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'
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."
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 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.
"More please Jon"
I can't get enough of Jon Ronson's writings, tv programs and radio show. Fantastic story teller and a great view on the world.
"Take a walk on the left-side."
As much as he undoubtably hates the comparison, Jon Ronson is the more down-trodden, less well-connected, face-for-radio version of Louis Theroux. They both pursue the left-fields of culture, often in seemingly mundane territories such as interviewing semi-washed up TV-show hosts or attending motivational seminars with self-help gurus, but whereas Louis, whose natural habitat is TV, would play events so as to get the interviewee to paint themselves into an emotional corner from which the viewer sees the mask fall away, Jon is more likely to turn inwards into self.analysis and doubt. Often by the end of each story I feel I know more about Jon himself than the victim he is supposed to be dissecting, his inner demons are worn for all to see, and this is what makes Lost at Sea such an enjoyable read. With Louis you feel he is always calmly in control leading his subjects through the steps, but with Jon you always wonder if he'll actually be able to make it to the end of each assignment without first having a break-down. I imagine this is why so much of the material he's covered over the years has been on mentally questionable people of one kind or another, from derranged psychics and their belivers to the "I've been vetted" founder of the Indigo children movement. He seems drawn to the delusional and psychotic. However, I do sometimes wonder if somewhere inside Ron there is still a little child with a less cynical journalistic mission, who secretly hopes to find something truly awe-inspiring such as a UFO or real life super heroes. A few times in the book he does come across some truly amazing people, but most of the time he finds only crack-pots, all beit entertaining ones. A final comment I'd like to make is that in my opinion Radio is Jon's best medium and as such it was great to have Jon, with his almost whispery delivery, narrating his book. I'd also highly recommend Jon's free short stories on Audible. Hilarious!
"Reliably bizarre giggles from Mr Ronson"
This is the funniest audiobook I've listened to yet, and when it isn't amusing its baffling, shocking or touching. The situations Jon finds himself in are too hilarious to not be true, such as
Who would have thought Stanley Kubrick is the reason why we have post it notes in every pop of colour?
Who knew that Robbie Williams believes in UFOs and aligned being abducted by aliens as much like being in Take That as a teenager?
What happens when someone goes missing on cruise ships?
Jon Ronson's life must be a chain of very stressful or very ridiculous encounters, I would love to delve into his diary and just see what a week looks like. If you've never read his articles before, listening to this book is a great introduction. I'll keep going back to this more than I will a novel just to bask in the bizarreness and check that I heard exactly what he said right - that there are children in Christmas Town who answer letters to Santa as part of their school curriculum?!
Jon Ronson's voice is homely to me - my family are Welsh and his accent warms me. I couldn't imagine anyone else reciting his stories, his delivery is the funniest part.
I giggled on my dry morning commute and will be forever bringing up anecdotes from this book (alongside other Jon Ronson collections - the Psychopath test and Them are others which I would strongly recommend. I spend my spare moments narrowing my eyes at colleagues and weighing up their points on the Psycopath test at least once a week, and you should too, it's a brilliant past time).
Jon is working on a film I believe is called Frank at the moment which I can't wait to hear more about if it delivers more of the same humour as this.
I am now totally hooked on audiobooks by Jon Ronson, and this one did not disappoint - quite the reverse. Like the previous reviewer I found the James Bond chapter laugh-out-loud funny, it's worth buying just for that chapter. But the rest of the book is wonderful too, Ronson asks the obvious, child-like questions that we would all like to ask but generally don't. He is so interested in the people and situations he seeks out and he sometimes shines lights into places that intrepid, investigative journalists would normally go, whilst being rather timorous and only armed by his honest naivety.
I am already looking forward to his next book and also, please audible would you commission him to read his 'The Men Who Stare at Goats'? Please....
"A fabulous journey"
Jon Ronson at his best. Honest and insightful. Kept me entertained for days. You will not be disappointed.
"Jon Roson, as always, never fails to entertain."
Could listen to Jon Roson all day, every day. His mix of stories here told in a honest & intresting way keeps you hooked for the whole book. One of my favourite authors, I can't recommend enough!
This is a group of diverse tales, all weird, fascinating and unique. worth a listen!
"A collection of suprising real life stories"
This is quite a big collection of short stories/articles that Jon Ronson wrote over the years. His style of journalism is very distinct and it is not for every one, he makes himself part of the story. But I quite enjoyed that. I always like listening to a book read by the author because they know how they intended it to be read and for these stories that was definilty the case. I do have to say that I did expect more 'fun' strange stories but there were a couple of truly depressing ones. One of them I actually did not listen to because it is a subject which is bit tough for me personally. But overall I really enjoyed this book.
I did look for other material by Jon Ronson and found that he repeats himself in his books, so if you already own some of his books, make sure you realise there might be some overlap!
"Not a "Them""
Jon Ronson is a great researcher and tells the stories very well. The JK one just adds more fuel to the Saville fire
Less short stories
none in particular
"The perfect commuting companion"
Each chapter is a different story and I found them all engaging and entertaining. Ronson's soft voice is the perfect accompaniment to the tales. As a writer, he is very generous to his subjects both where he agrees with them and where he is skeptical.
I would have loved this to be longer!
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