Monday, 25 February 2013

Bookworm: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

After just a few days of reading it, I’ve now finished The Psychopath Test – my first taster of the offerings of Jon Ronson.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this book, you may be led to believe I’ve just a read a book in order to decide how mentally stable I am. Although this may well be useful, alas this has not been the case! No, I’d heard a few mutterings from people I know about this book being quite a good read and the cover always grabs me. So off it went onto my GoodReads and Kindle to read/download list.

Contrary to its title, this book is not a way to test yourself or others. The story follows Jon Ronson on a journey of discovery – meeting and researching various people linked to the ‘madness industry’. Whether that be psychiatrists, psychologists, prison guards, mental health workers, ‘psychopaths’ themselves and more.

He does make reference, quite frequently, to a list of credentials by a man name Bob Hare. The so-called Psychopath Test provides a list of points which people may/may not suffer from and how many apply (and to what extent) in turn determines if they should be labelled a ‘psychopath’ or not.

Having never heard Ronson’s work before, I found I was a fan of his writing style – the book is gripping and his narrative combines a good mix of factual descriptions, investigation and humour.

Some parts turned my stomach reading about acts certain people had carried out and at times you switch from laughing out loud to how ridiculous some of these tests/experiments are to genuine fear at how easy it may well be to be labelled a psychopath and find yourself stuck in one of these institutions.

I guess I found the ending a little undone, but then that is the case – there is no real answer as to who is right or wrong really. Yes we need ways to help those in need with real health problems, yet we can end up in a society obsessed with labelling and simply locking up those that are not fitting the norms expected.

It was so nice to read a non-fiction book which included stories of experiences and also offered facts and references to documents/publications on the subject matter. There was such a nice mix and balance I really did find I constantly wanted to keep reading.

Good points
Something different
Great writing style
Good mix

Not so great
Can get the feeling there’s lots of talking and ideas/suggestions flown around but not many conclusions

Overall, I would recommend this book as something a bit different to your typical read. I am tempted to try other offerings from Jon Ronson now as a result too.

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