Jon Ronson is fascinated by madness, extraordinary behaviour and the human mind. He has spent his life investigating crazy events, following fascinating people and unearthing unusual stories. Collected here from various sources (including The Guardian and GQ America) are the best of his adventures. Always intrigued by our ability to believe the unbelievable, Jon meets the man preparing to welcome the aliens to Earth, the woman trying to build a fully conscious robotic replica of the love of her life and the Deal or No Deal contestants with a foolproof system to beat the Banker.
Jon realizes that it's possible for our madness to be a force for good when he meets America's real-life superheroes or a force for evil when he meets the Reverend 'Death' George Exoo, who has dubiously assisted in more than a hundred mercy killings. He goes to a UFO convention in the Nevada desert with Robbie Williams, asks Insane Clown Posse (who are possibly America's nastiest rappers) whether it's true they've actually been evangelical Christians all along and rummages through the extensive archives of Stanley Kubrick. Frequently hilarious, sometimes disturbing, always entertaining, these compelling encounters with people on the edge of madness will have you wondering just what we're capable of.
This is an updated edition with new afterword, written and narrated by Jon Ronson.
©2012 Jon Ronson (P)2012 Audible Ltd
Ronson's journalistic style and various narrative journeys remind me of the weekly podcast episodes of This American Life, with Ira Glass. I particularly related to the stories of the credit/bank clusterfluck of 2008 - and Ronson was writing way before this crisis started to peak - and the missing cruise ship staff member. Ronson has a signature method of starting small, with an individual or seemingly low impact situation, and then developing the larger picture with expanded implications.
His narrative voice is good, but takes some getting used to. Initially he sounds slightly hoarse, with little projection at a very low volume, but once I became more familiar with his auditory style, it was all good.
Compilations of stories and episodic collections used to be exactly what I would avoid purchasing on audible, but now I find myself enjoying the varied range of perspectives and story lines afforded by edited groupings of shorter pieces. I think this is partly due to looking at why I listen - I'm not always seeking a 9-to-21-hour plot line and buildup to a specific result; nor is "how it all ends" my predominant purpose in listening to books rather than reading the print versions. I just like the explorations of emotional landscape and inner dialogue and it's not that relevant for me to have a specific factual ending. Another aspect of listening for me is that I can read books while doing other things - working, walking, running, driving, so listening to one full-length story is not a huge factor.
This is a superb collection and well-suited to the investigative journalist's voice of Jon Ronson.
This has to be one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to. Ronson is insightful, funny, and most importantly picks really interesting topics to write about. I do not want to list all the topics or chapters but there are not too many dull moments (even stories I have heard before are given an interesting twist by Ronson. A great listen for anyone that wants something funny and somewhat topical/non-fiction but not 'silly'
I adore Jon Ronson and his fantastic, quirky voice.
I would recommend listening to this book as you might a podcast and not straight through as it is more enjoyable in smaller doses.
Jon Ronson is a master of the absurd which both surrounds AND is within us. Whether it is indigo children, alien abductees, Christian pentecostalism, SETI, Insane Clown Possee or Stanley Kubrick, Ronson probes into all that is weird and wonderful.
Perhaps one of the best things about Ronson (and his delightfully appropriate narrative style) is that he eschews the superior tone characteristic of most skeptics in favor of a wryly self-deprecating humor which acknowledges his own (and by implication, our) attraction to these phenomena. Not all of it is light-hearted; there is a darker side to some of his subjects, such as the would-be school shooters in North Pole, Alaska. Throughout, Ronson has an extraordinary ability to sympathetically engage with his subjects while retaining his sense of gentle skepticism. His aim is not to ridicule but to understand and to be amazed and sometimes to be saddened--and he invites us to do the same.
Ronson does not have an agenda. Don't be surprised if your own particular ox is gored; but in Ronson's hands the experience is humbling rather than enraging. To paraphrase Pogo, he reminds us that "we have met the crazies…and they are us."
Jon Ronson is a British journalist who has made a career of finding weird and crazy stories/people and writing about them in a heartfelt but snarky way. I found him very enjoyable, and I liked his somewhat subtle and sly sense of humor. The stories are just amazingly odd and intriguing (Robbie Williams and his obsession with UFOs, the hidden Christian message of Insane Clown Posse, the archives of Stanley Kubrick, the quest of the Jesus Christians to donate their kidneys, real-life superheroes). I never knew what Ronson would be writing about next, and it was fun to see what oddities he unearthed for each story. I particularly enjoyed how he inserted himself into the stories (whether he is flagging down a taxi to avoid a gun fight in Seattle or interviewing a robot). He brings a healthy sense of curiosity, skepticism and personality to his writing, which I enjoyed a great deal. If you like hearing about people who live on the fringes of “normal,” this would be a great read or listen. I definitely plan on reading more of Ronson’s stuff.
Amusing, astounding, enlightening
I am interested in the same things that Jon Ronson is obsessed with.
John Ronson is an excellent reader of his own work, and since the central character in this book is himself, I'd have to say John Ronson is my favorite character in the book. Although I also loved hearing about Stanley Kubrik!
Yes, but I did it in two.
I'd highly recommend this audiobook to anyone. It's a great listen. Ronson is an excellent journalist and this collection of insightful short pieces gets right to the heart of what is going on in the world today.
This was an excellent listen! The author/narrator sounds a lot like Bill Bryson, very similar personality also. I highly recommend!!!
Ronson's book is a wrap-up of many of his essays and articles. For those who have read them before and want to hear them again, this is a nice way to do it. Ronson takes an intensely objective view at controversial figures and topics, and does so in a way that is self aware and often ingenious. His narration is perfectly suited to his writing style, and you come away with a sense of being wiser about the bits of the world that are usually somewhat veilled from us.
You'll recognize Ronson's narration from This American Life or other such broadcasts. He has a voice and style, like David Sedaris, that is perfect for his writing. A collection of subjects that he investigated/interviewed/tried to sort out - few people can find the subject matter and true life characters that Ronson looks at and narrate it with dead pan sincerity.
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