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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: The Psychopath Test

I'm eclectic in my interests and reading lists. So today I'm posting a review of Jon Ronson's book The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry. It's a nonfiction exploration of modern diagnoses of mental illness.

Jon Ronson's writing is witty and engaging--so much so that I gobbled this book in one afternoon. The flashbacks, and occasional flashbacks within flashbacks, are a bit annoying, but over all the writing is a pleasure. He meets some truly fascinating people. The point of his book--that definitions of madness are subjective and labile--is an excellent one. So in general I recommend this book.

However, there are some problems with it. One is the subtitle, which is somewhat misleading. It might lead a person to assume that the book is about the considerable amount of money that is made from diagnoses of mental illness, but that's a topic that he touches on rather briefly. Second, and more importantly, he arrives at his main thesis in a rather roundabout way and rather belatedly. By the time he gets there, his conclusions seem well-supported, but for a long time it's unclear where the book is heading.

Drawbacks aside, the book is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

I give it four stars.

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