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.
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?”