Bizzaro Book Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Rohnson

I think we’ve all been there at some point or other. It happens like this: you pick up a book thinking, “Hey this looks like it might be-” and the next thing you know four hours have passed and somehow you’re at the end of that sucker.

But if you’re like me you probably don’t expect to have that happen with a book about then mental health industry. So imagine my surprise when I picked up copy of The Psychopath Test by Jon Rohnson and could not put it down.

Why? Well partly it was because someone had covered the book in superglue [Overused Joke Alert. Automatic Redaction.] But mostly the reasons I loved this book came down to the two basic reasons anyone falls in love with any book. The first is story.

It may seem counter-intuitive to say that all great books have great stories, especially when discussing non-fiction. Is there really a compelling narrative in Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Arika Okrent’s In the Land of Invented Languages, or in Steven E. Landsburg’s More Sex is Safer Sex?

Probably the answer is yes, but only if we do some monkeying about with standard notions of story and narrative. But in The Psychopath Test we really are reading a story. To be specific, it’s Jon Rohnson’s story, a narrative that is part mystery, part travel adventure, part self-discovery.

The Psychopath Test doesn’t just give us the facts. It isn’t interested in simply downloading the  details about how our mental health industry came to be what it is. Rather the narrative follows Jon Ronhson himself from a very strange beginning involving the delivery of a mysterious book, through false starts and switchbacks, until, at long last, he reaches a fuller knowledge of the truth.

The second reason The Psychopath Test works so well is character. Because Jon Rohnson is not only the writer of the book, he is also its protagonist. He makes no attempt to shroud his words in the fog of objectivity. Rather he brings it all to the table, his fears and foibles, his missteps and misunderstandings, all of them working together to weave an intensely personal story about one man’s struggle, not only to understand the mental health industry, but to understand himself.

I highly recommend this book. It’s at times funny, serious and intriguing. I has a voice that is both unique and enthralling, and its message is one we could all stand to learn.

In the end this book is for anyone who’s ever looked at themselves in the mirror and asked, “If I was crazy…would I know it?”

7 responses to “Bizzaro Book Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Rohnson

  1. Another one for my list. For someone who claims to not know how to sell, you sure know how to sell . . to me, at least. lol

  2. The cover design is intense!

  3. This book sounds really good.

  4. I haven’t seen this book, but there was an incredibly interesting story about the creation and application of the psychopath test on This American Life some weeks back. It was really disturbing and this seems like an interesting narrative twist from there.

    • Actually if you listened to that broadcast closely they mentioned this book at the end. The author was the guy narrating and the story in that segment was borrowed from pieces of one of the chapters. Actually one of the drawbacks of reading the book was that I could HEAR Jon Rohnson’s voice in my head as I was reading and…well lets just say he doesn’t have the most commanding vocal presence in the world.
      Also, and this is something I wanted to put in the review, but couldn’t quite find the right place, but Jon Rohnson? You know how confusing that name is? You know how many times I typed Ron Johnson and had to go back and fix it? ALL OF THEM!
      And now I sound like I’m dumping on Jon Rohnson or something, which is totally not my intention. Great book, good guy from what I can tell. Looking forward to reading more of his stuff.
      Thanks for the comment!

  5. I wondered, actually, if the book came up/had a connection to the piece – it seemed like it should have if it didn’t.

    And yes, even reading the name “Jon Rohnson” seems like one of those visual tricks, like the devil’s pitchfork.

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