Friday Reads: The Psychopath Test

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 


This week I am digging back into past posts to share one of my favorite books, The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.  The Narrative Nonfiction Book Club discussed it in January, 2014.  Below is a re-posting of most of that initial blog, just in case you missed it the first time around.

In The Psychopath Test, we learned from this often humorous account, that the madness industry is comprised of several different types of people and organizations.  There are of course the obvious: patients, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, treatment facilities, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies.  But then the author points out less obvious groups that we may not have considered, such as lawyers and teachers who work with patients; journalists who write about the subject, and even, CEOs of companies.

Wait, what?  How did that last one get on the list, you may ask?  Ronson learns how to use a 30-point checklist, created to determine if someone is a psychopath (also called a sociopath).  He discovers that many traits that define a psychopath, such as a lack of empathy for others, a grandiose sense of self, and the need to be in control, are also traits that make a successful CEO.  He explores the connection by interviewing several people, some who are incarcerated for psychopathy and others who are not, and giving them the test.  In addition he visits institutions in England and the United States and meets with several psychiatrists to get a varied picture of the madness industry.  The journey is illuminating, informative, entertaining and just a little bit scary.

We had a great discussion about diagnosing and treating psychiatric patients, from children with ADD to psychopaths.  We also examined the effect of approaching this serious topic with the author’s trademark self-deprecating humor.  Many reviews were written about this book when it came out in 2011 and we had a great time comparing our reactions to those of professional reviewers.

The Psychopath Test is on our lovely new Staff Picks shelf now located near the self check-out machine.  Check them both out – the new shelf and the old book!



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