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The Psychopath Test [Kindle Edition]

Jon Ronson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (527 customer reviews)

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Book Description

What if society wasn't fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness.

Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill which seemingly reveals that madness could indeed be at the heart of everything . . .

Combining Jon Ronson's trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is both entertaining and honest, unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.

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'The belly laughs come thick and fast my God, he is funny... Ronson's new book is provocative and interesting, and you will, I guarantee, zip merrily through it' --Rachel Cooke, Observer


"Because of Ronson's relentless self-deprecation and goofy, British humor, it's easy to tag along without fully realizing the rigor of his reporting, which is itself frenzied with compulsive questioning and obsessive research." -- "The Boston Globe"

"A rollicking, page-turner of a book... no ordinary piece of investigative journalism... Ronson's storytelling skills are strong enough to enliven even the necessary reflections that would be one yawn after another if entrusted to a lesser writer." -- "San Francisco Chronicle"

."..A book that manages to be as cheerily kooky as it is well-researched." -- "Los Angeles Times"

"Engagingly irreverent..." -- "New York Times "

"[A] fascinating and humane book..." -- "Washington Post Book World"

."..Both terrifying and hilarious." -- "O, The Oprah Magazine"

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More About the Author

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of many bestselling books, including Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, The Psychopath Test, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Them: Adventures with Extremists. His first fictional screenplay, Frank, co-written with Peter Straughan, starred Michael Fassbender. He lives in London and New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read 24 May 2014
By Eaton55
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jon Ronson tackles the subject in a clear and entertaining manner. I read the entire book in just two sittings as the content was so gripping and insightful. The big question for me after reading the book is how many people operating at a high level within the commercial world are psychopaths. Read the book if you want to learn to spot them. (Also consider ordering Bob Hare's book 'Snakes in Suits' at the same time, as you may well be working for one.)
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243 of 268 people found the following review helpful
By HeavyMetalManitou VINE VOICE
'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 '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?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining survey of a serious topic 2 Dec. 2012
By Guy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First thing to say is that this is very Jon Ronson - if you don't like his journalistic, quite anecdotal, interview-heavy style, you won't like it. I, however, enjoyed his attempts to get the nub of what Psychopaths are and how Society can deal with them.

He gets to inverview some really interesting as well as important figures in the field, and his various digressions are always relevant and valuable. The chatty style doesn't obscure the fact he's really done his homework. In particular, he's really good on the tale of how professional rivalries and experimental treatments by various psychologists since the early 20th Century haven't always been to the benefit of a better public understanding of the condition, or better treatment of it.

His particular focus is the now almost universally used testing criteria for Psychopaths, which turns out to be not as perfect as you might hope considering a positive result can see people incarcerated for large portions of their life. He also investigates how 'Psychopathic' traits can actually be seen in many people who are successful in various fields and have never been involved in any violent crime. There's ultimately a suggestion here that the most terrifying thing about Psychopaths is that they're really not as different from us as we'd like to think, and it is quite possible that your neighbour, boss, political representative, or local policeman (psychopaths, it turns out, love jobs which give them positions of authority) could well be one.

Despite the troubling revelations here, it isn't a sensationalist book trading off shock value.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading 1 July 2012
By Gina
A friend who studies psychology recommended this book to me knowing that I've long fostered an interest in psychology. For me, therefore, the book was perfect - having no academic grounding in psychology, I would probably struggle with an academic paper on psychopaths, but I found this book to be very well pitched to the masses. It was as light and accessible as a book with such a serious and delicate subject matter could be.

I have always been fascinated by psychopathy and psychological illness more generally, and it really catered to that interest, with original and intriguing material - a real page turner, which I find is rare in books with a 'heavy' subject. However, even if psychology isn't really your bag, Ronson's style and approach makes it a compelling read, and you'll find yourself freaking out your friends and family with 'so unbelievable it has to be true' type stories for ages.

My only criticism is that I suppose I would have liked him to delve a little deeper, analyse a little more - he frequently touches on the question of whether psychopathy, and other mental illnesses, are simply labels thrust by society onto individuals who don't fit the mould, but he never seems to say anything very solid on the matter. I'd also have liked to have read more case studies of less 'extreme' psychopaths - he seems to go for fairly high profile ones, but claims (I think) that 1/100 people are now considered psychopathic, and I assume (hope!) not all of these are homicidal rapists!

Despite these criticisms, I realise that the book is intended to be a 'popular' read, not an in depth analysis of psychopaths, and indeed Ronson makes it clear that he is in no position to provide such an analysis. This in mind, the book is really fantastic, and I'd recommend it to just about anyone.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars OMG! everyone is a psychopath.
OMG! everyone is a psychopath. Great book really makes you think
Published 10 hours ago by John Walsh Kay Walsh
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book, could not put it down
Published 12 days ago by Mrs Kelly-Ann Hutchinson
3.0 out of 5 stars We're all psychopaths now ...
Illuminating, interesting and, sometimes, thought provoking. Ronson has an easy, conversational style, is humorously self-deprecating and presents a well researched and considered... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Morgz54
5.0 out of 5 stars It did occur to me when he was writing about a US CEO and his ruthless...
the first of Jon Ronson's books that I have read and I must say, I was very impressed. The beginning is a bit long winded and meandering - I guess that I do understand why he used... Read more
Published 15 days ago by P. MACDONALD
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love this book it is amazing and also very funny.
Published 17 days ago by deborah
5.0 out of 5 stars Comical in the fact that business, politics and the ...
Comical in the fact that business, politics and the military have a large proportion of psychopaths at the top? Worth a read!
Published 19 days ago by john layton-matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Gripping Read
This is a great book for anyone, whether you have an existing interest in psychology/criminality or just enjoy Ronson’s style of being part of the story he’s researching. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Sarah Tipper
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Published 25 days ago by lili
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writer on an interesting subject
Great writer on an interesting subject. The whole family read the book and then started scoring each other - a dangerous family game!
Published 27 days ago by Tracey Christiansen
3.0 out of 5 stars As usual this is a witty well constructed peice with the most...
Its sometimes very irritating to read someones account of your known field, although Jon Ronson doesn't digress too far off the known path he approaches this subject with a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lord Kendal
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