Sunday, 14 July 2013

Book of the Week: The Psychopath Test

"At the end of our conversation she (Martha Stout) turned to address you, the reader. She said if you're beginning to feel worried that you may be a psychopath, if you recognise some of those traits in yourself, if you're feeling a creeping anxiety about it, that means you are not one."

Well hello my lovelies,

I've had a rather jam packed week, and have been using any smidgen of spare time to soak up the uncharacteristic rays that have finally decided to bless England with their presence. As a result, I haven't really had the time to put a lot of thought into writing about my book of the week. So I thought, instead of neglecting the post altogether, I'd keep it short and sweet, and a little bit different.

Although I like to think that I'm all worldly and open minded when it comes to literature, my reading patterns are probably more predictable than I'd like to admit. I like what I like, and I don't tend to venture far from it. 9 times out of 10, I'll reach for fiction, but every now and then, I'll surprise myself and something a little more factual will take my fancy, and so, this week, I thought I'd tell you about my favourite non-fiction read. It is The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, and it was recommended to me by my house mate a couple of years ago. She works in PR, so she has an irritating knack of making me think I need everything she ever raves about. In fact, she did such a good job of selling this one, that I accidentally bought two copies in my desperation to read it. But I'm glad I did, because, with this little gem, she hit the nail right on the head.

The Psychopath Test is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. I know it's a bit of a taboo, but I think, just this once, you'd be alright judging a book by it's cover. It poses the question, what if society wasn't fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? It then goes on to reveal the most unlikely psychopaths, as well as explaining the Hare Checklist; the test used to diagnose psychopathy - the higher you score, the more psychopathic you are. There are some scary and fascinating realities explored in the book. For example, due to the characteristics of a psychopath (lack of empathy and guilt, superficial charm, cunning/manupulative), they often excel in powerful positions, so there are psychopaths working on Wall Street, and as CEO's of major companies. Our world is literally run by psychopaths (obviously they aren't all insane, but it's slightly worrying just how many there are in positions of power) It is compelling to ponder what factors have made the difference between these sociopaths, and the ones that winded up in Broadmoor. It's fascinating learning their tells, and how differently their minds operate. If you are at all interested in psychology, then definitely pick this up - it's one of the most interesting books I've ever read.

As well as being engrossed in the scintillating facts of the book, I also love Jon Ronson's writing style. There is a somewhat fictional flare to his writing, meaning it is a lot more entertaining to read than many other factual tomes, and he is laugh out loud funny, which is always a welcome bonus. He asks rather blunt questions, getting to the heart of things quickly, but at the same time, he is sensitive when the occasion calls for it, which makes the book perfectly balanced for one exploring quite a serious subject. I find that he is one of these authors who writes exactly what you're thinking, just as you're thinking it, and I love finding a writer who is so perfectly on my wavelength. It's not something I come across often.

So, if you're in the mood for something a little different this summer, definitely go and check this one out. It's such a fascinating read! Be warned though, once you've had a read of the Hare Checklist, you'll find yourself getting a bit trigger happy with your new-found diagnostic skills. Think, 'that guy didn't hold the door for me - Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth - must be a psychopath'. Bit like when you watch Grey's Anatomy and convince yourself that those hiccoughs you had this morning are clearly an early sign of your untimely demise. Still, it's good to be wary. Also, I apologise, this post didn't turn out to be particularly short or sweet, but never mind, eh? Let's not dwell.

Have you read this book? What is your favourite non-fiction read? Let me know!


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