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Publisher's Summary

The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths, teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power.

He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath. Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.

©2011 Jon Ronson (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Engrossing.... This book brings droll wit to buoy this fascinating journey through 'the madness business.'" ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Story

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • DS
  • 01-26-13

IF YOU WEREN'T CRAZY BEFORE....

I kept waiting for this to get serious.... and then it was over.
Listening to this made me crazy.
The whinny, anxious tone was not due ONLY to the reader, it was in the writing and the reader reflected that.
I learned nothing about psychopaths that I didn't already know, and I know relatively little.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 11-09-12

Psychopaths and society, an offbeat exploration

"'Grandiose sense of self-worth?' I asked him. This would be a hard one for him to deny, standing as he was under an enormous oil painting of himself."

I quite enjoyed The Psychopath Test, which combines the self-deprecating wit of its anxiety-ridden author, accounts of his interviews with several colorful individuals, and some serious ethical questions. The book begins with the story of a man named "Tony", whom Ronson meets in a mental institution. Tony is a personable, intelligent, stable-seeming guy who doesn't seem like he should be there. He faked insanity as a teenager to avoid a jail sentence for beating someone up and now the doctors won't let him out, now matter how reasonably he behaves.

As it develops, though, Tony, while not "mad" in any sense, has been diagnosed with psychopathic tendencies. In other words, he has trouble empathizing with others, a self-aggrandizing attitude, and a charming, manipulative personality. His legal status remains in limbo not because he's thought to be dangerous, but because many dangerous people have been like him.

As Ronson's explorations into psychopathy and its consequences unfold, we encounter some extremes of opinion. On one hand, there are those who distrust the entire psychiatric profession and accuse it of sinister motives, like Scientologists. But, not entirely giving lie to their views are the actions a group of a doctors and self-appointed criminal experts, who, with the zealousness of witch hunters, wield a questionnaire designed to ferret out psychopaths. Confusing matters further are the agendas of the media and pharmaceutical companies, and a long history of very dubious mental health diagnoses and treatment methodologies. Some of the people Ronson meets seem almost too bizarre to be real, but having worked at a company founded by someone a lot like the businessman with the oil painting of himself (and with about as many legal indictments), I know that they are.

Though Ronson focuses a lot more on the strange fringes than on scientific rigor, I found the questions the book raises quite interesting. Should society allow those who lack empathy to roam the streets or rise to positions of power in the corporate world? If not, then who should have the power to make those decisions, and is it right for a diagnostic checklist be treated as predictive of someone's behavior? When does that sort of thing cross the line into a Minority Report-like realm?

Normally, I prefer it when authors don’t narrate their own audiobooks, but Ronson has an amusingly wide-eyed speaking style that I liked. I plan to check out more of his work.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Grant
  • NANTUCKET, MA, United States
  • 07-09-11

Quirky and fun

Ronson's words and narration are quirky to the tenth power, and his exploration of several not-wired-to-code brains is so interesting, you'd have to be crazy not to give this book five stars.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Fascinating, but not very actionable

Well read
Well written
Excellent perspectives
but not enough actionable information.
Worth the read for broadening horizons, but maybe not much else.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Psycopaths Are Everywhere

Any additional comments?

After reading the Men Who Stare at Goats I had to pick up the Psychopath Test. And I was not disappointed! I could hardly stand to turn off the audio book when I had to go to work or shut off the car. I listen when I travel. This story about the madness industry is absorbing, well researched, and totally scary! I love how Jon gets so involved in the stories that he is researching/reporting on. This is a must read/listen if you may have lived with a psychopath or are curious about how to identify them, who they are, and how they operate in this world. It is eye opening and a bit scary to realize that psychopaths are often involved in shaping the law, the stock market, and other aspects of our lives that we are blind to. Read it!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

I was moderately crazy for this book

Jon Ronson presents a series of snapshots of madness in this book. There is a laser focus on psychopathy throughout much of it, but he occasionally veers (somewhat randomly, it seemed to me) into other areas.

I recently read 'Them', another book by by this author. It looked at conspiracy theorists in the same fashion as this book looks at psychopaths etc. But the more limited subject matter of 'Them' produced a more coherent final product. This book doesn't wrap things up as nearly as well and seems more disjointed.

That aside, I actually found this book, its topics, and its characters really fascinating and enjoyable. I was even sneaking away from family activities and listening to more of the descriptions of the various characters. And it encouraged me to do further reading on psychopathy and sociopathy.

So, I really do recommend this book. I found it very enjoyable.

Read it for the fascinating portraits of some real-life monsters. Just don't expect profound insights, obvious unifying themes, or clear final conclusions.

PS: in case you're wondering, yes, the author does a good job narrating.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very entertaining. Similar to Malcolm Gladwell.

Jon Ronson reads his own first person narrative here. This book was a very enjoyable 7 hour treat, and I will definitely get Ronson's other books for long car trips. The book touches lightly on many topics surrounding the issues of psychiatry, mental illness, and psychopathy, but it does so by focusing on specific people. Even though important topics are brought up (i.e. influence of the pharmaceutical industry on treatment), the book does not go into great depth about them. Maybe "infotainment" is the perfect label. Ronson ends the book still full of doubts about what's real and what's wrong.

Although this modern journalism where the author includes himself as a character can get tiresome and self-centered with some writers, I liked it here. Part of it reminded me of the movie Adaptation where Charlie Kaufmann wrote himself into his own script and said he's Ouroboros. In one scene from the book, Ronson goes into a house and describes it as something created by the Queen of Narnia. Later in the book, while he's making interview notes, he says "I put in my notes to be sure to say something about the Queen of Narnia."

I only gave the performance four stars because Ronson's voice got a little scratchy. Beware: there is a great deal of profanity and some disgusting imagery in this book (because there are descriptive parts about crazy people). You wouldn't listen to this book with kids in the car.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Cliff
  • madison, MS, United States
  • 10-25-13

A really interesting and scary concept.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, this book can give you some real insight as to why a lot of leaders in business behave the way they do. basically, the system rewards psycopathic behavior at that level hence it becomes more prevalent. I've worked for a few of the type and understanding them is a good step to avoiding or figuring out how to deal with them.

Who was your favorite character and why?

It isn't really a charachter driven book. The one person who stands out was the CEO he interviewed that clearly had all the psycopathic traits. It really gave me a view of how those types think and what makes them tick. I'd pity them if they didn't cause so much suffering to those around them.

Which character – as performed by Jon Ronson – was your favorite?

This was not a character driven book. I was surprised that an author narrarated book works. Ususally this is not the case.

If you could give The Psychopath Test a new subtitle, what would it be?

Your boss may really be crazy.

Any additional comments?

This is an interesting concept and worth a listen. it will definitely make you take a second look at those in positions of authority.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Unique Voice

A disclaimer: I would enjoy listening to Jon Ronson read the phone book. I just love his voice and accent. This book is an interesting exploration of the development and application of theories of what constitutes a psychopath and if/how they can be treated. Along the way we get to know Jon Ronson himself a little bit, which for me was the most enjoyable part of the journey. Kind of a British Woody Allen. I plan to listen to everything he narrates.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not the madness industry. Just a few anecdotes

Would you try another book from Jon Ronson and/or Jon Ronson?

No.

What could Jon Ronson have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I can't tell if the book is supposed to be a non-fiction examination of things or a novel. It's just the author talking about meeting a few people. But not really looking at the entire "industry" of doctors, drug companies, hospitals, and prisons that may or may not treat "mad" people.
And the "test" that the author examines is either useful or quackery. And the author doesn't say which.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scenes with the Scientologists are fascinating.

Did The Psychopath Test inspire you to do anything?

I looked up the actual test online and critiques of the doctor who created it.

Any additional comments?

Thank God I'm not a psychopath.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful