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The Psychopath Test [Paperback]

Jon Ronson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (384 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Jan 2012

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’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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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New ed. edition (5 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330492276
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330492270
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (384 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of two bestsellers, Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats, and two collections, Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness and What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness. He lives in London.

Product Description


‘I began The Psychopath Test late at night, tired, dispirited and ill – then found myself laughing like the proverbial loon for page after page’ Will Self, Guardian

‘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’ Observer

From the Inside Flap

This is a story about madness. It all starts when journalist Jon Ronson is contacted by a leading neurologist. She and several colleagues have recently received a cryptically puzzling book in the mail, sent anonymously, and Jon is challenged to solve the mystery behind it. As he searches for the answer, Jon soon finds himself, unexpectedly, on an utterly compelling and often unbelievable adventure into the world of madness.

Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he’s sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths.

Jon learns from him how to ferret out these high-flying psychopaths and, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, heads into the corridors of power, spending time with an international death-squad leader and a legendary CEO whose alleged psychopathy caused huge fluctuations on the stock market. As well as talking to psychopaths, Jon meets those whose ordinary lives have been touched by madness and those who depend on it to make a living – disturbingly discovering that many of the people at the helm of the industry are sometimes, in their way, as crazy as those they study.

Combining Jon’s trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through an unsettling industry; a deeply honest book unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile but worrying 3 Oct 2013
By Stef-k
Format:Kindle Edition
A book about more than the title suggests, but also delivers slightly less than l hoped. It mostly tracks the authors own journey through the subject matter-very much in his usual style. Left me sure l wasn't a psychopath but certain at least one colleague was. Great as a weekend or holiday read but not a serious look at the subject of psycopathy. Also worthy gift for an ex wife or colleague you would prefer to estrange permanently.
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225 of 248 people found the following review helpful
By HeavyMetalMonty 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and easy read 22 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
After hearing a number of positive reviews from people I trust, I finally picked this up. Probably the best read this year. Dealing with what could be a very heavy and overly serious topic, Jon Ronson made interesting reading of the topic by introducing seriously engaging characters, humour in anecdotes and enough information to make us all a little dangerous in making our own psychopath assessments - I'm sure we now all know at least one or two! Some of the reviews suggested it was laugh out loud funny, which I didn't identify with, but it was entertaining and engrossing right from the get go. Highly recommended.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
By Anna
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a great read, witty and peppered with amusing self-deprecating excursions. I couldn't put it down - but only a small part of it concerns 'psychopaths'. It also seems that Jon Ronson hasn't quite got his head around the concept of psychopathy/sociopathy, and this is more than a shame - it's a little dangerous.

We start with a mysterious publication that leads Ronson to a neuroscientist who piques his interest in psychopathy. Then we go to someone who is classified as a psychopath but may not be; then to the Hare Psychopathy checklist and a ramble through ways of treating psychopaths in the past. Next step a shallow look at a corporate psychopath...but then it all comes a bit unstuck. We get an account of the unfeeling selection process for reality TV shows; the exceedingly strange behaviour of whistleblower David Shayler; and other stuff that doesn't really relate to the title of the book, or even the critique of psychiatry. If he'd stuck to the topic it would have been excellent. As it is, it really was a fascinating read, but the grasshopper approach to the subject matter seriously detracts from it as an informed study. 3.5 out of 5!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and humerous 3 Mar 2013
Given this book as a present. Its not my normal sort of reading material, but it really did keep me interested throughout. The author has clearly done a lot of research and presents the book almost like a series of case studies, but in a most human and enjoyable way. But I have to admit I was surprised after Will Self's review in the Guardian; this book is not laugh out loud funny - amusing at best. I get the impression the intention of the author is to make you think, and in this he is very successful (I'll never look at my boss the same again). Recommended? Yes I would say if only to get some insiight into the minds of both psychopaths and journalists!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I like Jon Ronson's style of writing. To some extent this book reminds me of K-Pax and the exploration of the construct of madness in today's society and the writings of Thomas Szasz who is an eminent psychiatrist of the 20th century who is now pretty much anti-psychiatry.

I felt that this book at times was a little too journalistic almost with an eye to it becoming a documentary or film. At times the narrative got bogged down and I don't think he had much of an idea at times of where various themes and ideas were going to take him. That said it didn't stop me enjoying it.

Madness became a medical industry during the twentieth century with Doctors who went into psychiatry on the whole wanting to show that madness could be cured and also claim equivalent status to there more revered general medical rivals and colleagues. The wanting to cure mental illness is a laudable and noble ideal on the whole, however, the brutal fact is that with all the advancements in drugs over the last fifty years the "cure" rate is still no better than the 1930's - although I'm sure that some doctors would immediately state that that is not true.

What is true is that the major beneficiary of the use of the latest cure for madness is the pharmaceutical industry. Over 40% of the drug bill incurred by the NHS is for medication to treat mental illness. The cost of maintaining an individual on clozaril for example could be as much as 2-3k a month and that's just the drug cost and it's given no questions asked - there doesn't appear to be a postcode lottery for drugs to treat mental illness.

Psychopaths, which are the population the book centres upon, are the least understood.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Voice of reason
Reading this book brought back vivid memories of my own psychiatry placement in East London as a medical student. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Sunny
5.0 out of 5 stars Never quite what you think
Jon Ronson is great at going into weird and wonderful places and psyches and then telling us what he sees through lenses all his own.
Published 11 days ago by Querulous Enquirer
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost interest
My o my this man can labor a thought tirelessly. Lost interest halfway through and is now on the page a day on the loo pile.
Published 15 days ago by T. Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have ever read!!!
This book was recommended to me by a friend who learnt I have recently begun a degree in criminology and psychology. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Rebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read.
I am interested in the human mind and how it works. I was recommended to get this book by someone and I read it and it was a fascinating read from start to finish.
Published 27 days ago by Mummyof2
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good
I have really enjoyed this book. It's so easy to pick up, put down and pick it up again a month later. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amanda
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into The Mind, our minds, the minds of...
Absolutely fascinating and gripping book. Big Jon Ronson fan anyway, but can't recommend this book enough. I won't go into why. Just read it!
Published 1 month ago by Queen Herod
4.0 out of 5 stars A Road Trip of the modern Psyche
This is not a novel but a series of investigative journalistic reports linked by the common theme of the psychopath test; however, we only learn the actual criterion for this test... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Beverley Rees
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book for a quick overview on Psychopathy
This book is not written to be the be all and end all on psychopathy but Jon Ronson writes with enthusiasm and a bit of humour that makes this a book to dip your toe into the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by catherine corson
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener
Did the test on everyone in my family! I enjoyed the book and I will probably read again. Well written.
Published 1 month ago by Gray one
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