former nuclear scientist
The title of the novel is based on an actual checklist of 20 psychopathic characteristics that a person can be rated on, 0 - 2, like a Cosmo quiz. The author reads this checklist, and refers to his favorites frequently ("item 8: callous lack of empathy"), but I think this book would work better being read instead of listened to, simply because it's easier to dogear the page of the checklist when you need to refer to it.
Instead, we get the excruciatingly British narration of the author. He has that accent that is full of glottal stops and elongated vowels that sounds almost whiny. It's understandable to an American, but it does have some unintended comedy, such as when someone asks him the author of the list, and he says "Bob Hare. I said his name very clearly," but "Hare" sounds like "Hwehhhhh." His pronunciation of "Coxsacki" is hilarious. I probably should have listened to it at 1.5x speed.
Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of his writing. He frequently repeats entire scenes verbatim. Just over one minute in, we get:
"I'm Debra," she said.
"I'm Jon," I said.
"I'm James," he said.
There is also such padding as describing a meeting to us (the listeners) in summary, then describing the same scene in a conversation with an interviewee, verbatim.
Ronson frames the book as his journey through psychology and the business of madness. He makes himself a big subject of the book: his struggles with anxiety, his use of the checklist to settle personal scores, and his personal relationships. He comes across as somewhat credulous, bouncing back and forth between conclusions about psychology and psychopathy depending on with whom he last spoke. He talks to Scientologists, a terror victim traumatized by internet trolls, a once-respected Brit who slides into delusions, diagnosed psychopaths, and famous CEO Al Dunlap. He tries to see how they all fit with the checklist, and wavers between wondering if he is unfairly shoehorning people into this checklist and being frightened of psychopaths being everywhere. He repeats the claim that they make up about 1% of the population, and talks about them like they are vampires in disguise, waiting to victimize the rest of us. He successfully profiles nutty people, people who exploit nutty people, and people who regret having exploited nutty people. Then he comes to no real conclusion.
I think I'd rather have read this as a physical book, or perhaps read "Snakes in Suits" instead - written by Bob Hare, and probably more focused.
It is hard to describe the structure of this book. It's not exactly what the publisher's summary might suggest. It is rather like going on a journey with Jon Ronson as he is pulled bit by bit into learning about so-called "psychopaths," one experience leading free form to the next. It was really pleasurable to watch his thought process develop from each incident or interview. Along the way we are exposed to the Hare checklist for diagnosing psychopaths, towards which Ronson conveys a respectful skepticism. The author reads the book himself, which can be a recipe for disaster, but his inflection here is droll and keeps you listening.
I was captivated and could not put my headset down. Got this on a whim and was captivated after 5 min.
A nice balance of information and story, it gets you thinking...
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Yes, refresh the details.
Thorough coverage of the topic.
Explanation & description of the physical attributes in psychopath's brain and how they respond to differently to stimuli.
I don't think this would be the kind of book to be made into a film unless it is a documentary.
Now I know for sure my instincts were right about psychopaths, they really are hard-wired differently than non-psychopaths (ie. normal people). Its not a chemical inbalance that can be remedied like most other forms of mental illness with medication or diet. Good book to learn about the condition and how society tries to cope.
This book is an exploration of the test and its possible applications for good and bad. The author doesn't push one point of view as much as describe the views of others. Interesting. I would have liked to be able to see the entire test...
It's pretty hard to sum up this book because it really is a journey - through the ideas (and opinions) of the most vehement commentators on and within the field of psychopathy - as well as the possible psychopaths themselves. It's a very engaging story and Ronson's read (with a Ron Weasley accent) makes it all the more fun for a yank like myself.
I was educated into oblivion but have overcome it and am having a wonderful life
Absolutely yes. He took a deadly serious subject and turned it into absolute comedy by relating his personal reasons for becoming fascinated with psychopathy.
That he learned to take it all with a grain of salt and not be tangled in his fascination. After all, we have to let them live.
Very funny as he starts assigning people to the psychopathy test criteria. Engaged in conversation yet thinking "Ah yes, this person is displaying numbers 17 and 25" on the test.Very poignant, that moment when he commented on the bellman "well, maybe he was just having a bad night". Kudos, Jon Ronson.
Reading Ronson lightened me up about the subject. The only thing I can do about the sociopaths all around is let them live, learn to recognize them, and learn to immunize myself from the damage they can do.
Ronson's slightly snarky narration.
The journey from believing everything he was told to questioning the entire mental health industry was quite compelling.
Ronson has a definite point of view on the mental health industry and it shows. But he walks you through how he got there with humor and insight. Nicely done.
The book was more than what I expected. It teaches a great deal about how this part of society functions. Amazing, yet scary at times, to learn about items that are presented. It was a bit difficult to listen to at the start, but improved as I was drawn into the experiences of the writer/speaker.
The part where I was suspecting if I was a psychopath is most memorable. How the author answers this question stands out in my mind the most.
The most interesting part is when Mr. Ronson discusses the industry and how the various mental illnesses are identified.
When I purchased this book, it was with a vague interest in the subject matter. I am so pleased that I made this choice.