (not that he's a Scientologist, though many of them are featured in this book). The best moments are when psychology professionals themselves confess their unease with some of the consequences of their "madness" labeling. I'd recommend listening to Ronson on This American Life (to be truly prepared, you might as well listen to "The Psychopath Test" -- [...] ), because I think that part of the reason I so enjoyed this book was because I was imagining Ronson read it to me in his fantastically unique voice. He's also very clever, and I love his style-- a must for non-fiction books like this.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jamie navarro
"The Psychopath Test" is not actually an exam to find out if someone is a Psychopath but rather an investigative novel about the Psychiatric industry (and related oddities).

This is one of those books that made me pause mid-sentence in awe or horror to recite bits and pieces to whomever was within listening distance. Fascinating doesn't begin to describe it! The history of psychiatry and psychopaths is truly bizarre. From LSD-induced naked therapy sessions to the Bob Hare checklist, it's a strange world of subjective analysis, treatments and potential misdiagnosis.

The research done by author Jon Ronson isn't limited to psychopaths. He travels the world and interviews a myriad of folks - delving into circles of renowned researchers who are gifted with a strange coded textbook, Scientologists and their persistent attack against the psychiatry industry, Clinical Treatment Centers, Prisons, Educational Conferences, Television Producers, Internet-Savvy Conspiracy Theorists, and so forth.

It's a compelling journey of both factual investigation and occasional self-analysis. As an undergrad student who has taken a handful of psychology courses I was able to make connections to the clinical side of things but I'm an amateur at best and would like to clarify that other readers do not need Psych 101 to appreciate the oddness of the Psychiatric industry or to enjoy this book. Get it. Absorb it. And avoid the "medical student syndrome" of self-diagnosis - we are all just a little bit crazy after all.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
miseleigh
"That boundary is populous." So, Ronson quotes DSM-IV editor Allen Frances. And, so, Ronson sets out on his journey, weaving to and fro across that frontier, admittedly driven by his own compulsion to root out craziness. At any point, readers are assured only by the lucidity of the prose as to which side of the boundary the current anecdote is posed. Or are we? Readers that enjoyed the frolic of The Men Who Stare at Goats will likely appreciate this romp, too. The anecdotes, as in "Goats," usually center on "celebrities-in-their-field" personalities, and are written in his first-person interviewing style. Reading the book is like kicking back on a beach veranda with Ronson, with a case of good beer in the cooler, and a whole night ahead to swap stories and laugh until dawn. Unless, of course, you're scheduled to have your Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised evaluation in the morning. Then, oh, well, since it's too late to study, anyway, use this book to cram for the exam: Pass The PCL-R: Your guide to Passing the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised AKA The Psychopath Test.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nupur
The book of course is not a test. It is a true story and written very well. Very witty. If you are a parent or working with and around children this is such vital information it should be manadatory reading for people who work with children. I was shocked to discover how many children are misdiagnosed and medicated in this society. There should be laws about this, especially considering that the mass shootings we have endured over the recent year have all been from a mismedicated and perhaps misdiagnosed , mishandled person . The fortunes made in the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of our security and future generations is a diagnosis in crime itself. The book is very well written and a pleasure to read. A HUGE eye opener. Every person on Earth deserves to know this information and should know this information. Anyone working in a school should have this knowledge. It is vital information. If you are on the road a lot and think you do not have time to read it, it is available on audible.comm web site and there is a promotion going now that you can download your first book for free.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
david eakes
This book is perfect for someone just getting into the topic. It transitions smoothly from just another story to the everyday thoughts and actions of a person who was unintentionally pushed into investigating the reason why psychopaths think, act and even speak the way they to. Also, puts up the debate on the all so concerning methods of psychiatry.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit because it was written from an unbiased view. The author was no more experienced than an average person in the topic but interviewed people from both ends. Also, he includes enough information for us to do our own background research.
Not quite sure why other people are saying that the first mystery was not solved because he does speak about it within the last chapter.
If you are an expert in the field, I believe you might not find this book as intriguing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
calvin
Them by Jon Ronson is a rare bird: a humorous book about extremists that focuses on the extremists as human beings rather than focusing on their often-bizarre beliefs.

In Them, Ronson adopts the "New Journalism" approach of Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, and Gay Talese; that is, Ronson recounts his personal experiences and records his subjective impressions of the people he is writing about. I think that this approach is very successful. I have read a few books about those on the political fringe; almost all of the books focus on the extremists' views. Ronson's focus on the extremists as people provides a fresh perspective.

One must give Ronson credit for going out and meeting these people. Many of them are not appealing, but Ronson approaches the story with a nonjudgmental, open mind. This must have been a particularly difficult assignment for Ronson; he is Jewish and many of the extremists he deals with are virulent anti-Semites. In fact, many of these people have, arguably, dedicated their lives to anti-Semitism.

Ronson's narrative is lively and he does not allow it to bog down and become tiresome. Readers will learn a bit about the mysterious Bilderberg Group and the strange ceremonies at Bohemian Grove in northern California. Them also helps show why extremist views can be attractive; for instance, Ronson explains how the U.S. Government's involvement in the violent confrontation at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, helped turned some seemingly-ordinary people into anti-government zealots.

Some readers will not like the fact that Ronson largely leaves it to them to draw their own conclusions; he acknowledges that it is often difficult to discern whether those on the fringes are dangerous or just unconventional thinkers. For instance, Ronson spends much time trying to find out whether Englishman David Icke is an anti-Semite using code words to cover up his true views; in the end, Ronson concludes that it is difficult to understand Icke's true views - as well as the views of many of the people he profiles.

I definitely recommend Them to readers interested in political extremism. It is an entertaining, humorous, thought-provoking book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
cat g
It was fine. It’s part funny, part insightful, part narrative of the history of psychopathy, but it never feels like it’s fully any one of those things. I like Ronson from his appearances on This American Life - this was my first time reading him. On radio shows, the occasional focus on himself makes for funny asides, but these moments were far too frequent in the book and just seemed... not sure of the right word, but I want to say lazy.

It’s a fast read, an enjoyable enough book to cover a weekend. But like Hollywood blockbusters, I was entertained enough in the moment but I will not be remembering this book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lars
Ronson's book is interesting - I'll give it that. But it reads much more like a light travelogue than a discussion of the ramifications of the ever-increasing number (and possibly severity) of mental illness diagnoses. By focusing extensively on individuals he's interviewed, particularly "Tony" (an inmate who may or may not be a psychopath) and former Sunbeam CEO Al Dunlap, Ronson narrows the focus of his book and makes it extremely personal. That's fine - but he glosses over things like ADHD diagnoses, childhood bipolar disorder diagnoses (which didn't exist years ago), the effect of such diagnoses on lifelong brain development, etc. He pays only lip service to landmark scientific studies, such as the Rosenhan experiment. (What did Rosenhan experience inside a mental ward? You'll have to go find out - Ronson doesn't say.) Rosenhan's brilliant experiment gets as many pages - about one - as do Dunlap's German Shepherds and statues of apex predators.

Near the end (spoiler alert, kind of), Ronson admits that the clinical line between psychopath and narcissistic jerk may be so thin as to be invisible. I am unfamiliar with Ronson's background in neuroscience or physiology, but I would have appreciated a more detailed technical description of the diagnoses, rather than Ronson's occasionally rambling speculation about his own lack of confidence understanding these issues. If I had a better recommendation, I'd make it; unfortunately, I don't know of other books on this topic - so off to Google it is.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
krystn
I thought this book might go on to show how psychopaths get into positions of power and authority in our society. The book wasn't necessarily about that. It's more about the authors experiences meeting different people, learning about psychopaths, and learning about quackery in psychiatry.

There is a lot to learn from this book, mainly that the psychiatric industry is a load of nonsense backed by pill pushers, but even before the pill pushers it turns out that it didn't work well either. The author himself ends up feeling empowered by a checklist given to him and feels he has the ability to determine if someone is a psychopath. He later learns the flaws of these checklist systems and begins to realize a lot of damage has happened because of it.

I myself wondered about how well the author checked on claims some of the interviewers had told him. One psychiatrist said autism rates had increased because of changes in how it's diagnosed, but the important point left out of that is that if that were the case we'd have a lot more autistic folks in their 30's 40's and 50's. Leave to a medical professional tied to pharmaceuticals to blame anything other than vaccines. But I understand the author was just quoting what the doctor claimed.

So keep in mind reading this book that most of it is just interviews. It contains opinions. It does contain some good history that's rather funny as well so it is definitely entertaining.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
christi cota
In 'The Psychopath Test', Jon Ronson offers us a quirky and insightful take on the madness business. Eminently readable, Ronson's humorous prose - in which he shares some of his own anxieties - makes us question aspects of our own sanity. Is everyone mad? Is the world run by a small number of psychopaths (which might explain why the world is as it is)? Are we all reducible to categories? Just how 'dangerous' are head-shrinkers? A great, absorbing read. Grab a copy. You'd be mad not to.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
megan
This is a humorous account of Ronson's several years spent with various extremist groups, from Islamic radicals to the KKK. Ronson's a British journalist, and he plays it so straight that at times I couldn't tell if he was making fun of a person, agreeing with them, or just getting out of the way to let them hang themselves. I was expecting more laughs from this book. There were some hilarious parts, particularly when the logistics of extremism come into play-At a cross burning, KKK novices wonder if they should douse the cross, then raise it, or raise it then douse it? And an Islamic Fundamentalist hatches a plot to release thousands of mice into the U.N. But for the most part, it was just a well-written account of the personal side of extremism. There's a pretty moving bit about the standoff and subsequent shooting of a mother and her son by the FBI at Ruby Ridge.

It was interesting to see the politics of extremism, how people whose views aren't that radical are lumped in with other radicals and labeled extremist by the media in an effort to sensationalize and polarize. It was also interesting how Ronson thematically tied the book together-all these extremists, from different parts of the world, all believe in a ruling elite that pulls the strings that make things happen. They don't necessarily agree on who this elite is-politicians, Jews, or a race of 12-foot lizard people (seriously)-but they agree that these secret rulers exist. I've got to hand it to Ronson-he's got some balls. Not only does he, a Jew, hang out with Muslim extremists and the KKK, he infiltrates a neo-nazi skinhead group and sneaks into a secret ceremony of the world's elite in which they hold a mock sacrifice and dance around in druidic robes. This last part is so bizarre but is delivered in such a straight way that I began to question if the whole book wasn't a hoax. A sort of mockumentary. But it's not.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
elisha
British journalist Ronson has written a witty and fast-reading "lite" tour inside the world of various political and ideological extremists. While the emphasis is very much on individuals rather than organized groups, he takes us into lions' dens from Richard Butler's White Power compound in Idaho to an Islamic fundamentalist "training camp" in rural England, to the legendary (and sophomoric) annual Bohemian Grove gathering in Northern California. Some of the chapters seem shoehorned into the overall theme, such as the brief one where he witnesses a mysterious "Mr. Ru RU" buying up the remnants of the Ceaucescu's personal effects at an auction in Romania. Another rather weak chapter is that in which he hangs out with weirdo director Tony Kaye ("American History X") for a day and sort of halfheartedly explores the notion that Jews control Hollywood.
More interesting are his investigations of the "Bilderberg Group"-a sort of loose affiliation of powerful politicians and financiers who meet in secret (or private, depending on your point of view) once a year. I'd actually never heard of them before, but they seem to be a New World Order version of the legendary Trilateral Commission. Also interesting are his brief encounters with Dr. Ian Paisley, and footballer turned believer in alien lizards David Icke. These are entertaining but have the flaw of being little more than expanded magazine articles.
The strongest (and timeliest) parts are his longtime relationship with the self-described "Bin Laden's man in London", who is portrayed as nothing so much as a ridiculous buffoon- albeit an inflammatory one. Another bit of buffoonery occurs when he hangs out with the new PC leader of the KKK, his archival, and some rabid right-wing radio guys. However, amidst all the chuckling at the idiosyncrasies of these guys, there are two very poignant pieces when Ronson meets up with Randy Weaver and his eighteen-year-old daughter some ten years after the "Siege of Ruby Ridge". These will have Americans seething at the arrogance and ineptitude of government law officers run amok. By the end of the book, the reader is unlikely to have learned a great deal, but it does provide a few humorous glimpses into the mindsets of those on the fringes.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cheriepeaches9
Them takes us on tour of the world's extreme conspiracy theorists, to see what they have in common.

As an armchair conspiracy theorist myself (who wishes the REALLY crazy ones would stop ruining the credibility of real conspiracies), I found this a fun look at some really wacky people.

The author takes us to David Icke, who believes the world is being run by giant green lizards. We go to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, who thinks David Icke is anti-semitic (giant lizard is code for Jew). We go to a branch of the KKK who sees itself as the kinder, gentler KKK. We follow the author as (himself Jewish) almost gets killed in an Aryan camp. We follow him as he sneaks into the world-dominating Builderberg Groups secret camp and video tapes a ritual.

This book neither contributed nor detracted from my belief that conspiracies may exist. It did give me a better understanding of conspiracy theories and the kooks behind them. It was also very fun to read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ahmed rahal
First, the one-star reviews here are correct that this is not really a serious, thorough book about psychopathology, or about the phenomenon of psychopathology in societal leaders, or about how to identify psychopaths in your daily life before they hurt you. Two other books mentioned in this book and among these reviews are probably better choices for that: "Snakes in Suits" by Paul Babiak & Robert Hare, and "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout. I hope to read both of them if time allows.

So just what is this book? It's just about what the title says it is: one journalist's meandering journey through the world of psychopaths and the psychiatric industry that deals with them. Along the way, we learn some fascinating and amazing things -- I almost said facts, but really it seems almost any fact is debatable in the world of psychopathology -- fascinating and amazing things about psychopathology, while being thoroughly entertained. I could not put this book down.

Much has been made in reviews here about the whodunnit that sort of ties the book together, which is about a very strange and cryptic little book mysteriously mailed to some very smart academics. I think the author leans too heavily on the incident, but his basic point is that here is a very smart and very successful psychopath who made a bunch of smart people run around pointlessly in circles. In other words, psychopaths are not just wild-eyed, drooling, bed-headed, gibberish-muttering crazies running around brandishing knives; many of them are highly respected and highly influential, for example in the business, political, and academic worlds -- and who are highly skilled at making the rest of us run around pointlessly in circles. And in some cases, much worse.

Some interesting things we learn along the way:
-- Even when a psychopath knows that a very painful electric shock is coming very soon at the count of 10, his heart rate and perspiration do not increase in anticipation, as they do in normal people.
-- When a psychopath is shown pictures of horribly mutilated crime victims, and a very loud sound is unexpectedly sounded nearby, they react less than they do if they are just sitting there doing nothing, because they are fascinated and absorbed -- but not disturbed -- by the photos. Normal people react *more* to the sound than they do if there are just sitting there not looking at any pictures, because they are on edge and disturbed at the pictures.
-- A guy who faked madness to escape a 5-7 year prison sentence, only to find himself locked up with truly dangerous psychopaths, and unable to convince the staff, even 12 years later, that he was sane.
-- Loopy, asinine, and spectacularly unsuccessful experimental treatments for psychopaths in the 60s and early 70s that could only have been taken seriously in that extremely credulous time period. And interviews with their discredited perpetrators, who frankly seem psychopathological themselves.
-- The standard industry test today for psychopathology, which despite it's author's pleas is used much too liberally and by people with very little real training, resulting in many slightly odd but harmless individuals being enthusiastically thrown away into asylums for life.
-- A blow-by-blow account of how the author began seeing psychopathology in almost everyone after being "trained" in administering the above test, by the test's author.
-- Interviews with several very strange people who were each at one time very influential, some of them phenomenally heartless and cruel, and who may or may not be psychopaths.
-- The amazing story of a woman who was injured by a July 2005 terrorist's bomb in a London subway, and blogged about it, only to find herself accused of being a fictional government character -- invented by the government for highly sophisicated disinformation purposes -- by people who seriously believe that the terrorist bomb story was made up by the government to cover up a mere power surge, and who did not even believe her after meeting her in person, and who probably still don't believe her to this day.
-- The weird story of the Scientologists who helped the author get an interesting story, along with privileged access to a very high-security asylum, but who seem to believe that there is no such thing as any psychological disorder at all.
-- How the quantity of recognized psychological disorders was expanded dramatically, and the bar to be diagnosed with some lowered dramatically, often to the point of near-normal behavior, and how the pharmaceutical industry preys on basically normal people, to treat them for imagined psychological disorders. And how vast numbers of basically normal kids are growing up under the constant influence of powerful drugs, to treat imaginary psychological disorders.

And much more. The book is shocking, entertaining, and informative, all at the same time. There are more serious and thorough books out there, but this book is a fascinating glance around that very strange world.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
chloe l
There is something particularly enjoyable about being able to answer the question "What are you reading?" with "A book about psycopaths." Jon Ronson's book, The Psycopath Test, dips its toe into the world of psycoptherapy, the diagnosis of 'madness' and the world of psycopaths. I enjoyed it, but I'd recommend it with caution. It is an easy and entertaining read, but that's about it and after a while I found Ronson's approach quite irritating. Ronson is an established journalist and yet his approach is to jump randomly from one topic to another, never quite giving any one the attention or degree of research it deserves. Rather than delve deeply he takes one incident or person, hypothesises and moves on. He would make a fantastic dinner guest, but not if there were any experts at the table. Good for a plane journey, but quote his findings with caution.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
screamy8
If I had told you on September 10, 2001 that a guy in the middle east thought that revenge for the Crusades was a justifiable reason to kill 3,000 people in New York you would probably shake your head and chuckle. It's that kind of wry sensibility that permeates Jon Ronson's excellent Them: Adventures with Extremists.
Ronson is a British journalist who has taken up the task of immersing himself inside groups of extremists, people who believe that the world is under the control of faceless men who seek to destroy them and their way of life. He opens with an Islamist living in England who seeks to turn Britannia into a muslim state, and rails against the sexually charged pictures on pantyhose packaging - declaring that when England is a Muslim state pantyhose will still be sold but without the pictures. It will simply say "pantyhose".
That sort of wry, British humor permeates the book as Ronson makes you almost sympathetic to the distorted world view of his subjects. You wince as he talks to the Klansman who is trying hard to convince his followers to stop using racial epithets so they can be portrayed as "kinder and gentler". There is also an interesting sub-story going on as Ronson discovers that Jews are the central points of these myriad conspiracies and while he is also Jewish he begins to wonder if groups like the Anti-Defamation League really exists as a front for this multinational "one world" group. He looks within himself to find out whether he has unwittingly joined into the conspiracy.
It's one of the funniest books I've ever read and is a great read, made a little bittersweet now that we know how extremists can leap from quirky sideshows to truly dangerous men.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alban
I purchased this book expecting a work of fiction similar to his book made famous by George Clooney's movie "Men who stare at goats." However, the book is Jon Ronson's research into the field of psychopathology. He is not an academic and the book is not written in APA style, but he actually went to jails, hospitals, and corporations to interview people he had heard were psychopaths. The namesake of the book is the Psychopathy Checklist, Revised (PCL-R), is an actual diagnostic tool that is really used by clinicians to assess psychopathy. Ronson participated in a training conducted by Dr Hare about the tool. Subsequently, he decided to go into the world to diagnose psychopaths.

My favorite chapter was Chapter 7 entitled "The Right Sort of Madness." His research for the chapter was primarily based on the public life of David Shayler, a British journalist and former MI5 (Security Service) officer. David went from media darling to pariah over the span of a few years. Why? His assertion that the 9/11 bombings in New York and July 7 bombings in London were fictitious was apparently `just crazy enough' to make people care and follow him. However, when he began to assert he was the messiah, everyone lost interest. That's too crazy! Ronson came up with the hypothesis that the public want to see what they should be like; they want to collectively boo people who are crazier that n they are. However, when someone becomes `too crazy' they are no longer interesting because they are outlandish. To test this hypothesis, Ronson interviewed Charlotte Scott, TV executive in charge of finding interesting people for reality television programming. Sure enough, her job primarily entailed taking phone calls from crazy people all day long. She was in charge of deciding which ones got on TV. She found that if the were slightly neurotic, for example taking Prozac, they would make good television. If they were too mentally healthy, or too crazy, such as suicidal, the audience would lose interest in them. Her job, as the title of the chapter denotes, was to find people that were just the right amount of crazy. Ronson cues that "we don't want obvious exploitation. We want smoke-and-mirrors exploitation." (211)

Much of Bob Hare's original research came from the finding that psychopaths did not respond normally to gruesome events. An example used throughout the book is police pictures of tragic car accidents or gun shot victims. Most people, when presented a picture of a person with a hole in their head, will recoil or avert their eyes. Psychopaths will be intrigued by the picture and ask technical questions, like what kind of gun was used. . Another interesting finds was that psychopaths may look like they are emoting properly, but they are really just mimicry the emotions that they think you want to see. Actually, they exhibit lack of empathy. They don't really have the meaningful emotional capabilities that most people have and they can't really imagine or feel the emotions of other people. So, like a mirror, they just show you back what they think you want to see. The can show emotions on a superficial level and can effectively blend in, but they may not be able to recall how they actually felt when asked later.

Ronson's analysis of the psychiatry business is well balanced. He interviews adherents of scientology who denounced psychiatry's has a long history of improper and abusive care. Regardless of what your personal values are regarding the field of psychiatry, Rodin explores some cases that do not make sense and add to the enigma of mental health treatment.

One caution for those who read this book: you will be armed and dangerous because you will have the power to scout out psychopaths!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jen sexton
In this book, a British journalist spends time with various (mostly right-wing) extremists, and discovers their human and silly side. Some chapters (most notably the first) are fairly entertaining, while others are a bit dull (such as his look at the memorabilia of a former Romanian dictator, which doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the book). I especially liked his chapter focusing on the targets of conspiracy theories, including his discussion of the Bilderberg Group with Bilderberg member Denis Healey and his undercover visit to the Bohemian Grove. He essentially discovers that the Bilderberg Group is Establishment politicos and businessmen sitting around agreeing with each other, and the Bohemian Grove is a big silly party for such people.

This book is meant to be fun, shallow "beach reading", meant to be consumed in a few hours. If you take it as such you will be amused some of the time; if you expect something more serious, expect to be disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michael unterberg
At last it can be told. There is a tiny elite of powerful men who run everything, who decide who gets to be president of any given country and who start the wars. They control Hollywood, the broadcasters, the markets and capital flow. They operate harems of sex slaves and they go to annual pagan rituals in different appointed regions of the world. When no one is looking, they change themselves into giant twelve-foot lizards, and any investigator who gets to close to these truths has his credibility, or his corpus, destroyed.
Well, can you prove it isn't true? The great advantage of the paranoid stance is that it can take in anything, and if it sounds too outlandish to be true, "That's just what _they_ want you to think." They? Who's they? Learn the truth in _Them: Adventures with Extremists_ (Simon and Schuster) by Jon Ronson, or at least learn the truth as believed, with diverse variations, by different fringe-dwellers all over the world. Ronson has played Sancho Panza to militiamen, questing reporters, evangelists, Ku Klux Klansmen, and fundamentalist Muslims. And he really does have adventures. When hunting for the omnipotent international cabal the Bilderberg Group at its annual meeting in Portugal, he gets pursued by a steely man in sunglasses, and he panics. He calls the British Embassy to rescue him, pleading, "I am essentially a humorous journalist... I am a humorous journalist out of my depth." He also furtively enters the Bohemian Grove, another center of international intrigue, to find that some of the reports are true, reports of orgies, nocturnal pagan rituals, and ceremonial peeing rites, and participants dressing like women or like Elvis. ("These people may have reached the apex of their professions but emotionally they seemed to be trapped in their college years.")
Ronson's reporting is dry and ironic, and often laugh-out-loud funny. He knows that his subjects are very, very weird, but he is never patronizing, and he is often impressed by their sincerity. At times, he finds himself imbued with the paranoia they are eager to spread, and has to fight back with some degree of rationality. A very sensible Bilderberg contact explains that members are getting older and the young newbies don't have much interest in being involved. "Let's face it, nobody rules the world anymore. The _markets_ rule the world. Maybe that's why your conspiracy theorists make up all those crazy things. Because the truth is so much more frightening. Nobody rules the world. Nobody controls anything." Of course, that's just what they want you to believe.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
meggie
With an open mind and some charming naivete, Ronson went on an expedition to find not only those who obsess about the secret masters of the world but, just maybe, the masters themselves.

Like others who have actually done honest fieldwork amongst these political exotica, Ronson meets a lot of kind, polite, and charming people -- as long as you happen to be the right race or creed. Many are reasonable and tolerant too -- at least when they don't have any power to realize their visions.

From the vast zoo of modern conspiracy theory, Ronson mostly concentrates on the ZOG/Bilderberg/Trilateralist/Satanist clade which is usually associated with the right wing. But his years of research turn up some surprises.

In pre-September 11th London, Ronson hangs out with Omar Bakri, self-described as Osama bin Laden's man in London. In America, we meet Thom Robb, Grand Wizard of some Klan sect in a world rife with internecine sniping, egomaniacs, and FBI informers. His claim to fame? He wants his disciples to follow his self-help program -- oh, and stop using the "N-word". With Jim Tucker, reporter for the notorious and defunct _Spotlight_ newspaper, he attempts to infiltrate the annual meeting of the legendary Bilderberg Group. Then there's ex-British sportscaster David Icke who insists that, when he talks about a conspiracy of world ruling reptilian space alien Illuminati, he really means space aliens and not Jews.

And Ronson doesn't find extremism just among the conspiracy mongerers. The infamous actions of the U.S. government at Ruby Ridge are recounted as well as the press' general inability to see a distinction important to the Weavers and their supporters -- racial separatism as opposed to racial supremacy. The Anti-Defamation League comes across as far too ready to see anti-Semitism and pass its faulty judgements to a gullible media. Canadian activists try to stop Icke from public speaking -- all in the name of racial tolerance. And when Ronson actually interviews a founding member, Denis Healey, of the Bilderbergs on their history and activities, suspicions are not entirely allayed.

Ronson makes few outright comments and judgements on his subjects, provides no grand summing up of his findings and that may be the book's biggest flaw. The closest he gets is the concluding statement that nobody really controls anything. The book is more reportage than analysis. But that reporting is done with a sharp eye for the humorous and sinister. Bakri tells of what a future Islamic London will be like -- and is chided at a meeting of fellow jihadists about his inept fishing. Who is the man following Tucker and Ronson in Portugal during the Bilderberg meeting? Hollywood, a claimed nexus of the Grand Jewish Conspiracy, comes off as petty, apolitical, and a place of insincere boutique faith as Ronson follows Tony Kaye, director of American History X, around. Klansmen argue the merits of silk or cotton robes. Ronson infiltrates the Bohemian Grove -- attended by U. S. presidents and vice-presidents -- and finds a rather silly, decades old frat boy ritual that just doesn't have the same drawing power it used to among the up-and-coming junior world ruler set. And more than once, Ronson, a Jew, finds himself guiltily associating with anti-Semites.

To be sure, some of the books chapters seem extraneous. An auction of Nicolae Ceausescu's relics adds nothing. Neither does a chapter on Ian Paisley taken from an early newspaper article.

Ronson's book reminded me of Phillip Finch's God Guts And Guns which went among the American radical right and the works of Laird Wilcox about American political extremists. Its humor and willingness to consider outre theories like David Icke's reminded me of Alex Heard's Apocalypse Pretty Soon: Travels In End-Time America, the work of Ronson's fellow Englishman Louis Theroux, and the pages of _The Fortean Times_.

Anybody interested in strange beliefs, conspiracy theories, or political extremism should read this book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
elizabeth cashman
No central theme and no conclusion. I liked the individual profiles especially Al Dunlap who took such delight in firing people and ruining their lives while claiming he was a great leader. I also liked the profile of Tony who was locked up in Broadmoor prison and trying to get out but was diggining his own hole deeper and deeper. It was a little strange how the author was always second guessing himself in print but I guess that is part of his style.

The main thing I didn't like is that is ended sort of abruptly with no conclusions drawn and no summary of what it all means, if anything. That sort of spoiled it for me.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kathyk2
I picked up The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson at the library a short time back. What I was hoping for was a look into the history of psychopathy and how it affects people in today's society. I got a bit of that, but the material bounced around from topic to topic. I also didn't care for the role of the author in the narrative.

Contents:
The Missing Part of the Puzzle Revealed; The Man Who Faked Madness; Psychopaths Dream in Black-and-White; The Psychopath Test; Toto; Night of the Living Dead; The Right Sort of Madness; The Madness of David Shayler; Aiming a Bit High; The Avoidable Death of Rebecca Riley; Good Luck; Notes; Sources; Bibliography; Acknowledgments

Ronson's journey begins with the mystery of a book sent to a neurologist, one that is obviously handmade with mysterious drawings and puzzling page layouts. There's a note on the envelope that says the sender will tell the recipient more when he returns, but there's no mention of who sent the book and who is supposed to return. Making it even more confusing, the same packet was sent to a number of academics throughout the world. None were able to solve the mystery, but Ronson's name came up as someone who might be able to dig out some answers. So with that as the starting point, Ronson sets out to visit and interview individuals who range from slightly off-beat to off-the-deep-end strange. Along the way, he runs across the list of questions that are used to make a diagnosis of someone as a psychopath. He quickly discovers that there's a little psychopath in everyone. Even worse, someone trying to prove they are not psychopathic is additional proof that they are...

The stories range from strange/sad to completely bizarre. One individual named Tony faked his way into a mental institution to avoid a prison sentence. But instead of ending up in a hospital psychiatric ward, he ended up in an institution that housed some of the worst criminally insane people in the system. Tony confessed to his psychiatrist what he had done, but by then it was too late. His diagnosis of psychopathy was used to explain why he was "confessing" to something to avoid punishment. No matter what he did, it was used to confirm the original diagnosis. If he had gotten the maximum sentence for the original crime, he'd have done around eight years. He ended up spending well over twelve years trying to get out of the institutions he faked his way into.

On the other hand, some people *are* true psychopaths in every clinical and rational sense of the word. Emmanuel "Toto" Constant was the leader of a paramilitary group in Haiti in the 90's, one that committed horrible atrocities. When Aristide regained power, Constant fled to the US to avoid death at the hands of the new regime. The US government arrested him, but suddenly granted his freedom when he claimed that it was the CIA that was backing his group, and that he'd tell all he knew to the media. The condition of his release included that he would live in his mother's apartment in Queens and never leave the borough. Ronson's observations during his interview along with the history of his reign of terror in Haiti leave no doubt he was a psychopath.

Throughout the book, Ronson keeps coming back to the twenty item checklist named The Psychopathy Test, and how it's used to spot and judge whether someone's a psychopath. He feels that by knowing these indicators, he's gained the ability to look at someone and figure out whether the person is normal or psychotic. But when you look at how many behaviors the industry tries to get approved as formal diagnoses and conditions, you realize that you can interpret someone's actions to mean just about anything you want them to mean. As such, you end up questioning whether anyone is "normal" or whether we're all just living in various stages of mental illness.

I think this could have been a very good book given the subject matter. But the book seems to be more about Ronson's journey than a comprehensive look at the subject. I also found myself getting irritated with his tendency to worry about what other people were thinking of him and whether people were going to like him or not. I kept thinking that he should either grow a pair or find another line of work. Yeah, that's harsh, but the underlying attitude really didn't set well. Coupled with the way the story seemed to bounce around, I struggled to hear and follow his message without getting sidetracked by style.

The things that made The Psychopath Test difficult for me to get into may not bother someone else, and they might find the style perfect to telling Ronson's story. Unfortunately, what I thought I'd get and what I ended up with were separated by too much of a gap.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
serapis
Full disclosure, I have a degree in Psychology and worked for a number of years in the industry; so I have a good understanding of where the author is coming from. I mention this because if this book has a flaw is it leans to the generic while following an exploratory conversational style. So if you are looking for a more specific text book like explanatory book there are plenty out there. But if you want to hear a story from a extremely funny guy who went for a swim in the waters of the madness industry, you can't do much better than this. So like I said, I spent quite a few years in the business so I already had the background to enjoy this book an all sorts of levels.

At one time I used to manage apartments for schizophrenics and it was great fun. I really enjoyed all the residents and they on the whole were delightful in their own way. But it was interesting to see people experience the patients for the first time; either they were totally at ease and were able to interact, or they were just plain freaked out. It was like they had watch a Hannibal Lecter marathon the previous day and if they were to relax for just a minute they patients would turn on them and be eating their kidneys with fava beans before they could shout for help. And the really interesting thing was you couldn't predict how people would react. Their sex, age, size, education, and other traits did not lend themselves to prediction; they either were ok or they weren't.

Well Ronson is a master story teller who goes on a walk about in the madness industry and specifically lands on psychopaths; people who do not process emotions like the rest of us. Now during this journey he meets some fascinating people and even more theories of why these people are this way. The whole time he is dealing with his own insecurities and paranoia. He faces the same questions you will when you read this; am I a psychopath, are my family and friends, my neighbors and co-workers, my boss, that guy on TV? And if you are not careful you will come away seeing psychopaths everywhere which will then feed your own fears and generally make you uneasy in your own life.

You will, like Ronson, need to take a step back and really think about what you have learned and how to integrate it into your daily life as a helpful tool. Some of you unfortunately will be like those who met my residents and will not be able to feel calm regardless of the situation. But most will be able to learn some great things from this book. But for those of you who are a little weary if you are a psychopath, watch a few of those soldiers surprise their family videos on youtube (or better yet, they surprise their pets) and if tear up a little you are okay.

The most important lesson from the book is the dismissing of the all or nothing attitude a lot of people have towards mental illness, especially psychopathy. The thing you soon learn about mental illness if you spend any time with it, it is not a black and white problem. First of all there are no normal people in the world, we all have problems somewhere in our mental capacities. All problems are on a spectrum and we all land somewhere on it. Now sometimes a little problem can be no problem and can actually be a little helpful. Like a little red wine can be beneficial to you, whereas two liters of vodka just to get out of bed is a problem. Take OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder); a little bit will make you a detail orientated individual that would be amazing for an engineer or the like. But if you can't leave your house until you perform a lock check 43 times, or you have to wash your hands 100 times an hour you might need treatment.

Ronson meets several psychopaths and those who diagnose them and you get to see a picture where it is not all clear. Yes when the individual decides to murder people to see what it feels like they should be locked up. But when you begin to see psychopathic traits in CEO's and other leaders you begin to see some value to being able to emotionally separate yourself from hard decisions. It is all a matter of degrees. It is like the Dexter series on Showtime (or the original Jeff Lindsay book series). Dexter clearly has a problem so his late step father expresses to him constructive ways to use his fascinations. You are who you are, but that doesn't have to be an end.

So we all have problems, but how are we using them to make ourselves and the world we live in better? The Psychopath Test is both an informative and fun book; you will never look at those around you the same again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
edna lucia
As any subtle, understated dryly comedic book about a serious topic should end, THEM sneaks a moral of the story into the last few pages of the book. "Let's face it," says the author's source, "nobody rules the world anymore. The markets rule the world. Maybe that's why your conspiracy theorists make up all those crazy things. Because the truth is much more frightening. Nobody rules the world. Nobody controls anything."
THEM is ostensibly about people who passionately believe the exact opposite. Jon Ronson discovered the common thread linking diverse extremists ranging from Klan members to British Islamic radicals to plain old conspiracy theorists is the belief that the world is controlled by a small group of globalist elites who meet in secret conferences. While the extremists differ over whether these elites are Jews, Catholics or giant, shape-shifting lizards (really!) they agree that this secretive group is all-powerful.
Ronson humorously (but oddly, respectfully) demonstrates how the extremists have real evidence to support their views. When rich people get together, they often do weird things in groups and places with mysterious sounding names like the Bilderberg Group and Bohemian Grove. Just like everyone else, they have their rituals, which can seem very strange to outsiders. Their secretiveness ("we're not secret, just private" one of "them" counters) is the greatest fodder of all for the conspiracy theorists. But beyond that, many of the conspiracy theorists are chased, censored, or called things worse than they actually are. Ronson demonstrates that from their perspective, the world really does seem out to get them.
But some of the theories are just ridiculously funny. The highlight of the book is a self-anointed profit David Icke who professes the lizard theory. But Ronson takes pains not to heap it on - not to exaggerate the ridiculousness. In so doing, he actually paints somewhat sympathetic portraits of some scary individuals. He paints less sympathetic portraits of those who over-react to the extremists.
Although THEM was published in 2002, it probably couldn't have actually been written since September 11th, 2001. The seemingly harmless, blustering made-for-TV extremists of Ronson's book come off as much less funny today. Still, Ronson's book sheds some light on how some people try to make sense out of our increasingly complex world. He does it in a fast moving, good-humored way. Perhaps for these reasons, THEM is more relevant now than ever.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
leigh ann
I read it in one day, but ended up feeling disappointed. Seemed to paint everyone in a bad light, except perhaps for some of the potentially psychopathic individuals. I know Robert Hare is a human being and can make mistakes, and perhaps he spent far too long interviewing and studying psychopaths in prison, which made him (understandably) paranoid - but his checklist is really useful. It's the best thing we have.

I was most disappointed when Ronson went through the checklist with a suspected corporate psychopath. I was very interested in how the man fit on several of the items (I laughed out loud when he said it was hard for the guy to deny that he was an egomaniac as he was standing under a giant oil painting of himself), but then later Ronson decided: no, that man could not be a psychopath. The checklist had failed. That's how it seemed to me, Ronson just decided the checklist was leading him to the wrong conclusion (was the guy too charming? - remember this is the first item on the psychopath checklist). well there were a couple specific items on the list that led Bronson to question whether the guy could really be a psychopath: the guy was married for 41 years to one woman (and there was no evidence of infidelity), and he said he didn't have a troubled childhood. OK- those could raise some question - but you're really just going to trust him about his childhood, even though psychopaths are the best conmen in the world? I'd at Least want to talk with his family about this (particularly his sister, and also his son) - these are the people who know the guy best, and are clearly not duped into being his pets (though they still might be afraid of him, enough that they might not want to tell the whole story). Like in Martha Stout's book, where the corporate psychopath blew up frogs during his youth - this guy might not even think of this type of activity as harming animals or troubled behaviors, and if he did recognize that type of activity as such, he might just Lie about it. That's another thing psychopaths do.

I think the people who really know whether someone is a psychopath are those who are vulnerable, those who have known him during his youth, and those he needs something from (and can't get it by being charming). When being interviewed, of course the psychopath is going to be charming - you won't suspect a thing at all (except the stuff he wants you to see, like evidence of his superiority).

It is a tricky problem, identifying psychopaths, because psychopaths are not stupid. They have human intelligence, no remorse, and all they want to do is win (which usually includes 'not being labeled a psychopath'). It's good to take a step back and not label anyone willy nilly, and I applaud Ronson for asking tough questions about the process of labeling anyone at all. I just feel that he didn't really appreciate the danger and the slipperiness of psychopaths, perhaps because he had no direct experience himself, which was a disservice to the real victims of psychopathic abuse.

I liked Martha Stout's book much better, and I feel that book has a much deeper understanding of psychopathy (rather than just a curiosity in the subject)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bibliogrrl
I've always had an interest in the subject of narcissism and psycopathy. This book allowed me to get a better understanding of my own older brother, who I can now see was clearly a psycopath. Yes, we can clearly identify historic criminal figures who were abvious psycopaths, but it's now obvious who the psycopaths have been in positions of government/political leadership, such as Idi Amin, Gadaffi, Mugabe, Noriega, etc. What I mostly now understand are the psycopaths that I have worked for over the years in the corporate world. The financial collapse of 2008 mostly definitely had a big psycopath component.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
christine
This is a book that makes me wish I could give 'half stars'. Because it really is a three and a half star book. Oh well. As to the text itself, I found the style to be enjoyable to read, very dialogue centered, with lots of wry construction. The content of the book is an interesting journey into the world of those who think like nobody else. That the author is able to expose himself to such diametrically opposed viewpoints with such aplomb is a good life lesson for us all: would that we were all able to see beyond the rhetoric and see the 'others' as what they are: people. It is a little disarming to see that there are those who would give this book such low ratings (mainly due to blatant subscription to the worldview being exposed within the book), kind of lending credence to the idea that people believe what they want, regardless of any evidence. If you're not convinced that a secret New World Order runs the world, be sure to pick this book up for a light, entertaining read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
friska
Ronson, a British journalist and documentary filmmaker, has written a book that is hilarious and entertaining. It's a sympathetic yet critical portrait of extremists ranging from crackpots like David Icke to Dr. Ian Paisley and Randy Weaver. He spends time with the Ku Klux Klan, the ADL, "bin Laden's man in London" Omar Bakri Mohammed, and lets them speak for themselves. What they all seem to have in common (except Weaver, who seems to have largely abandoned his conspiratorial views) is the belief that the world is run by a secret cabal that meets in a secret room. Ronson takes their claims seriously, and tries to track down this cabal--and succeeds in infiltrating the Bohemian Grove accompanied by right-wing nutter Alex Jones (comparing Ronson's account to Jones' is quite hilarious), as well as scoring an interview with one of the founders of the Bilderberg Group and getting an account of what goes on at their meetings. This book is highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
michelle manion
In this clever spin through weirdo land, nice Jewish Brit humor journalist Jon Ronson uses his modest charm to ingratiate himself into the lives of some pathetic characters so that he might write about them. The underlying theme is something like the benign madness of conspiracy theorists.

The first "them" is Omar Bakri Mohammed, "The Semi-Detached Ayatollah," who billed himself as Osama bin Laden's man in the U.K. He comes off looking like a charmingly pathetic, on the dole, sweet old man who just happens to have this rude habit of declaring jihads on non-Muslim people.

Next Ronson takes us to "Ruby Ridge" Idaho so we can meet the gun-totin' separatists and their Aryan Nation buddies. They come across as the victims of an FBI riot. Next we meet Big Jim Tucker who writes for a daffy underground journal called The Spotlight that is fascinated with "The Secret Rulers of the World," sometimes known as the Bilderbergers. Ronson gets way into the Bilderbergers, who allegedly include such Illuminati as Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Umberto Agnelli, the Rothchilds, etc., chasing after them to Portugal and northern California, where he eavesdrops on their "bizarre pagan owl ritual," ultimately seeing their antics as the high jinks of good old college boys who haven't totally grown up.

There's a romp through the jungle (while eating rat) with Dr. Ian Paisley, the anti-Papist from Ireland who comes across as a stern preacher man maniacally spreading God's word to the ignorant masses. Ronson also has some fun with David Icke, who is accused of being anti-Semitic, but is really anti-lizard. After some personal involvement, Ronson finds that Icke is just a guy who sincerely believes that the New World Order is controlled by the likes of George and George W. Bush, the Queen Mother, Al Gore, Kris Kristofferson, etc., who are 12-foot lizards that have cross-bred with humans.

In the middle chapters there are encounters with the Klu Klux Klan, two versions. There's Jeff Berry, Imperial Wizard of the American Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, who behaves like your sensible Klansman, hating everybody who's not white and Christian; and then there's Thom Robb, Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, who doesn't truck with using the "n-word" and kisses black babies as he tries to nouveau-spin the Klan's image. Ronson also visits Tony Kaye, a Hollywood director whose limo has "JEWISH" as a vanity plate. Ronson makes him look blindly self-centered while recalling that "The $50,000 distribution costs of Birth of a Nation (1915) [a film making the KKK look good] were put up...by the twenty-eight-year-old movie novice Louis B. Mayer." Ronson adds, "So Jewish Hollywood was funded, in part, by the heroic positive images of the Klansmen in Birth of a Nation." He also checks in with the Anti-Defamation League in New York and makes them look a little on the prejudicial side since they continue to insist that "lizards" is a code word for "Jews."

There is definitely something to be said for taking the edge off the horror of hate-mongers by turning them into objects of humor. Ronson is clever and he is funny. There's a nice running irony throughout because he is Jewish. The fact that he was able to befriend people who hate Jews is to his credit. What Ronson seems to be saying is that laughter is a good defense against hate, something like "laughter is the best medicine," and I'm sure that's true to some extent. I can't imagine however that Osama bin Laden, for example, has much of a sense of humor.

An interesting sideline here is the realization that newspapers headlines and CNN sound bytes fail to paint a realistic picture of what extremists are like. Ronson, within the limits of his intent, does that. He makes them human, and in that way partially disarms them, recalling to my mind the old saying, "No man is a hero to his valet." Maybe for his next gig, Ronson could find and visit bin Laden's four wives and record their bickering and their (inevitably) less than heroic apprehension of the jihad warrior. I'm sure it would make for some good laughs.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
anand wardhan
I was disappointed in this book. Sure, it explores the history of our understanding of psychopathy, attempts to treat it and a range of case studies, all written in easily accessible journalist style. But it fails to resolve anything - just creates more and more doubts. Is there such a thing as psychopathy? Perhaps we are all psychopaths (to a degree, anyway). Is Bob Hare's test for psychopathy reliable, sufficiently sensitive, too sensitive ... ? Is psychopathy actually a strength?

My experience in the workplace with a colleague who I suspect to be a psychopath (and it seems workplace psychopaths aren't that rare), and my wife's similar experience with another such individual, led me to take an interest in psychopathy - and my views were informed especially by 'Workplace Monsters' by John Clarke. To me this is a far more useful book as it describes strategies that can be applied if you suspect you are in the clutches of a psychopath. (Clarke describes the four types of psychopath as occupational - such as might be a bodygaurd, organisational - such as a person for whom promotion is important so they can dominate more and more colleagues, corporate - such as embezzlers, and criminal - such as those who resort to physical violence. Ronson does not describe these types but does describe examples of each.)

As well as reading about the psychopath I consulted counsellors (freely offered by my employer and independent of the employer), psychologists and psychotherapists. The outcomes were poor (but not so bad that I would take the position of the Scientologists). The counsellor was only concerned with me. 'But what about my colleagues?' those who seem so damaged by the bully - the counsellor had no interest in them other than suggesting they should seek counselling themselves. But, in my view, they are so far in their corner - so damaged by what has happened to them - that they no longer have the power to seek support. The psychologists and psychotherapists offered no comfort or hope for the future (typically they say of the bullied person that they should just move on, out of the range of the bully).

To get a more in-depth, and yet still readily readable, account of psychopathy in the workplace I recommend you seek out 'Working with Monsters' by John Clarke. It may, at least, give you some strategies for feeling more confident in your dealings with the psychopath. Sadly, I don't see any strategies that can educate the psychopath or those affected by them that will be effective. And I think the corporate processes put in place under banners such as '**** takes bullying very seriously' are likely to be management ploys that will have no effect at all in 95% of cases.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrea hausler
I have read chunks of Ronson's "The Men Who Stare At Goats", but "The Psychopath Test" is the first of his books that I've sat down and read through, and it was an enjoyable and interesting ride.

There's a good deal of information in here. It's not an academic or scientific treatise, but it gives the reader a little insight, for example, into the genesis and purpose of the DSM-IV, into how widening characteristics for various disorders have affected diagnosis and treatment, etc. One of the "lightbulb" moments for me was how the widening of criteria for austistic spectrum disorders has contributed to mistrust of the MMR vaccination. There's plenty to chew on and think about, such as the controversy over childhood diagnoses of bipolar disorder.

Overall though, this is mainly a book about Ronson's own journey of discovery about mental illness, and is (for me) none the worse for that. In some ways it reminds me of Bill Bryson's travel writings, and as a big fan of Bryson, that's no complaint.

Ronson meets some fascinating characters, from criminal profilers to known or suspected psychopaths, Scientologists out to debunk psychiatry and psychiatrists themselves, the eccentric, the insane and their keepers, and the concerned parents of troubled children.

Overall a varied, provoking and interesting book, which I flew through in huge chunks and would highly recommend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alexispauline
Ronson knows how to immerse the reader in his narrative, how to make exposition of a topic a tangible and vivid experience. His tangential entry into the topic of psychopathy through the document come blog `Being or Nothingness' is perfect - the part played, or not played, by Hofstadter alerts the reader to the central truth of Ronson's book, there is no certainty. Early in the book, one gets a little uncomfortable with Ronson's fearless harrying and challenges of high profile, potentially dangerous, people who might decide to hurt him. Maybe he has a sense of when to stop, he isn't brazen, his self confessed anxiety is palpable, but he is very direct. This is his charm as a writer, and probably why people like Hofstadter and Hare (of Psychopath Test fame) correspond with him.

The interviews, case histories and crime reports that Ronson digs up are very broad-ranging in topic and time. They are often out of left field, but Ronson strings these pieces together skilfully to illuminate the nature of psychosis. No reader will be comfortable with Hare's Psychopath test, where a score on an interpretive scale, can help institutionalise someone for a long time. Especially not when the psychiatric profession has such diffuse views, makes so many mistakes, and its members are victims of such human foibles. Yet I guarantee every reader will tally questions from the test against a relative or associate about whom they have misgivings.

The beauty of this short book is that it does not promise grand insights into mental illness, or psychopathy in particular, but it defines psychopathy in terms of the outliers, the people who escape diagnosis or who are misdiagnosed. It identifies the problems in dealing with psychopathy in terms of the victims, the professionals and their self interest. It scrutinises modern approaches through the lens of past successes, failures and bedlam.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
katherine podrasky
I was really looking forward to this book before its release. In a sense I wasn't disappointed - the writing is clever, funny, sometimes shocking. Clearly, Ronson is in the right business, because his book reads like a masterpiece. I couldn't put this book down. Unfortunately, form and content don't always match up, and I've got to say that this is the case with the Psychopath Test. I don't think Ronson was the man for the job of dealing with what is probably the heaviest, most disturbing, and most socially relevant topic of modern times. But I've got to give credit to Ronson for even attempting to tackle it. He gives a lot of page space to his conversations with psychopathy expert Robert Hare, and I think his appearance on Jon Stewart's show when the book was released was the first time ever that the words "Psychopaths rule our world" were uttered on national television.

But, while Ronson provides a quirky, witty account of his interactions with some probable psychopaths, that's pretty much all there is to his book. Instead of realizing the seriousness of the subject he was writing (not to mention the fact that people have been hunted and murdered for following this line of research), he makes some odd twists and turns, basically ending the book without actually answering the questions he set out at the beginning. His logic is tortured at times, and he builds arguments based on premises that are refuted by the very people he interviews, sometimes just pages earlier. (For example, his defence of "semi-psychopaths" and conflation of psychopathy with mental illness, which "Professor Maden" tried to explain to him earlier on.)

He also missed the opportunity to make some pretty big connections, i.e., given his premise that "psychopaths rule our world", that they migrate to positions of power, especially in corporations, why couldn't he see the connection between the "Al Dunlaps" of the economic/corporate world and psychiatric/pharmaceutical drug-pushing world? That that is the reason for this push to label normal people "mentally ill" and keep us and our children drugged up, sick in mind and body, while the truly ill are the ones reaping the benefits?

And why didn't he follow up on his thoughts in the section on David Icke, where he wrote: "All that talk of snakes adopting human form reminded me of a story I once did about a conspiracy theorist named David Icke, who believed that the secret rulers of the world were giant, blood-drinking, child-sacrificing lizards who had shape-shifted into humans so they could perform their evil on an unsuspecting population. I suddenly realized how similar the two stories were, except in this one the people who spoke of snakes in suits were eminent and utterly sane psychologists, respected around the world. Was this a conspiracy theory that was actually true?"

I think Ronson's book would've packed a whole lot more of a punch if he'd checked out some of the current research on the topic, like Martha Stout's The Paranoia Switch, Barb Oakley's Evil Genes, and especially Andrew Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology. The last book mentioned is the story and conclusions of a group of Eastern European scientists who battled enormous odds to research this subject. Most of them "disappeared" or were arrested, tortured, and/or killed by the regimes under which they lived. If you want to know what is happening on this planet, do check it out. It will blow your mind (it did mine!).
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jennifer phelps
Whether you are one of that special breed whom the mainstream has labeled an "extremist," or part of the mainstream that applies such labels, Jon Ronson's "THEM: Adventures with Extremists" is an informative and immensely entertaining read.

Ronson himself seems fairly impartial. By the time you've reached the last page, you'll likely feel that Ronson agrees with you wherever you stand. This "objectivity" is part of the book's brilliance.

Ronson writes with a real wit that is sure to entertain both those who side with the conspiracy theorists he rubs shoulders with, and those who regard such folks with the deepest suspicion. Ronson's too close for comfort encounter with the Bilderberg group is hilarious, and the final chapter, in which he infiltrates a gathering of owl worshiping elitists at Bohemian Grove, poses more questions than it answers. Even those who believe the world is not being manipulated by powerful forces behind the scenes are bound to raise an eyebrow or two, and wonder, "What the hell is going on here?"

THEM is a fine, funny book for those on both sides of the fence, and for anyone looking for some good laughs but with more substance than you'll find in a title by Dave Barry.

Brian W. Fairbanks
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
angela gaitas
The title of Ronson's book "Them" immediately begs the question of who is "Us".

He shows the many fault lines in capitalist western multicultural societies and follows the various "us and thems" of the modern world, particularly the labelled extremists, opposing a supposed New World Order.

The book plays for laughs in the practical hassles of being an extremist, such as Omar Bakri's helium filled black Jihad balloons that wouldn't take off from Trafalgar Square (cards too heavy) or Klansmen struggling not to say the "N" word, but at the same time it morphs into a reflection on the injustices inflicted by both sides, particularly in the last chapter, "A Clearing in the Forest". He infiltrates the Bohemian Grove Bilderberg meeting with a group of right wing conspiracy theorists and sees the same strange things that they do but rightly insists that it is just the burning of "Dull Care" so that some old executives can better enjoy their summer holiday. Reading any more into it risks the same kind fabrications that led to the Ruby Ridge (Randy Weaver) tragedy.

As you would expect, there is a strong Jewish theme in the book which Ronson deals with quite fairly. There isn't of course any organised Jewish policy to take over the world but its interesting that he never says, " As an English person I felt that ..." (he was born in England and has a British passport), but he does frequently say, " As a Jewish person I ..." which shows which identity is uppermost in his mind and which doesn't hold out much hope for the disappearance of us and them thinking.

The book inadvertently shows that multiculturalist ideas encourage "us" and "them" attitudes rather than a general national loyalty, and it may also help to explain why multicultural societies are so unstable and have a tendency to collapse. Ronson Illustrates the fault lines but personally seems to have little interest in a higher loyalty at the national level.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
jon tuttle
Unscientific rubbish. There are a whole pile of these books about sociopaths and psychopaths, and I think they are popular because they make it very easy to diagnose everyone you don't like. The most common cliche is the idea that CEO's are psychopaths, which is a factoid completely pulled out of thin air. Nobody has ever given them clinical personality profiles (and then made the data public). It's purely a medicalization of the author's political views. The actual clinical profile of psychopaths makes it clear just how unlikely it is to find any such person in a high-functioning job like CEO, when in fact true psychopaths rarely finish higher education or hold any kind of job for long.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
diane lander simon
Great book! Ronson does a solid job of examining psychopathy from the angles of a journalist, lay person, clinician, and, actually, a psychopath. What I appreciated most was the journey he went on from knowing nothing, becoming a "psychopath spotter," and then finally understanding the complexities of psychopathy to the extent of acknowledging that there are varying degrees of the disorder, and that there is no formula for identifying all psychopaths or how they will interact in society. Great read, as are his other books. If you enjoy this, check out his book Lost At Sea.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
teresa d
This story was Gonzo journalism - journalist inserts himself into the story and let's it ride. I call it a more sober Hunter Thompson because of the lack of booze & pills, and the timing of the subject matter.
Who better than a liberal Jewish reporter to get inside the head of a Grand Wizard intent on cleaning up the KKK's image? Or behind England's leading Islamic militant protester?
Have said that, you'll get the following out of this:
- A view of the crazies chasing conspiracies.
- An inside look at the people behind those conspiracies.
- A question for who really is weird or extreme.
- Quite a few belly laughs
What you won't get:
- A scholarly treatise on extremism
- Why people follow them
- An explanation for "the current state of the world"
- Journalism fit for the New York Times
If you've read the review this - get the book. If it makes you ask, "What makes someone an extremist? Who is an extremist?" then you'll be better for it. Even if it doesn't get too deep, it's very funny.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jess kappeler
This book is great for a varied, but limited, audience. For members of that audience, this is a five star book.

This audience is divided into five groups of people,

1) The intermediate student of psychopathy (like me)
2) Jon Ronson fans
3) Intermediate students of "the psychology of journalists"
4) Students of literary style
5) People who want to read a "comic book" about psychopaths

I will discuss these audiences in order. To be a member of what I am calling an audience, you not only have to be interested enough to read the book, you also have to be glad you read it when you are finished.

1) The intermediate student of psychopathy (like me)

I am an intensely interested intermediate student of psychopathology. If you are a beginning student, this is NOT the place to start. Bob Hare's book "Without Conscience" and the celebrated book "Snakes in Suits" are the places to start.

For me, this book was a difficult read. For example, there are a lot of "unreferenced pronouns." It can be difficult to figure out what the "he, she, or it" refers to. Very often it is NOT the closest noun. Very often, you have to read a couple of sentences ahead, or even a couple of paragraphs, before you get enough information to figure it out. But, that was because I really wanted to know what Ronson had to say. If you don't care what he is really saying, if you just read the book for pure fun, these little details will not bother you. If you are like me, it is hard to find anything about psychopathy either "fun" or "funny."

The contributions to my knowledge of psychopathology were few and far between. But, they contained some real "gold nuggets." Here are three examples (A, B, C).

(A) The author took the Psychopath CheckList (PCL) test training course under Dr. Hare himself. (PCL = Psychopath CheckList.) He has two interviews and several conversations with Dr. Hare. You won't learn much about that course, but you do learn a little, and more can be inferred.

(B) The author describes some of the weird, psychedelic approaches to treating psychopathy in the 1960s. For example, LSD therapy. These therapies were spectacular failures, by the way.

(C) The author describes several interviews that he conducted with potential psychopaths. Unfortunately, the author incorrectly considers himself qualified to administer the PCL. Fortunately, but disappointingly, he never reaches any firm conclusions about the psychopaths that he interviews. The intellectual honesty of the book is refreshing.

This is a small "audience." Most potential members will feel the book was not worth the trouble when they finish it. This audience does have at least one member, namely, me! :)

2) Jon Ronson fans

A lot of this book, maybe 50%, is autobiographical. It describes the experiences and emotions of the author as he pursues his investigation into the nature and the meaning of psychopathy. I do not know how big this audience is. Definitely smaller than the audience for another Abraham Lincoln biography.

3) Intermediate students of the psychology of journalists

Why do journalists pick crazy things to write about? Being a journalist himself, Ronson has quite a bit to say about this. His final conclusion is rather trite, "People like to read about other people who are crazier than they are, but not so crazy that they can not identify with them." (a paraphrase). But, the pages, the arguments, the considerations, that lead up to this consideration are anything but trite. I liked this part. The hard part in reading it was that I had to switch my "psychopath student" hat to a "student of the psychology of journalists" hat. However, for a true student of the psychology of journalists, the whole book can be read from that viewpoint. That is a very small "audience."

4) Students of literary style

The book reads like a journalist's notebook or diary. Each section could have been printed as a column in a daily publication. The Pickwick Papers and the Diary of Anne Frank were successfully written like this. But was this a successful style for this book? I don't know. for me, it made for difficult reading.

When the book gets to "important" or "technical" points, the prose is beautiful, precise, and accurate. In many other parts the prose is sloppy by classical standards. But, do the classical standards really matter?

This book is really two books. There is an "explicit" part, and, an "implicit" part. The explicit part is the direct meaning of the story line. The implicit part is the indirect meaning. The reader is implicitly invited to draw "his own conclusions" about the meaning and significance of the explicit story. But they are not really the reader's "own" conclusions. Enough information is given to "force" a correct inference, that is, the inference the author drives the reader towards, that there is onlly one correct "inference."

The apparently disparate parts of the book are all really tied together. Reconstructing the connections is part of the "implicit" book. For example, the book begins and ends with a story about a crackpot who is (probably) not a psychopath. Implicitly, this imbeds the story of psychopathology to a story about madness in general. Again, this is a very small "audience."

5) People who want a "comic book" about psychopaths

I would imagine that this would be the biggest "audience." Comic books are fast moving and entertaining. This book is definitely that. There are many "philosophical" one-liners in this book, as there are in comic books. The comments are not deep, however. They are more along the lines of "Make my day," or, perhaps the one-liners Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered in the Terminator series.

Summary

I close with a challenge: Read the book. It is definitely worth a try. Write your own review.

Deacon John, PhD
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
gregory booker
Though there were definitely some flaws in the book, I was completely (and maybe a little too much?) mesmerized by all of the psychopaths that Ronson describes throughout the book. Ok, I'll agree that, each case study ended abruptly without much finish. And sure, none of the case studies really related to each other. And yes, the ending was kind of weak. But come on! Psychopaths!! Now that's the stuff nightmares are made of!!

That's it for this one. Short and sweet. Yes, I recognize it was not a perfectly written book, but the subject matter was oh so fascinating. It wasn't hard to look past the weaknesses and become thoroughly engrossed in this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
dimas riyo kusumo
While Jon Ronson has previously paid tribute to men who stare at goats, he's now giving all those madmen out there a scrutinizing look in his book The Psychopath Test, almost single-handedly solving the puzzle of a mysterious book and the person behind it.
I must admit that before I started reading, and even throughout the first chapter, I thought this book was riding mostly on the humorous wave, yet it turned out to be wonderfully entertaining and self deprecating, while at the same time taking a smart and serious look at what psychopaths are made of. Jon skilfully eases into the subject taking the reader on a journey through the madness industry. Not just observing, he inevitably finds himself doing amateur diagnosis of those around him, and he does not spare himself either.
One has to wonder about that fine line that separates crazy from normal. Why do some people end up in a mental institution despite appearing to be perfectly normal folks? Or what about high achievers who show scarily many traits that fit into the scheme of "psychopaths"? Do the mad know they are mad? Could it be possible, just how Scientologists believe, that there is no such thing as mental illness?
This book won't give easy answers to any of these questions, instead it tries to make sense, sometimes doubting then believing, but most of all making you rethink your own preconceptions and knowledge.
In short: A fascinating topic - a wild, mad read!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Pan MacMillan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kristen price
Ronson is a funny and talented gent. This book might have been written by any journalist, but this Jewish Brit gets it just right. He is able to easily (except for a disturbing visit to the Aryan Nation) get to know Randy Weaver and even talk to Bildbergists (who I had no idea existed). He is incredibly even handed--these guys generally look like fools easily--and fair. The ending is just fantastic, there is no way these Owl worshippers can look normal. I was particularly interested in his version of lizard man David Icke's trip to Canada that showed how closed minded both sides could be. I knew nothing of David Paisley or this Mr. Ru Ru and was entertained. The book is a bit less light (it was written largely before 9-11) nowawdays, but in terms of Americans and Brits, it is still fitting. Only a Brit could have seen America like this.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
chris watschke
This is a clever book, but I think that when all is said and done, the real culprit, and the source of all of the confusion, is not really the test to determine psychopathy, but the entire 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV)'. Suddenly, health care professionals were provided a way to categorize hundreds of conditions by simply applying a checklist which was vague and misleading at best. And, coupled with voracious drug companies looking to increase their profit margins by providing a 'chemical fix' for these new diagnoses, you have The Perfect Storm in the mental health field.

A little over half way through the book the author realizes that subjecting prisoners to this test might be a bit contrived, and he wonders if other professions harbor people with psychopathic traits. He interviews a particularly unscrupulous CEO, and this man certainly exhibits psychopath behavior. I would go one step further, and wager that ALL professions contain individuals who embody certain degrees of psychopathic behavior. After reading this book it seems that for every person who has been correctly diagnosed via the DSM-IV, there have been many, many more who have been misdiagnosed, and scarred for life. And, at the very least, exposed to a myriad of untested drugs.

It seems to me that very similar criteria were used in the Salem Witch Trials of the late seventeenth century. If you were asked if you were a witch, and you said "No", then that would prove that you were a witch, because Satan empowered you to lie about your diabolical status.

When I finished this book I know that I will certainly try to refuse any forms of psychological testing for fear that I will be judged, "Insane" or "Anti-Social". Of course, by refusing to cooperate I just might be sealing my fate.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mayee
Why doesn't the world run properly? What accounts for selfish corporations, senseless wars, and general unfairness? There's a simple answer: psychopaths. Like all simple answers, it is to be distrusted, and it is, to be fair, just one view put forward in _The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry_ (Riverhead Books) by Jon Ronson. Ronson has a niche of reporting, with wide-eyed good humor, about peculiar people. His two previous books were _Them_ (about various conspiracy theories) and _The Men Who Stare at Goats_ about attempts at promoting psychic powers in the military. This current book follows the same format, with a light quirky curiosity to start with (and to engage the reader's attention) and gradually descending into dark and serious matters that bear sober thought. Ronson is never grim. He is always deadpan amusing, and his style is perfect to convey his curiosity, perseverance, and bemusement.

The main psychiatric manual is made up of checklists; check off enough symptoms of an illness and you have the illness, but otherwise, no. Checklists are useful for lots of other things; pilots, for instance, use them to make sure every little thing is squared away before take off, and checklists have their place in the operating room, too. One of the pioneers of the checklist is Bob Hare, a Canadian psychologist who authored the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, the test of the title of Ronson's book, consisting of twenty items such as "glibness/superficial charm," "lack of remorse or guilt," and "promiscuous sexual behavior," which characterize psychopaths. Hare plays a big role in the book, as Ronson goes to one of his three-day seminars and gains the same sort of psychopath-spotting skills as other attendees ("I was attaining a new power, like a secret weapon ... the power to identify a psychopath merely by spotting certain turns of phrase, certain sentence constructions, certain ways of being.") Hare's clients include various government officials including police and prison officers. To his credit, he tells Ronson toward the end of the book that he worries that people get their Certificate of Attendance from a seminar, just like Ronson's, and merely with the certificate, they might influence parole hearings, death-penalty judgments, and so on. It is a problem inherent in the system - the checklist is so simple, everyone can learn to use it, but if everyone does, there are bound to be abuses. Ronson interviews prisoners (including one who faked mental illness to get into a mental rather than a prison ward and cannot now unfake it), and "Chainsaw Al" who was a downsizer-for-hire for different companies. Ronson also reports on such figures as the psychologist and criminal profiler whose work resulted in a horrendous wrongful arrest, and a man who has been a spy, conspiracist, transvestite, and messiah. He has entertaining profiles as well of people who use the checklist or shun it.

Like his other books this is a picaresque tour of strangeness ranging from eccentricities to outright madness. There is a great deal of good sense from the author, although he only makes it clearer than ever that madness (whatever that is) and normalcy (whatever that is) blend into each other in ways no checklist will ever demonstrate. Through it all, he writes of his own problems; when he looked through the diagnostic manual, he was able to checklist himself into a dozen diagnoses, but he is mostly just anxious. He is amiably self-deprecating; the first sentence of his Acknowledgements section is, "Being my first readers can, I think, be quite a stressful experience, as I have a tendency to hand over the manuscript and then just stand there exuding a silent mix of defiance and despair." And in case you were worried if you yourself might qualify as a psychopath, stop worrying - if you were a psychopath, the prospect wouldn't bother you at all.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
amanda winkworth
If you've not read him before, John Ronson is a very entertaining and thought provoking journalist - the kind that enmeshes himself into his topic and its characters, taking us along for the ride. An this is what he does in Psychopath Test. Those wanting a more substantive discussion of psychopathy and its characteristics, may be a tad disappointed with this less-than-focused work. But intrigued laypersons who DON'T want a psychological dissertation will probably like it.

Ronson starts out by explaining where his interest in psychopathy and mental illness came from. A professor he knew contacted him regarding a strange book she and several other professors received, containing rather cryptic messages as if intended to be a puzzle. Once she contacted him, the journey to find the author - and Ronson's interest in what would make someone create and send such a cryptic book - began.

From there, Ronson studied the 'anti-psychiatry' movement (at least in its Scientologist form), which led him to a meeting with a patient in a psychiatric hospital, whose insistence that he is not mentally ill is taken for evidence that he is mentally ill! (The patient faked his way into the hospital to avoid a prison term, and while psychiatrists concede that his was an act, they have now labeled him a psychopath because of the calculated way he acted).

This led Ronson to contact Robert Hare, one of the leading authorities on psychopathy and, as it turns out, the developer of a checklist for diagnosing psychopathy. We are taken into a week-long seminar Hare gave to mental health workers on his checklist, and some discussions with Hare about how and why he developed the checklist.

Ronson subsequently interviewed a (former) CEO who is often accused of psychopathy, a former British spy who later became a 7/7 denier, claimed to be God, and became a transvestite, and several of the editors of the DSMIII (the psychologist's book on how to diagnose various disorders).

I found the book to be a real page turner. Ronson's biggest asset is his ability to get into his interviewee's minds and really bring them to life on the page. Yet, if there is one big criticism I have, it is that the book is really unfoused. The first half or so discusses psychopathy almost exclusively. The last several chapters enlarge their scope to mental illness at large. Were I Ronson, I'd have stuck with one or the other. Both are interesting, but I'd rather read a book that stuck to one particular theme. Also, as other reviewers note, the 'conclusion' that Ronson comes to at the end - that we need to be careful judging the 'mentally ill' from the 'normal' because the line is often blurred - is a bit pedestrian to really offer much of a 'satisfying' end to such a book.

All in all, though, the book was a very enjoyable and interesting read. Those wanting anything more serious and focused might want to read some of the books Robert Hare has written, or even The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
uma shankari
I remember Jon Ronson from when he used to write the back pages essays in "Time Out" many years ago. If this book is anythnig to go by, he's come a long way since.
It starts as more "humourous journalism" when Jon decides to spend time looking at various political and religious extremists. Strangely many of the people Jon meets - from completely different backgrounds and nationalities - tell a very similar story about a secret group of powerful men who control the world.
Jon decides to track down this group (known as the Bilderberg group). Amazingly he finds them. He even gets to speak to them. And attends one of their secret countryside retreats.
They may not turn out to be 12 foot lizards or a secret Jewish conspiracy, but they _do_ exist. And they _are_ important. Even people who hate conspiracy theories have been convinced by this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
haley richardson
This is a book written by a journalist about his humorous interviews with extremists, and the penetration of terrorist organisations. The point he gets across is that much of the extremist-hysteria is just that, and he does this by telling stories of the KKK knight who forbids his followers to use "the n word" so as not to tarnish their image and the Islamic terrorist in London who hands out pamphlets preaching jihad and gets people to take them by saying they're about sex.
Besides these scattered stories, there's an overall theme of thee author's attempts to unmask a greater conspiracy - one of a club to which belong most of the world's major leaders and businessmen. In the finale where he stumbles onto a ceremony...--read the book!
He seems to be serious and I don't know how much of this is true, especially the grand conspiracy. But it's very thought provoking. If you're not the type of person who would take him literally and think all extremists are this funny/stupid/harmless and that the fascist state is just spewing propaganda to have a scapegoat (a nice conspiracy in itself!) - then you'll really enjoy this book. If you are that types of person then no book can help you!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amy kearns
I've always been interested in psychology, especially abnormal psychology. Anyone who's read Peril or The Baptist will understand. When I spotted that my local bookshop's Minority Interest for last month was The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, I had to grab it. You can't know too much about psychopaths in my line of work.
Ronson is also the author of The Men Who Stare at Goats (a book that led to a very strange film with George Clooney) so I was expecting quirky humour, journalistic investigation and some genuine insights. That's exactly what I got, with a few intriguing case studies thrown in. The 286 pages flew by.
Now that I've finished this book I'm left slightly perplexed. Not by the book but by the subject matter. Ronson doesn't claim to be a clinician, he's a journalist. He examined several attitudes towards psychology in general and psychopaths in particular.
The approach of categorising mental illness into specific codes was explored and the hazards discussed. Autism, ADD and infant bi-polar disorder were identified as diagnosis growth areas that were probably stimulated by the coding, with attendant questions about the roles of pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Ronson studied and adopted the Hare PCL-R checklist as a methodology to assess several subjects (including murderers and business leaders) for categorisation as psychopaths and, following him in his discoveries, I found myself using the same approach. He himself was at first exhilarated and then somewhat dismayed at his own jumping to conclusions based upon a few days' training. As a wannabe amateur psychologist, I was very glad that I had read the entire book in a short space of time, narrowly avoiding the making of armchair psychiatric diagnoses of my own.
At the same time he discussed the Scientologist approach that all psychology is gobbledegook. That was a real eye-opener.
All of this was informed by interviews and meetings, sometimes a series of them, with the key players. It wasn't a desk analysis. Ronson flew around the world to meet with pivotal individuals, past and present.
The big question is whether society is led by psychopaths. We would wish that it were led by altruists but the suggestion is that key influencers in society might otherwise be categorised as dangerous were they not in a position of power and influence. Look at a few of the twenty points of Hare's checklist: superficial charm, grandiose self-worth, pathological lying, manipulative, lack of guilt. These, if not all the points on the list, seem a fairly typical recipe for any leader that has taken major corporations through major restructuring or brought a nation into a war zone. What if society is driven by psychopathic behaviour? Ronson's book only scratches at the surface of that question but I suspect he is describing the human condition.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
julie swersey
3.8/ 5- I wish that Ronson would have analyzed (even subjectively) the actual checklist more. A story is, of course, important, but I would have liked a deeper dive into the actual psychopath test. The stories were interesting, but the book felt like it's balance was off.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
mindee arnett
This was an intriguing book: half a book on a conspiracy theory, half an objective analysis of people considered on the fringes on society.

Throughout the book, the author tries to track down the secret group of elite leaders who run the world... huh? While its true that Ronson does indeed find bizarre secret rituals and ceremonies during his search of the rulers of the world, I never really found myself buying into the theory, but it is an odd thread connecting different worlds he explores.

I especially enjoyed reading his experiences with Omar Bakri, the jolly Jihadist who jokes with the author about whipping him and condemning him to hell and the pleasant, Woody Allen-esque leader of the KKK. People who share hateful views and are reviled by the general public can be affable and even comical when described by the author.

One note about the book: you should be up to date on your current events. It's better to have a background on the who's who in each chapter than to blindy dive in. This was a very fun and quick read, whatever your views. I think most people would enjoy this book. :)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
parul
Mr. Ronson's book is a beloved member of my bookshelf and I have loaned it out to friends at work and they have all loved it. I bought it after hearing an interview on CSPAN's Booknotes. Every chapter is filled with chuckle inducing nonsense, such as the high level officials who attended meetings at the Bohemian Grove who revelled in pissing out in the woods. It is a great romp, often an adventure...such as when he and the conspiracy theorist Jim Tucker are chased trying to get info on the Bilderberg Group in Portugal, when he is trying to investigate Bohemian Grove activities late at night with a paranoid radio DJ, and when he is outed as a Jew while investigating an Islamic extremist in England. (it turns up the corners of the mouth when we read about the aforementioned terrorist leader purchasing large plastic Coke bottle banks to raise money for Islamic extremist causes).

Another gut buster is the episode where we learn about how David Icke is denounced as being racist by those who claim that when he says the world is really run by "giant lizards" he means Jews, but the fact is that he isn't a racist...he really believes that the world is run by "giant lizards"! Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a Giant Lizard is really a Giant Lizard.

A great read, I have to read more of his work. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
abby johnson
As a confirmed bibliophile I buy on average 5 books a week (mainly second hand, mainly for reference purposes). I generally skim over the content before filing them for future reference. This is the only book that I have ever bought which I was hooked right into and compelled to read it from cover to cover. At every opportunity I was catching up with Ronson's latest escapade. Having enjoyed his t.v. series I didn't think that this book would add much to it. It not only adds to it but explains the background & context for much of want went on in Ronson's hilarious tv programmes. The difference with the book is that it is much more unsettling. We get a deeper clearer picture of "Them" and come to realise what a strange and somewhat disturbing place the world is. For this reason alone (apart from Ronson's excellent writing and sharp wit) this book is a must read - in particular for those with no inkling about conspiracy theories! Outstanding.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
alexandra kaae
Waste of time. The writer is all over the place, he starts tracing a mysterious sender of books, then goes all over the world trying to talk to a bunch of people who worked with psychopaths, then does an amateur sleuthing of identifying psychopaths, brief mentions of his wife using the hare method to label some folks as psychopaths, random speculation about reporters intentions, all of it is skimmed over and then it just ends...no wrap up, no conclusions. All through I kept hoping he would ground himself and get to something...concrete, solid...
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lena
The Psychopath Test By Jon Ronson

3 Stars

Jon Ronson is a journalist known for his quirky investigative work. He wrote The Men Who Stare At Goats. This book all started with him being called in to solve an odd mystery that the world's renowned scientists are experiencing. This results in Jon going down the path to find out what he can about Psychopaths who and what are they? How do we know? What is the history of it in the world of psychiatry?

Jon explores many avenues in this book. He speaks to Scientologist's who are totally against the study of psychiatry in general. He meets Tony, a person who is locked in a maximum security psych ward and has been for many years. Tony presents himself to people as having faked the tests to get an insanity plea and seems normal at first glance but who is he really. There are naked therapy sessions including all the LSD you could want where subjects became the therapists and the patients. That one may have backfired on the researchers. He interviews many of the most knowledgeable on the subject including the gentlemen who wrote DSM III and Bob Hare the creator of the Psychopath Test.

Jon does a good job of interviewing subjects from many variations on the subject. He meets with them many times, returning after someone new has come up and new questions to answer. There were witty parts and sarcasm laced throughout. At one point Jon is invited by Bob Hare to attend training that he does for people to be able to use the Psychopath test. They consist of prison officials, psychiatrists, officers and the like. Bob Hare later critized Jon's liberal use of his knowledge after that training. Stating that did not give him the knowledge to use that the way it was intended it would take years more training. Some of the people that attended the training had no more background than Jon, I just don't believe Mr. Hare liked that particular light shed on it. It questioned the validity of the test because after it Jon would run through the test in his mind when he met with people. I did not see the validity of Mr. Hare's angst over the book. It's sort of the same thing that happens when people go on the internet and self-diagnose medical conditions. I don't think Mr. Ronson was saying that that course made him qualified to do diagnose people but you certainly can't resist it when you know what the symptons are.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nautilus sownfire
Bound: The Man Who Stared at Psychopaths

Jon Ronson Takes the Test

John Hood / SunPost Weekly June 16, 2011

It's hard to fault Jon Ronson for finding psychopathic tendencies everywhere he looks -- even in the mirror. With characteristics such as "glibness / superficial charm," "need for stimulation / proneness to boredom" and "impulsivity" marking some of the characteristics that make for a psychopath, it's a wonder he found anyone who wasn't so inclined. Of course, the aforementioned items are some of the more innocuous of the 20 official psychopathic traits. But considering a person only needs to meet a small majority of the lot to be duly classified, well, even the innocuous traits can add up.

In Ronson's keenly entertaining The Psychopath Test (Riverhead $25.95), the investigative instigator takes us on A Journey Through the Madness Industry that's at turns comic and alarming. And by the time he's finished, you'll find yourself not only second-guessing your own tendencies, but spotting them among your friends as well.

That's the good news. The bad news is that any, er, mental health professional armed with a certain set of criteria can deem someone psychopathic, and then they're stuck with it, sometimes for life.

One tool is called The Hare Checklist, which, Ronson explains, is "the gold standard for diagnosing psychopaths." Ronson enrolls in a three-day course taught by the esteemed Canadian psychologist who came up with the concept and immediately sees himself as something of a psychopath spotter. At first it's a hoot -- as mentioned, Ronson finds a few too many correlations when he looks in the mirror, and a few more when he considers a certain Vanity Fair critic who had "always been very rude about my television documentaries." But when he sorta teams up with an anti-psychiatry Scientologist and visits an inmate in England's high security Broadmoor Hospital (formerly known as Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum), the laughter subsides. Why? Because there he finds the fine line which separates the commitable from the rest of us can be about as tangible as an opinion. And woe to those who land on the wrong side of one of those.

Or maybe not. The "patient" Ronson encounters allegedly feigned madness to get off of an assault charge, thinking he'd skate once the authorities found out it was all an act. Turns out though "Trying to prove you're not a psychopath is even harder than trying to prove you're not mentally ill." And 12 years later "Tony" is still fighting to get free.

Next to the likes of flatmates such as The Yorkshire Ripper though, "Tony" would seem to inhabit a very gray area indeed. Not so Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, who Ronson reconnects with up at New York's Coxsackie Correctional after the former Haitian death squad leader violated the terms of his probation and got socked with a double-digit sentence for mortgage fraud. Constant clearly tests off the charts, and it's all Ronson can do to keep the chill from showing.

So too "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap, the former CEO of Sunbeam who, if you'll recall, took an inordinate joy in firing thousands upon thousands of presumably loyal employees. To Dunlap though, who gamely takes the test himself, the psychopathic traits he possesses are attributes, not detriments. In fact, he claims his high score is much the reason for his immense monetary success.

What separates the Toto Constants (and Yorkshire Rippers) from the psychopath in the boardroom or the Senate chamber? Turns out not much more than murder. The former might destroy whole families; the latter however has the potential to destroy entire societies and economies. And to Hare (and to some degree Ronson), it is those psychopaths that are really worth spotting.

There's more to this story of course -- much, much more, from the sociopaths in Wife Swap to sad saps such as David Shayler, the transvestite "Jesus" who insists 9/11 was done with holograms. And Ronson, who adventured with extremists in Them and uncorked the paranormal in The Men Who Stare at Goats, takes some giddy interest in the lot. Then there are the legions who've been diagnosed with some form of disorder simply because a group of shrinks sat around in a conference room and started tossing around afflictions as if they were so much confetti. Ronson might not come right out and indict the American Psychiatric Association and their pals in Big Pharma, but he sure questions their being given carte blanche to medicate the masses at whim.

It's not often serious subjects are prefaced with humor and self-deprecation, but having read Ronson it certainly would be nice if it were. Then we might get the kinda objectivity that screams less of the pulpit or the podium and more of the people, even if some of those people score out like the psychopath next door.

Have you tested yourself lately?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
aclairification
With 100+ reviews, Ronson must be onto something. I liked the book.
Many of the reviewers missed the point: the subtitle of the book; Inside the Madness Industry.
Chapter 10 gets to the crux of that:
"Any psychiatrist could pick up the manual DSM-III--and if the patient's overt symptoms tallied with the checklist, they'd get the diagnosis" ... "And that's how practically every disorder you've ever heard of or have been diagnosed with came to be invented ..."

DSM-I was 65 pages, DSM-II was 134 pages, DSM-III was 494 pages. (pg 240) DSM-IV came in at 886 pages.

"DSM-III was a sensation. It sold more than a million copies. Sales to civilians hugely outweighed sales to professionals."

Then what? Assuming someone actually does have a personality disorder, how should it be treated?
Talk therapy or drugs? Is it a chemical problem or a mindset problem? Should small children be treated with drugs?
Pg 244 "The rate of diagnosis of autistic disorder in children went from less than one in two thousand to more than one in a hundred".

Even though everyone uses the term Psychopath, it's not in the DSM according to the book:

Pg 239: The reason there is no mention of psychopath in DSM is because there was a schism between Bob Hare and sociologist Lee Robins. She believed clinicians couldn't reliably measure personality traits like empathy. ... So Psychopathy was abandoned for Antisocial Personality Disorder.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrea mckenzie
Wow what a good book. This book had it all for me; a fascinating subject, (psychopathy/psycopaths)very well written, and with a touch of humor that made this not only informative but very entertaining. Interestingly enough, Ronson, a journalist, interviews various psychopaths to see what makes them tick and the foremost experts on psychopathy (whose books I happen to own).

Really a great summer read that will open your eyes a little more to observe the people around you. Are they psychopaths? They don't have to be bloody,deranged chainsaw killers, but are more likely found in the corporate and gov't sectors. Read the Psycopath Test!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lisa carter
I loved this book. Ronson's wit and curiosity make this a smooth read. I got lost in his conversations. I recommend reading this less as a textbook and more as an interesting exploration through a fascinating topic. I feel like Ronson keeps everything entertaining while probing a darker side of our culture.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
judy demma
I was looking forward to reading this book based on the dust jacket comments. I was expecting a laugh a minute kind of book, unfortunately that was not what I found. The first few chapters were interesting with some humor but I found the book started to drag toward the end as the characters were dropping off in interest levels for me. Toward the end of the book I was getting disappointed. I admit that I bought the book for some humor, but also to learn something about the extremist groups the author was spending time with. I did learn some things, mostly about how some people will go off the deep end with some of these conspiracy theories that make the majority of us chuckle and wonder how people come up with this stuff.
I did like how the author calmly and as with as little bias as possible, explained the position of some of the nut jobs. How a Jewish person can spend that much time with the KKK or a Muslim extremists and not snipe at them in his book is some feat. The end of the book wraps up with the big old "one group controlling the whole world" theory. The one constant I think I found with the book is that it seamed that all of the people he spent time with seamed as lame as the next one. I found the book average but an easy and quick read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marion larsen
As many extremists and fanatics believe there is a secret world government - a New World Order - behind whose doors the world's fate is connivingly controlled, it must actually exist somewhere - at some location, - right? Thus was Jon Ronson's impetus for writing what would become this book. He wanted to talk to extremists so as to find out - and find - where the New World Order they talked so ravenously about existed.

At the risk of spoiling the suprise for you, he didn't find it. But the resulting book is a revealing, shocking, and hillarious account of Ronson's attempt.

Ronson recounts his meetings with a muslim extremist of the UK, several white supremacists, David Icke (a former British sports commentator who now believes the world is controlled by descendants of extra-terrestrial lizards), and a Papist preacher in Africa.

What does this motley lot have in common? They all very sincerely believe in the New World Order and that they know where it is and who is behind it. The probem is that each of them seem to have a different take on who is in it and where it is. A few of the more riveting chapters are to do with Ronson's accompaniment of an 'underground journalist' named Big Jim Tucker, who is planning on infiltrating this world government - the Bilderberg group - at their next meeting in a posh hotel.

I'm not sure I wiil be giving anything away when I tell you that Ronson ends as he began - with not a single sighting of the secret world government that everyone talks about but can't offer proof of. But his journey not only makes for a comical and exciting read, but an educating one as well. Rare is the person that an infiltrate and offer up a close up view of those we call 'extremists.' And rare is the person who, like Ronson, can show us in equal parts their fanaticism and their humanness (and how the two might be connected).

An excellent read from start to finish.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
eugene
Well-done, humorous take on a grand issue in society.

Not that I'm a conspiracy theorist, but I am an observer who was a kid in the '70s. For my nation of Darwin Deniers to suddenly embrace the notion of children evolving--in a single generation--into a race of ADD, autistic, bi-polar mental cases needing medication, seemed a bit absurd to me. People whose books affirm my theories get top marks!

Back to the psychopaths, Bob's test seems to be the new standard, awaiting overthrow by some future Copernicus of the cerebrum.

I await the movie.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
david bell
I agree this was a fluid read. I agree the pharmaceutical industry seems to have gone a little nuts but then again, psychopaths can be found in this industry just as psychiatry's own industry. And pyschopaths make news headlines; heroes get second billing these days.

Mr Ronson comes to astute conclusions (after finally discover self diagnosis is never a great idea): "At what point does querying diagnostic criteria tip over into mocking the unusual symptoms of people in very real distress?" and

"Thanks to Alistair Stevenson for giving me a beautiful line that summed up my feelings about those ideologues whose love of polemics and distrust of psychiatry blind them to the very real suffering of people with unusual mental health symptoms." Which reminds me of his experiences with Scientology's side group, CCHR,
and of course, Scientology lawyers (gee, that's a clue).

Those he met seem to me to be manifesting many of the very psychopath traits in Hare's Test. Charming and manipulative people are easy to detect, when you're looking at it from a distance, or after a lot of time has passed.

And yes mental health still is a work in progress, just as the physical human brain is a last frontier in that category of science. Jon Ronsom made me laugh while sharing his journey in some dark places and darker minds. There will always be persons or groups throwing out science to suit their ideologues as Jon states. I definitely recommend. Fast read.

C J Ross
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
karen parrish
I really enjoyed this book. It was a light, easy read and it was quite funny. I like Jon Ronson and I admire him for his courage.
I'm not sure how much of the book I believe. I think that in a general sense it is probably all true-to-life but some of the specifics must have been embellished, if only to make them funnier. The occasional lack of believability doesn't make the book less enjoyable.
Mr. Ronson showed a great deal of the human side of the extremists he studied. His exploration of the events behind the Ruby Ridge incident was particularly poignant.
I'd like to see a followup story that describes the reactions of the people he interviewed for this book at having their stories published, having fun poked at them, etc. I wonder which of them (if any) were flattered/angry/pleased, etc. by it.
This book was one of my favorite reads of the winter.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
annmarie dipronio
Primarily entertaining. 30/50/20 split between (a) an exposition of the author's psyche, the challenges he faces, and how he has and continues to react to the world (b) character descriptions and (c) interesting information not falling into one of these two categories (e.g. the genesis of the DSM and concerns surrounding the pathologizing of borderline normal behaviour).

A fun read and I would recommend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chloe red
I found this book thoroughly enjoyable. The anecdotes are funny and interesting, and you get enough of the science (arguably pseudoscience) to inform the casual reader. I think a seriously scientifically minded person would probably not enjoy this book as the author is not academically rigorous in his exploration of applying the psychopath test--he only selects a few samples and applies the test in a haphazard manner. But I think that is intentional. I think the point of the book is to explore the way that we concieve of and treat madness, using the criteria for psycopathy as a case study. The author interjects just enough of his own opinions while leaving a lot of it open for the readers to reach their own conclusions. I, for one, happen to agree with what I believe he suggests--that while there are many people who have serious mental illnesses that necessitate treatment and therapy, the criteria we have for mental disorders are malleable enough to overdiagnose many others to their detriment. The piece on childhood bipolar disorder at the end is particularly unnerving. I would also note that I listened to this book on audio from audible and it is read by the author who has a great speech pattern. Bit of a British accent makes for nice listening and he uses good emphasis and is a good storyteller. Something fun to listen for is the way he emphasizes responses to questions--"Yes" is said very definitively.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joexu88
ha, ha, ha ... when I saw the spine of this book staring at me from across the room I had to pick it up. On the front cover it says "Is there really, as the extremists claim, a secret room from which a tiny elite secretly rule the world?" And I thought "OMG!! I so totally believe that!!" But does that make me an "extremist"?! Sure I joke about the moon landing being faked and that the government is training dolphins to kill people... but often I start out thinking conspiracies are silly but when you really examine them they make a lot of sense. My stepdad had bought the book to "know what the lunatic fringe are thinking" he said, but I "borrowed" it from him over Christmas. If you're a fan of the X-Files you'll know that the "secret room" is a brownstone in New York City :) The author is referring to the yearly meeting of the Bilderberg Group (who I heard on JVIM just met in Chantilly, VA!! They must be cutting back bcuz in the book the elite meet at a 5 star golf resort in Portugal. I don't know how many 5 star resorts are near Dulles Airport.)

This is absolutely one of the funniest books I have ever read. I couldn't put it down. Another reviewer relayed the "my daughter's name translates as 'black flag of Islam'" story which is a great example. I love the author's tone: often he will follow up simply with "Really?" which is so funny bcuz he is understating his incredulity. But he is not mean or condescending to the people he interviews, he just wants to get a picture of their world. And I loved when he argued with Jim Tucker in Portugal. And when David Icke was attacked by a pie-wielding activist in a bookstore.

I wish there was more to this book because it was so great. It's like if Dave Barry was covering a conspiracy theory convention (and that is a compliment bcuz I am a big Dave Barry fan!) I liked the parts about the Bilderbergs and the New World Order the best since I am an avid conspiracy buff myself. The author finds humor in unlikely places like at a KKK gathering (the Grand Wizard reminds him of Woody Allen!) The author is trying to determine if when Icke talks about the reptiles that rule the world if that is a codeword for Jews (as in a Zionist conspiracy) or if he really does believe that extraterrestial giant lizards occupy the ruling houses of Europe and Fortune 500 companies. Another hilarious bit is when some guys are trying to convince another guy that Icke is a racist and they decide to leave out the descriptions of the reptiles. But they are losing his interest so one guy jumps in with the 12 or so different types of "reptiles" ... "There are the tall blondes who look like Swedes." Since he also mentions the "greys" it sounds like he is talking about the classic outerspace aliens, not just reptiles. Ok, now I'm rambling, but it is really a great read. I shared many quips over the dinner table.

In closing, here is an excerpt which encapsulates my "conspiracy nut" worldview and my stepdad's diametrically opposed (and I think boring!) view: "People like to enchant themselves. They want there to be a grand conspiracies by superpowerful beings, rather than just a bunch of mistakes made by decent people." So says a Canadian psychology professor to an enraged David Icke.

Also, if anyone has an in with the New World Order can you tell them I am looking for a job? :)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
pam garcia
So far, I've greatly enjoyed every Jon Ronson book I've ever read, and this one was not only no exception, it was one of the highlights. Ronson embeds with several different extremists of diverse stripes, from racists to terrorists, and goes undercover with conspiracy theorists. It's incredible the way that Ronson brings these people into focus. A great read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
frances thomas
Although Ronson's account is tongue-in-cheek, the psychologist (Hare) who developed the test, is serious. He maintains "corporate, political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies."

There is no shortage of concrete examples of psychopaths in Washington D.C. If Ted Bundy was a psychopath, then aren't the architects of the Iraq war also psychopaths? They used fake intelligence to justify a war that resulted in the maiming and killing of tens of thousands of people in order to open Iraq up for international oil companies. Mission accomplished. The neocons didn't kill anybody, they got somebody else to do it by lying to them.

Then, there's Congress. It's is like a whore house on Saturday night. Special interests are the johns. Deals are struck, money changes hands, and laws are passed that favor the highest bidder without any consideration for the consequences to our society. Gotta be quite a few in Congress without a conscience, (especially on the Republican side).

Whether or not Ronson's book is well-written, it serves to bring the characteristics of psychopaths to the attention of the non-acedemic public. That's a good thing. It gives us a useful yardstick for taking the measure of politician's and CEO's.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tiffany acosta
A journalist, Jon Ronson sets out to answer the question: Why do some leaders mess with people, disrupt their lives, and still are rewarded for inhumane behavior? He does this by focusing on mental health in general and psychopathic behavior in particular. Each chapter opens the reader to aspects of the human condition. Readers are introduced to characters from many walks of life and shown how they behave in psychopathic ways. It becomes evident, that psychopathic behavior is a plus in organizational life and to the ambitions. It separates the ordinary from the highly productive in many cases. Certainly, Ronson makes it clear that individuals with abhorrent behavior are often the most likely to find organizational success and to garner the rewards associated with that success. This book will be of help to anyone interested in the nature of leadership in our modern world. Negatively, the book could have been a little more coherent in presentation. While exciting and informative, the book can leave readers without a common thread and theme at times.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
julia mesplay
I really didn't like this book. I had high hopes, given the title, that the book would have some insight into psychopathy. As someone whose life as a child was marred by psychopathy (the criminal kind) I find this topic interesting. The first chapter had little to do with psychopathy and was something that had to be gotten through rather than enjoyed. There seemed to be little mystery to the author of the mystery, contrary to how Ronson portrayed it, and Ronson used rather basic journalism to solve it. It was a topic for a paragraph or page rather than a quarter of the book. Then we go on to the asylum and the patient who while endlessly opined on by Ronson et al, is never really conclusively diagnosed. Ronson also manages to make Scientologists come out on top in his short query into all things psychological (from his perspective apparently) which in itself should be a huge red flag about this work. Then Ronson interviews a CEO and tries to apply psychopathic characteristics (from Hare's PCL-R) to him and fails to chisel the obnoxious and abrasive CEO into the mold, concluding at the end. Notice I did not follow that with a conclusion because the error is, consistently, Ronson's belief that he can gloss so daintily over a subject such as the PCL-R then actually apply it without the requisite 8 years of schooling and intensive study in the field. At last he interviews Hare and while apparently seemingly respectful he fairly savages Hare with digs and misrepresentation. Finally, we come to the only part of this book that is revelatory and significant, the insight that the DSM is thrown together in an apparently haphazard and arbitrary manner by professionals debating on what is what in the same manner they might have watching a boxing match. THIS was the meat of the book, the expose' that Ronson either wasn't smart enough or brave enough to delve into deeply. This truly does give the Scientologists some credibility, the careless way in disorders of all manner and kind are ordered and described and then thrust onto unsuspecting patients whether accurate or not. But Ronson is *not that guy, meaning, the one who cares enough to care about the mislabeled and misdiagnosed patients of social work and drug treatment and so forth. Ronson seems to have contrived this book in a way that would give all things equal weight, whether this is an apt representation or not. This book is quite juvenile. It is boring in the first part, exasperating in the second, it does a great disservice to Hare in the third (and to victims of psychopaths as well) and if anyone is still reading by the very end, it completely buries the lead in the end and seemingly never does realize the true weight of it's own revelations in the final part. The most unbearable aspect of it is the title, through which Ronson makes himself look like a parasite sucking credibility out of the one aspect of this book that actually has weight and gravity. Ronson is a "lite" author, by choice, which when tackling subjects of such great importance, is unforgivable.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
siddharth
This is my 2nd favourite book of Jon's. The extremists that let him into their lives are off in another world sometimes and it's amazing to hear how he wiggles his way into their lives over the course of sometimes year. It was very interesting going back to the 90's and 00's with extremists, doesn't feel like 15 years ago though. Highly recommend.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
martt
I didn't realize this was the same author that wrote Men Who Stare at Goats until it was mentioned in the book. He has the same characteristic journalistic writing that he had with Goats, with just a touch of "am I really doing this?" sense of humor. It's not a book for the fainthearted, but it is a very interesting read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
zee al alawi
'The Psychopath Test, a journey through the madness industry' by Jon Ronson starts with the author, a journalist, being asked to find out who anonymously sent a cryptic self-published book to many psychiatrists worldwide, which then leads him somehow, circuitously, to a Scientologist who gets him into Broadmoor Prison to interview a criminally insane inmate who claims he's not insane. Scientologists famously do not believe in psychiatry so they advocate for the prisoner who they believe is sane. The author then goes on to learn about the Hare Psychopathy Checklist at a workshop lead by the list's creator Bob Hare himself. Armed with his newly acquired psychopath-spotting ability and a quirky sense of humor, the author goes all over the world for a year or so interviewing both diagnosed and suspected psychopaths and mental health professionals while dipping into the standard textbook 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders' and exploring the latest top psychiatric diagnoses like bipolar disorder in children. The irony of his research is that Ronson self-deprecatingly presents himself as an anxious neurotic; he worries a lot about being tracked down by some of the killers he meets and he worries about whether he might have some psychopathic tendencies, constantly referring back to the checklist to self-diagnose. The book is about at least two topics: psychopaths, or course, but also how mental illness came to be diagnosed by checklists in the DSM and the subsequent increase in number of diagnoses of mental disorders and the increased development of drugs to treat them. That is an ambitiously broad range of topics to cover in only 275 pages. What is psychopathy? How do we diagnose it? Why has there been an increase in the number of mental illnesses listed in the DSM which seem increasingly close to a normal state? Are there more psychopaths in positions of great power, like CEO's of corporations? Ronson raises a lot of questions, so if you are interested in related titles, you could read the following books:

'The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders'
The books of psychiatrist Oliver Sacks
'The Checklist Manifesto' by Atul Gawande, which is not about psychiatry or madness, but about medicine's use of checklists.
'Opening Skinner's box: great psychological experiments of the twentieth century' by Lauren Slater
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kathy hong
ha, ha, ha ... when I saw the spine of this book staring at me from across the room I had to pick it up. On the front cover it says "Is there really, as the extremists claim, a secret room from which a tiny elite secretly rule the world?" And I thought "OMG!! I so totally believe that!!" But does that make me an "extremist"?! Sure I joke about the moon landing being faked and that the government is training dolphins to kill people... but often I start out thinking conspiracies are silly but when you really examine them they make a lot of sense. My stepdad had bought the book to "know what the lunatic fringe are thinking" he said, but I "borrowed" it from him over Christmas. If you're a fan of the X-Files you'll know that the "secret room" is a brownstone in New York City :) The author is referring to the yearly meeting of the Bilderberg Group (who I heard on JVIM just met in Chantilly, VA!! They must be cutting back bcuz in the book the elite meet at a 5 star golf resort in Portugal. I don't know how many 5 star resorts are near Dulles Airport.)

This is absolutely one of the funniest books I have ever read. I couldn't put it down. Another reviewer relayed the "my daughter's name translates as 'black flag of Islam'" story which is a great example. I love the author's tone: often he will follow up simply with "Really?" which is so funny bcuz he is understating his incredulity. But he is not mean or condescending to the people he interviews, he just wants to get a picture of their world. And I loved when he argued with Jim Tucker in Portugal. And when David Icke was attacked by a pie-wielding activist in a bookstore.

I wish there was more to this book because it was so great. It's like if Dave Barry was covering a conspiracy theory convention (and that is a compliment bcuz I am a big Dave Barry fan!) I liked the parts about the Bilderbergs and the New World Order the best since I am an avid conspiracy buff myself. The author finds humor in unlikely places like at a KKK gathering (the Grand Wizard reminds him of Woody Allen!) The author is trying to determine if when Icke talks about the reptiles that rule the world if that is a codeword for Jews (as in a Zionist conspiracy) or if he really does believe that extraterrestial giant lizards occupy the ruling houses of Europe and Fortune 500 companies. Another hilarious bit is when some guys are trying to convince another guy that Icke is a racist and they decide to leave out the descriptions of the reptiles. But they are losing his interest so one guy jumps in with the 12 or so different types of "reptiles" ... "There are the tall blondes who look like Swedes." Since he also mentions the "greys" it sounds like he is talking about the classic outerspace aliens, not just reptiles. Ok, now I'm rambling, but it is really a great read. I shared many quips over the dinner table.

In closing, here is an excerpt which encapsulates my "conspiracy nut" worldview and my stepdad's diametrically opposed (and I think boring!) view: "People like to enchant themselves. They want there to be a grand conspiracies by superpowerful beings, rather than just a bunch of mistakes made by decent people." So says a Canadian psychology professor to an enraged David Icke.

Also, if anyone has an in with the New World Order can you tell them I am looking for a job? :)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dardan
So far, I've greatly enjoyed every Jon Ronson book I've ever read, and this one was not only no exception, it was one of the highlights. Ronson embeds with several different extremists of diverse stripes, from racists to terrorists, and goes undercover with conspiracy theorists. It's incredible the way that Ronson brings these people into focus. A great read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
steven phillips
Although Ronson's account is tongue-in-cheek, the psychologist (Hare) who developed the test, is serious. He maintains "corporate, political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies."

There is no shortage of concrete examples of psychopaths in Washington D.C. If Ted Bundy was a psychopath, then aren't the architects of the Iraq war also psychopaths? They used fake intelligence to justify a war that resulted in the maiming and killing of tens of thousands of people in order to open Iraq up for international oil companies. Mission accomplished. The neocons didn't kill anybody, they got somebody else to do it by lying to them.

Then, there's Congress. It's is like a whore house on Saturday night. Special interests are the johns. Deals are struck, money changes hands, and laws are passed that favor the highest bidder without any consideration for the consequences to our society. Gotta be quite a few in Congress without a conscience, (especially on the Republican side).

Whether or not Ronson's book is well-written, it serves to bring the characteristics of psychopaths to the attention of the non-acedemic public. That's a good thing. It gives us a useful yardstick for taking the measure of politician's and CEO's.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nancy
A journalist, Jon Ronson sets out to answer the question: Why do some leaders mess with people, disrupt their lives, and still are rewarded for inhumane behavior? He does this by focusing on mental health in general and psychopathic behavior in particular. Each chapter opens the reader to aspects of the human condition. Readers are introduced to characters from many walks of life and shown how they behave in psychopathic ways. It becomes evident, that psychopathic behavior is a plus in organizational life and to the ambitions. It separates the ordinary from the highly productive in many cases. Certainly, Ronson makes it clear that individuals with abhorrent behavior are often the most likely to find organizational success and to garner the rewards associated with that success. This book will be of help to anyone interested in the nature of leadership in our modern world. Negatively, the book could have been a little more coherent in presentation. While exciting and informative, the book can leave readers without a common thread and theme at times.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
mommy
I really didn't like this book. I had high hopes, given the title, that the book would have some insight into psychopathy. As someone whose life as a child was marred by psychopathy (the criminal kind) I find this topic interesting. The first chapter had little to do with psychopathy and was something that had to be gotten through rather than enjoyed. There seemed to be little mystery to the author of the mystery, contrary to how Ronson portrayed it, and Ronson used rather basic journalism to solve it. It was a topic for a paragraph or page rather than a quarter of the book. Then we go on to the asylum and the patient who while endlessly opined on by Ronson et al, is never really conclusively diagnosed. Ronson also manages to make Scientologists come out on top in his short query into all things psychological (from his perspective apparently) which in itself should be a huge red flag about this work. Then Ronson interviews a CEO and tries to apply psychopathic characteristics (from Hare's PCL-R) to him and fails to chisel the obnoxious and abrasive CEO into the mold, concluding at the end. Notice I did not follow that with a conclusion because the error is, consistently, Ronson's belief that he can gloss so daintily over a subject such as the PCL-R then actually apply it without the requisite 8 years of schooling and intensive study in the field. At last he interviews Hare and while apparently seemingly respectful he fairly savages Hare with digs and misrepresentation. Finally, we come to the only part of this book that is revelatory and significant, the insight that the DSM is thrown together in an apparently haphazard and arbitrary manner by professionals debating on what is what in the same manner they might have watching a boxing match. THIS was the meat of the book, the expose' that Ronson either wasn't smart enough or brave enough to delve into deeply. This truly does give the Scientologists some credibility, the careless way in disorders of all manner and kind are ordered and described and then thrust onto unsuspecting patients whether accurate or not. But Ronson is *not that guy, meaning, the one who cares enough to care about the mislabeled and misdiagnosed patients of social work and drug treatment and so forth. Ronson seems to have contrived this book in a way that would give all things equal weight, whether this is an apt representation or not. This book is quite juvenile. It is boring in the first part, exasperating in the second, it does a great disservice to Hare in the third (and to victims of psychopaths as well) and if anyone is still reading by the very end, it completely buries the lead in the end and seemingly never does realize the true weight of it's own revelations in the final part. The most unbearable aspect of it is the title, through which Ronson makes himself look like a parasite sucking credibility out of the one aspect of this book that actually has weight and gravity. Ronson is a "lite" author, by choice, which when tackling subjects of such great importance, is unforgivable.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelly reuter
This is my 2nd favourite book of Jon's. The extremists that let him into their lives are off in another world sometimes and it's amazing to hear how he wiggles his way into their lives over the course of sometimes year. It was very interesting going back to the 90's and 00's with extremists, doesn't feel like 15 years ago though. Highly recommend.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
selim yoruk
I didn't realize this was the same author that wrote Men Who Stare at Goats until it was mentioned in the book. He has the same characteristic journalistic writing that he had with Goats, with just a touch of "am I really doing this?" sense of humor. It's not a book for the fainthearted, but it is a very interesting read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
shawn stern
'The Psychopath Test, a journey through the madness industry' by Jon Ronson starts with the author, a journalist, being asked to find out who anonymously sent a cryptic self-published book to many psychiatrists worldwide, which then leads him somehow, circuitously, to a Scientologist who gets him into Broadmoor Prison to interview a criminally insane inmate who claims he's not insane. Scientologists famously do not believe in psychiatry so they advocate for the prisoner who they believe is sane. The author then goes on to learn about the Hare Psychopathy Checklist at a workshop lead by the list's creator Bob Hare himself. Armed with his newly acquired psychopath-spotting ability and a quirky sense of humor, the author goes all over the world for a year or so interviewing both diagnosed and suspected psychopaths and mental health professionals while dipping into the standard textbook 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders' and exploring the latest top psychiatric diagnoses like bipolar disorder in children. The irony of his research is that Ronson self-deprecatingly presents himself as an anxious neurotic; he worries a lot about being tracked down by some of the killers he meets and he worries about whether he might have some psychopathic tendencies, constantly referring back to the checklist to self-diagnose. The book is about at least two topics: psychopaths, or course, but also how mental illness came to be diagnosed by checklists in the DSM and the subsequent increase in number of diagnoses of mental disorders and the increased development of drugs to treat them. That is an ambitiously broad range of topics to cover in only 275 pages. What is psychopathy? How do we diagnose it? Why has there been an increase in the number of mental illnesses listed in the DSM which seem increasingly close to a normal state? Are there more psychopaths in positions of great power, like CEO's of corporations? Ronson raises a lot of questions, so if you are interested in related titles, you could read the following books:

'The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders'
The books of psychiatrist Oliver Sacks
'The Checklist Manifesto' by Atul Gawande, which is not about psychiatry or madness, but about medicine's use of checklists.
'Opening Skinner's box: great psychological experiments of the twentieth century' by Lauren Slater
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
zeinab badr
Strolling by the new book section at the library, this book called out to me. Having read a number of books on sociopaths and psychopaths, and having developed a necessary personal interest in the topic, I began reading the book, thinking it was a campy work of fiction. Very enjoyable at first. 40 pages into the book, it dawned on me that this book is for real. Haven't finished the book yet. Ronson takes a different approach from all the other books out there on this topic. There are a quite a few resources he mentions that I've begun to research. IMO, books like this are a must read. High schools and colleges should have a least one book as required reading on the subject. These frightening people lurk everywhere in society. For those who are innocently naive, as many of us who are non-psychopaths, it's a difficult to understand topic until you have to rub shoulders with them. Better to be forewarned. It's inevitable, sooner or later, that each of us will eventually interact with one, in closer quarters than we would prefer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emmahrichards
No matter what you think of these conspiracy theorists, theories and extremists, this is one funny and informative book. Ronson is for the most part objective...at times, I think he's looking down on these crazy American extremists with that sort of British snobbery that manifests itself into a strange amusement.

There are a few chapters that just don't fit, so I skimmed through those (one that takes place in Africa and the other in Romania). The others (especially Bilderberg, Bohemian Grove, David Icke and the Islamic Extremist) are great. After reading the book, I highly recommend getting your hands on the UK Channel 4's 'Secret Rulers of the World' series, which are the accompanying documentaries. Seeing some of these subjects on film make it that much more interesting.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amenar
Jon Ronson spent a couple years looking for, interviewing and hanging out with people who are viewed by the mainstream as "wackos" or extremists. This book is the result of those years and it is one of the most entertaining and informative books I've read in years.
The subject of the first chapter is Omar Bakri Mohammed, the so-called leader or Islamic Fundamentalists in Britain. After reading the chapter though, you get the feeling that Omar is all talk. He uses Jon for rides and makes him pay for things because he is broke and does not own a car. Conversations between Jon and Omar also prove that Omar isn't nearly as bad as he wants to be.
Later chapters cover Ruby Ridge, the David Koresh incident in Waco, David Icke vs. the ADL and people who believe that a small group of men rule the world (Bilderberg Group.)
Through every chapter, Jon manages to fit in and is able to interview his subjects in a very relaxed manner, thereby allowing them to speak freely with him.
-- The Klu Klux Klan leader who won't allow his Klansmen to use the "N" word.
-- David Icke, who believes that we are descendents of 12 foot tall aliens who now control us through select leaders.
-- A writer for a conspiracy magazine who thinks everyone is following them or hiding something from them.
-- Rachel Weaver, daughter of Randy Weaver (Ruby Ridge), who in great detail tells Jon the story from her point of view. (A sad story, no matter what side you may take)
There are so chapters that don't quite fit in with the rest, but they are interesting anyway. In between laughs, you'll be discover that most extremists are not that different from me or you, they just took it further.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rose martinez
Do I have any qualifications for reviewing this book? I am probably a pyschopath and probably a “psychopath-light.” How do I know? Based on a test I found on the Internet & administered to myself (and perhaps a “knock off” of the most well known and widely accepted test for identifying psychopaths -- Bob Hare's book described in the book) I am probably about 60% up the scale on being a psychopath. There are so many psychopathic traits and elements in the previous sentence, I would suggest that you should have no doubt about whether I am one. However, I have (to the best of my knowledge) never murdered anyone, never tortured anyone, and never raped anyone. Also, I have done some good deeds. So. Trust me. I am a true psychopath, but again, not a very dangerous one. Much to the dismay of my wife, my daughter, her wife, and their daughter, all of whom are truly empathic people and are beginning to trust me.

My Aunt Arlene was murdered in Los Angeles while a student at UCLA at about the age of 20, though as the perp was never caught it's impossible to know for certain if he was a true psychopath or “just” a clumsy burglar who panicked when he found her asleep in bed.

My mother grew up on a farm in Indiana, near Belle Gunness' farm. (Belle was a strong Norwegian farm woman who gave all Scandinavian strapping farm women a bad reputation by being one of the most notorious female serial killers in United States history).

In the 1970s, my high school student Mindi Rahier (when I was a teacher near Portland, OR) murdered her husband a couple of years after she graduated. She was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mindi probably was not a psychopath. It's a long complicated story. So trust me.

I have worked for two psychopaths. One owned a prosperous business in the Silicon Forest. The other was a very highly respected administrator in a large well-regarded public library system. I just gave a couple of her books carefully nasty reviews. I don't want her coming after me.

My wife and I battled a brilliant and successful new age “cult leader” in Oregon who stole about a million dollars over a twenty year period in small amounts from gullible followers, some of whom (some probably psychopaths themselves) are still mourning him after his death this year.

Three minor criticisms of the book. First, no index. (Obviously a sign of the coming collapse of Western civilization after Jesus Christ failed to keep his promise to return over 2,000 years ago. Was Jesus C a you know what? Let's not go there.)

Second, while I appreciate a lot of useful information in the book that cleared up some doubts in my mind, it did not clarify one question. Not all psychopaths are killers, despite such spectacular examples as Stalin, Hitler, Ted Bundy, and Belle Gunness. The book cleared up doubt in my mind about the percentage of the population who are psychopaths (I am persuaded it's close to 1%) and I am persuaded that “psychopath” and “sociopath” are essentially synonyms. However, it is not clear to me what percentages are A) violent, B) non-violent yet dangerous, and C) just kind of cold, easily bored, attracted to nasty books, movies, and games but not really dangerous such as me?

If you are a graduate student in clinical psychology (or allied discipline) looking for some thesis or dissertation project, I have just thrown out some suggestions for you. Not to rush you, but I am 70 years old, and I would like to know the answer before I croak.

Another possible project – a big one – so this might launch you on a best selling book – would be how to immunize people against these predators. My granddaughter is very bright and very empathic. As I was totally deceived by three psychopaths in a row (and immodestly, I am not the dumbest frog in the tree), I see my granddaughter at great risk. She knows to put on her seat belt, and she has a big heart and is very kind. She strikes me as perfect prey for these brilliant human predators. I tried to warn her a couple of days ago, but I am pessimistic.

Oh, yes. Should you read the book? I've read all the reviews. There are a lot. That's a good sign; unless many of the reviewers are themselves psychopaths trolling for prey. Some like the book; many don't. I think it's accurate, interesting, entertaining, excellent over all, but I'm a psychopath. So trust me. Send me five bucks while you are at it. My address is big island near Seattle.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amanda schmidt
I really enjoyed Jon Ronson's "Them," and thought him just a wonderfully talented writer, and so was looking forward to "The Psychopath Test." I was extremely disappointed because the book just didn't have his trademark wit and quirkiness. It reads like a rushed and haphazard affair: Knowing that he doesn't have much of a book, he writes it as soon as possible.

What's also disappointing about the book is its thinking. When the book means psychopaths, it means the obvious and stupid sort who get themselves locked away in prison. The more interesting sort are those who cleverly and callously work their way into power, and become world leaders. Also, I don't think a checklist for psychopaths necessarily work, and neither do diagnosis. Human behavior falls into a range, with many nuances and subtleties: to categorically categorize someone as this or that is self-defeating and ultimately pointless.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rick glosson
This is a book that once you start reading, you can't help but evaluate the whole world differently. We use the term psychopath in everyday language describing anyone who is crazy or perhaps crazy violent. This book takes on the definition and the widely used checklist to truly evaluate what constitutes psychopathic behavior and whether it can be changed. Extremely readable and thought provoking, recommended for anyone who has ever called someone else crazy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rexiel
I love this book. Its one of the ones I reread occasionally. It's extremely entertaining, great stories, tales of of adventure in a modern world. Ronson goes looking to see if there are really monsters. mostly just finds (some admittedly wild) people and deals with the whole thing very even-handed-ly and with self-deprecating humor.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
maggie hammond
In the beginning of this book, the reader is drawn in by a mysterious book that has circulated it's way to a handful of very specific people. No author. Limited wording, and clues missing as to it's purpose. The author goes on to investigate the origins of this book, but only in the beginning. Ronson then dives into stories and interactions he had while searching for the books origins. I was a little underwhelmed because I though this book would take us more into the minds of psychopaths. How this book relates to or could have been made from a psychopath. I thought there would be personal interaction with psychopaths, but there was none. In fact, the story lost me entirely somewhere near the middle. I don't want to give up the ending in case someone plans to read it, but it was disappointing and not what I hoped for
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jonathan foster
This is a very interesting and often amusing book that is also quite moving at times.

It starts off in a very intriguing fashion when the author is asked to investigate a very strange book that is being sent to leading Neurologists and cognitive scientists around the world.

Jon Ronson is impressed by just how much affect moments of madness can have on other people. The rest of the book is slightly rambling but is still very enjoyable.

He is a very skilled writer and there were some great lines that made me laugh out loud. I hope that his Nerdish high anxiety is true and not just a pose.

Occasionally it was a bit journalistic and he sometimes seemed slightly unfair with some of the people that he was interviewing in that he was searching for things to make fun of.

Though generally he is very fair with the majority of his interviewee's. I did think that he let Al Dunlap off a bit too easily and didn't ask him about all the accounting frauds at the companies that he ran.

However my only real quibble with this book is that I wished that it was far longer. It really is a fantastic page turner.

The idea that there are CEO's. Top politicians and bankers that are Psychopaths is fascinating and also extremely worrying. Also the notion that they are behind so much that is wrong with the world is also very interesting.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
anne meiklejohn
I was disappointed by this book. It wasn't bad per se, in fact it was for the most part well written and the first half of the book was thoroughly engaging. Unfortunately, it seems like the author ran out of things to say about half way through. After several intriguing interviews with psychopaths and those who study them, the author went on several tangents ranging from his cross country travels to 9/11 doubters that had only the most cursory relation to psychopathy. Furthermore, the actual mechanics of psychopaths and the psychopath test are limited. If you're interested in psychopaths and what makes them tick, I would recommend The Mask of Sanity by Cleckley, which you can download for free.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stefani b
Half way through this book, my mom caught sight of it and asked to see it. It turns out she had actually worked with some of the doctors during her career as a forensic psychologist.

I asked her if any of the stories were true - I mean, this was some crazy stuff being described regarding the earlier treatment programs designed to "cure" psychopaths - and she confirmed it all. She also confirmed all the scary descriptions in the book about how psychopaths really are a different breed the average person.

So not only was the book a good read, but accurate too. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
abby doodlepants
Very intriguing read. I agree with a majority of this author's insights to mental health. I also believe society has been too quick to label "unique" personality characteristics as a mental disorder! Soon, not one "normal" soul will walk the earth! I highly recommend this read to get a take on the evolution and applications of the psychiatric bible, the DSM.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
johny
Mr. Ronson's humorous and humanistic approach to the business of madness is alarming and enlightening. You hear anecdotes about those who are in an institution and shouldn't be and those who aren't and should be, or at least have professional help, but to see it through the eyes of a journalist illuminated the problem much more intensely for me. Though I certainly would not be assessed as a psychopath or anywhere in that spectrum, like many people, I have sought assistance and guidance for my own thinking process. I found great wisdom and tools in Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self. As thinking is our core performance indicator, learning how to maximize the process consciously is key.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
emily gamelin
I really didn't like/get the weird set up, but the research on psychopaths was fascinating. It was especially intriguing to see how someone could enter a mental health facility like Broadmoor and then but be able to leave. When everyone has labeled you a psychopath, it's surreal to think that anything you do only proves that point further.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
texassky
Jon's account of visiting with extremists of various sorts is engaging in the sense that he makes you wish you had the time to do what he did in writing the book. His style is glib and easy to read, which keeps the book flowing along. While the book seems to be written for humor, Jon also manages to make the folks he meet seem less scary because of how silly they all are. In a strangely comforting way, you find that many bullies really are cowards - and that's not a bad thing. Overall, a fun, easy read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alice ann fehring
Ronson's comedic style takes the edge off a frightening subject, but never discounts the seriousness of the extremist agenda. Much of this is due in part to his researching and writing the majority of this book prior to September 11, 2001. In later publications, he added his enlightened reflections in the face of the aftermath of the attacks and the "war on terrorism."

I read this book when it first came out and just now came back to it in light of the suicide bombings in London. No one should be surprised that four British men become suicide bombers recently. Ronson pretty clearly explained their agenda and psychology in this book in 2002...

If you like Ronson's style, you can hear him read some of his stories on This American Life (NPR) and read his regular column in The Guardian online. His lighter ramblings, particularly about his own family's peculiarities, are hysterical.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mohammad omar
This is a really enjoyable book, believe it or not! It's not a non-stop downer like Without Conscience is, all dry info about terrible people and the tragic crimes they've done. This one is written as a narrative and it's filled with little mysteries and hilarious bits. It's nuanced, self-doubting, and exploratory (bringing us along for the discovery), not a cohesive defense of a strongly held thesis. This has caused some reviewers to label it a waste of time, but since it's actually quite informative as well as fun to read, so I don't see the problem.

I was able to get the Kindle edition electronically delivered from my local library, so consider checking your library before purchasing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
todd emerson
It's rare to come across a book that's original, genuinely important - and very funny too. But Them, a series of interconnected essays by one of the UK's most important alternative journalists, is all these things, and it succeeds not merely because of its unexpected timeliness (Ronson's profile of Omar Bakhri Mohammed, Britain's very own Bin Laden, was actually written four years ago) but because the author, unlike other humorous journalists, gets out and does some first-hand investigation. In Bakhri's case, this extended to engaging in a (beautifully-observed) year long association with the extremist that saw Ronson - a self-proclaimed liberal Jew of no strong religious or political convictions - become the would-be revolutionary's unpaid chauffeur and make frequent visits to his home. The strikingly off-key relationship that developed between the two is tellingly portrayed in deftly-paced vignettes:

'Next morning I sat in Omar's living room while Omar played with his baby daughter.

'"What's your daughter's name?" I asked him.

'"It is a difficult name for you to understand," said Omar.

'"Does it have an English translation?" I asked.

'"Yes," said Omar, "it translates into English as 'The Black Flag of Islam'."

'"Really?" I said. "Your daughter's name is The Black Flag of Islam?"

'"Yes," said Omar.

'"Really?" I said.

'There was a small pause.

'"You see," said Omar, "why our cultures can never integrate?"''

Ronson, indeed, succeeds remarkably well in humanising the men (and they are, with only one exception, men) he writes about, and his book, though undoubtedly hilarious, is never played principally for laughs. Instead, its humour emerges from character and situation, and it is all the more effective for it.

Ronson casts his net wide, visiting not only the US (setting for half the chapters in the book), but West Africa, Eastern Europe, Canada and Portugal too. His subjects include KKK leader Thom Robb, notorious new-age extremist David Icke (who believes that Queen Elizabeth is really a creature not dissimilar to one of the villains in 80s teleseries 'V' ), Gail Gans of New York's Anti Defamation League, and right-wing talk show host Alex Jones. Nor was his quest without danger - he finds himself tailed by sinister secret service men in the Algarve and - most spectacularly - unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp. All in all, therefore, Them turns out to be an eye opening and admirable introduction to the wilder shores of contemporary belief.

There are flaws - some of the chapters fit better into the developing narrative than others (Ronson's portraits of Ian Paisley and Mr Ru Ru, an enigmatic Saudi Arabian encountered bidding at auction for Nicolai Ceaucescu's shoes, both seem out of place), and there are few laughs to be had in 'Running Through Cornfields', a compassionate profile of Rachel Weaver, one of the survivors of the siege of Ruby Ridge (an event that remains all but unknown in the UK, but which turns out to be pivotal to the development of the principal themes of this book). Most significantly, perhaps, Ronson's decision to place the strange story of the Bilderburg group front and centre in his narrative jars somewhat; by insisting that all the people he enountered share a common belief in the idea that this cabal of Western politicians secretly controls the world, the author surely suggests that the world's extremists share more, in terms of common ideology, than they really do. (The emphasis placed on Bilderburg, in fact, has more to do with the fundamental requirements of the book's narrative than it does with many extremists true ideologies.)

But these are minor quibbles when set against the reach, ambition and insight on offer in this book. Four stars for the content, and an extra one for the sheer vivacity of the writing on display.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
della permatasari
This book is not lendable! I've been trying to "lend" this book to a friend for two weeks using kindle's lending policy, but apparently publisher will not allow it. I was literally trying to sell my friend on a kindle, she's been curious about e-books for a while. I was hoping that her first e-book experience will turn her into a life-long customer. Oh well, alas to that. As I looked through my collection, I discovered that pretty much none of the books purchased by me lately are eligible for the store's 2-week lending policy. The only books I can apparently "lend" are 19th century novels that are (accidentally) out of copyright and free-for-all anyway. This is better be something the store is aggressively trying to fix. They have the customer base, they can make the publishers change their ways. As for the publishers - shame on you, Penguin!

On a different note - the book is great. This is why I was trying to share it in the first place.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lauri
What can I say? I sat down to read a few pages of it last night before crashing out for the evening... and before I knew it, it was 2:00 am and I'd finished the entire thing.
Jon Ronson is the spiritual heir to the new journalism crown -- an honor passed on from such luminaries as Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe. He doesn't just investigate The Conspiracy, he inserts himself into the story.
All in all, this is a pretty darn bizarre book... made even more so by the fact that it's all true.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kendall loeber
Readers new to Jon Ronson may initially be taken aback by his writing style. Unlike a typical non-fiction book, his reads more like a narrative in which he bumbles about and somehow manages to score interviews with all sorts of people. In The Psychopath Test, he meets a charming convict who may or may not be a psychopath, the author of the checklist used to determine whether or not someone is a psychopath, and a Scientologist crusader against the psychiatric industry. Rather than blatantly taking a stand for or against the psychiatric industry, Ronson does what he did in "Them" by pointing out that extremists of any kind can be dangerous.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
elese
See "The Franklin Cover-Up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska" at the store.com. Senator John DeCamp's nonfiction account of the $40-million bank robbery by pedophile Larry King details snuff kiddie porn at the Grove, during its homosexual presidential retreat for naked world leaders as they worship Molech and perform ritual "mock" child sacrifice on the Summer Solstice. The snuff video was directed by "Hunter Thompson" as testified under oath in court. Hunter S. Thompson murdered himself within days of "Jeff Gannon" identified as a homohooker in the Bush Jr White House. Ronson funded Alex Jones' infiltration past Secret Service, FBI and Sonoma County Sheriff Dept, then attempts to belittle Jones for succeeding ("Dark Secrets Inside the Bohemian Grove" video, plus his co-conspirator Mike Hanson's book "Bohemian Grove: Cult of Conspiracy"), where Ronson and Jim Tucker failed on purpose. It's impossible to comprehend Ronson's Secret Rulers without reading DeCamp's death-filled case file that won him $1-million in court for the confessed kidnapper of White House homohooker Jeff Gannon, aka Johnny Gosch (book and video "Why Johnny Can't Come Home: Pornography, Prostitution, Mind Control and Espionage" by Noreen Gosch, who founded the Center for Missing and Exploited Children). My rich relatives vacation at Bohemian Grove, and they care not what they do, since they are also members of other secret societies like Masonic Mafia and Scarabbean Senior Secret Society (University of Tennessee's branch of Skull & Bones for aspiring billionaires).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kinzie
Can’t speak highly enough about this book. This was the first book by Jon Ronson that I listened to and still definitely my favourite. It’s non-fiction, but reads sort of as though it’s fiction. Amazing. 5 stars!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
elvina
"The Psychopath Test" doesn't attempt to approach the topic of psychopathy clinically and objectively, and that is its saving grace. Were it to divert for a few chapters into a more scientific avenue, it would have lost the charm Jon Ronson so carefully cultivates throughout.

It would be an understatement to say this book isn't engaging. It's a historical account, with recollections from people with incredible influence over the modern world, and yet it never feels detached or biographical. Ronson introduces the reader to the company of corporate millionaires, Haitian death-squad leaders, British spies turned messiahs, and the scientists who shaped modern psychiatry, without fanfare or reverence. It's enough to make one envy the journalistic profession.

The subject at hand is fascinating, and the development of its analysis equally so. Though Ronson doesn't reveal as much about psychopathy as I'd have hoped, "The Psychopath Test" is still a very good read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
hereswhatsgoingon
This was a very interesting read about some very big questions. What is a psychopath? Who is qualified to say so? Can you prove someone is or is not a psychopath? Are psychopaths running the world? These questions are raised within the context of the author's interactions with both experts and diagnosed psychopaths.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sciascia
I expected this book to be informative, and it was. I didn't expect it to be written so lucidly, clearly, and rationally. The author is surprisingly nonjudgmental in his portraits of people who have been labeled extremists. While the author never sugar-coats the often despicable beliefs of his subjects, he manages to humanize them and to explain their idiocyncratic lives. Some revelations shocked me, many saddened me, and all of them made me want to tag along on Mr. Ronson's next outing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jennymango
Journalist Jon Ronson's new book "The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry" explains that as a part of the book research found that the incidence of psychopathy among CEOs is about 4 percent, four times what it is in the population at large.

Ronson recounts how Al Dunlap ("Chainsaw" Al Dunlap, former CEO of Sunbeam and professional company downsizer) was able to redifine items on the clinical rating scale for psychopathy into a manual of how to do well in capitalism.

Ronson offers an insight that the way capitalism is structured really is a physical manifestation of the brain anomaly known as psychopathy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christine heise
Ronson works magic with this brick-heavy subject matter and turns it into a breezy and very funny read.

He moves from one "extremist" to another and does more than just explain their position-he examines their humanity.

Among the highlights would have to be crashing a super-secret meeting of world leaders in Portugal and infiltrating the elitist getaway, Bohemian Grove where campers wear robes and gather around a giant owl.

Ronson isn't playing the skeptic or the fool, he is simply having one hell of an adventure and taking us along for the ride.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
motioncarlos
I read this in two sittings. It is interesting, educational, funny - all the things a good nonfiction book should be. I loved the author's voice and his accessible style.

There are an abundance of case studies and interviews, but this isn't a psychology text, really, so don't expect that. It does get a little creepy getting into the psychopaths minds, but that's partially the point.

If you'd like a quick, captivating read that explores what it means to be a "psychopath" in a way anyone can relate to, you won't be disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
patricia luchetta
I wanted more examples of the types of phycopaths (does that seem weird?!) and more explanations of how and why people become like this. Was a good read but it left me wanting more. I'll be reading other Jon Ronson books for sure. He's a very smart and engaging author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
david santana
Jon Ronson does his best to make conspiracy researchers David Icke and Alex Jones look bad. Ronsen is funny at times but he has a way of making everything seem meaningless. Icke became famous in the conspiracy would when he reveled that many world leaders are shape shifting reptilians. Recounted is the scene where Icke dodged a meringue pie. Ronson sort of set Icke up for this. Ronson also goes to talk to Randy Weaver which was rather disturbing since this book is a kind of exploitative gag.

Jon Ronson also allegedly got in to the infamous Bohemian Grove with Alex Jones. Which is ridiculous and leads one to believe they are all bloody fakers. Either Bohemian grove is not such a big deal or the the 2 journalist infiltrated a reenactment of an Moloch ritual. The activity at the grove for rich elite old men is very disturbing on one hand and on the other who cares.
See also
Dark Secrets Inside Bohemian Grove [VHS].

Again Ronson is funny and has an ability to make people look bad and come of harmless. Yet some of his topics are no joke.
A fascinating and insulting read for conspiracy people.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
celine y
Very interesting look into psychopathy and the modern psychology of it. Makes me really wonder how much we just want to get something or someone labeled, give them a pill to get better and get on with things.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
andy b
The Good:
-collection of journalistic accounts that read like fiction
-initial writing style made it a page turner
-interesting/different approach to a serious topic

The Bad
-piece-meal styles doesn't allow for a sense of cohesiveness in theme
-erroneously, the book wasn't about psychopathy strictly, but "madness" (I guess?)
-trivializes the physical and psychological danger of communicating and building relationships psychopaths

Overall, I'd recommend it to someone looking for a quick, adventurous read. Just be sure to remember that the author is a journalist, not an expert on the subjects at hand.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rina arya
This is the story of a layperson's journey into the world of the psychopath. His writing style is very entertaining. His discussion of how unqualified (and sometimes even qualified) people use tests to put labels on people is very thought-provoking.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chezhircat
Read the book in 2 days Jon's style of writing is like talking to your best friend who happens to have all this interesting knowledge. Thank you Jon I'm holed up with a broken ankle and you saved my sanity. I am half way through Lost at Sea. And have just ordered THEM.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
yamen
This book was nothing at all what I was expecting and hoping for, but I couldn't stop reading it and laughing out loud. I bought it for a a couple psychologist friends too. Hope they find is as amusing (for the most part) as i did.

I was truly hoping to take a psychopath test. There's no test. But as an avid true crime reader, I do wonder sometimes . . . .

If you aren't a member of any religious or pseudo-scientific group, and walk through life with an open mind, I think you'll also find this book interesting and funny.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
topher
I borrowed this book from the library and read it on my Kindle - or tried to. I found the premise very interesting, especially after I saw the author on The Daily Show, but it read like someone who was writing a report about what they did to try to write the story. I wasn't able to make myself get through the whole book in the two week term I had it from the library, but after about the first 1/3 of the book I simply had no driving force to want to finish the book. I didn't know if it was ever going to get to the point or not. I read a little more than half. Now I usually wouldn't review a book based on not having read the whole thing but I think it says something about the book that I wasn't upset at all not to finish it. That's very unlike me.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
dan damaska
My five year old daughter is like me in that she is extremely perceptive and a little psychic. A few nights ago she looked at me and said, "You have a little mental illness." I really like Jon's writing style and topics and bought Them and The Men Who Stare at Goats mid read. I really like the premise and title of this piece to boot. However the content came up a little disjointed, manic and lacked je ne sais quoi, joie de vivre, and soul. I do think our babies are over diagnosed and medicated as are many adults. On the other end of that spectrum is that mental illness is real, prevalent and informs health, substance abuse and quality of life for many of us. I am just grateful that Betty is right and I only have a "little mental illness" that can be treated by my patented Triality approach of taking daily action on the body, mind and soul.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rebecca whetman
Jon Ronson always keeps you turning the pages, even when he is meditating on the nature of evil. I personally found the idea that 1% of the world's population just plain has no conscience to be weirdly comforting... that means there is no chance I will suddenly accidentally find myself turning into a monster. Apparently, monsters are born, not made, or at least that's what Ronson's sources tell him. You can read this book in a few hours and form your own opinion on the issue.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mhbraun
It is a very interesting and fun book to read. I greatly recommend it. It has a lot of insight into psychology and how it has evolved, including prisons, mental hospitals, the treatments they had. It has very surprising facts and views of the world we live in.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jody lehman
_Them_ is not a thorough expose of popular extremist groups or conspiracy theories.

This book (like so much of Ronson's work) is a character study. Or rather, a study of characters. _Them_ is a first-hand account of one man's experience with some of the people closest (in one capacity or another) to these groups. And taken as such (instead of as an encyclopedic analysis of the groups themselves), it's an absorbing read.

If you're a conspiracy monger on a singular hunt for his next fix, you probably won't get much out of _Them_. But if you appreciate well-written narratives about interesting people in particular social contexts, I recommend it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
altyn sultan
This is one of the most fun books I've every read. I loved his sense of humor, his sense of adventure, and his knack for finding interesting people and stories. Jon Ronson is like David Sedaris as an investigative journalist--quirky & endearing, but with a keen eye for people's oddities and foibles. Not only that, but he discusses what it means to diagnose someone as a psychopath, and what the modern definition of psychopath is, in a thoughtful way. You'll laugh, you'll learn, you'll love--this is an awesome book.
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