Author(s): Jon Ronson
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, 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...Combining Jon's trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, "The Psychopath Test" is 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.
Jon Ronson is well known for meeting unusual characters and uncovering odd events, but The Psychopath Test felt to me like his most thoughtful and empathetic book to date. Having gone on a course to ‘spot’ potential psychopathic behaviour through a 20-point checklist, which becomes a compulsion to diagnose psychopathy at any opportunity, Ronson ends up asking how healthy it is to treat people by their “maddest edges”, and to judge eccentricities out of context - not just in the fields of medicine and psychoanalysis, but in his own world of humorous journalism.
While not quite as wild a ride as his previous book The Men Who Stare At Goats - which would be quite a challenge in itself - there is still a great deal of insight and dark humour in The Psychopath Test, and reading it cemented him as one of my favourite storytellers. Most memorable moments include: the dilemma of a man who claims he faked insanity and now cannot do anything to convince anybody he’s not; meeting the head of a Haitian death squad who ended up in prison for mortgage fraud; and asking a CEO of a Fortune 500 company if he has a ‘grandiose sense of self-worth’ while sat under a huge oil painting of himself. Thomas, Book Grocer Northcote
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. He lives in London.