Review: The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson

“What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness.

Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill which seemingly reveals that madness could indeed be at the heart of everything.”

The Psychopath Test – A Journey Through the Madness Industry is a non-fiction book, written by the Welsh journalist Jon Ronson. The book features interviews, thoughts and people that Ronson came across during his journey of learning about psychopaths and how to spot them using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.

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As I rarely come across this type of journalistic non-fiction in my home library, I have to admit that I didn’t have any expectations to go from when reading this book – or when reviewing it.

However, I can say that I enjoyed it a lot, as it was both an informative and at times suspenseful read.

Coming from a background of lots and lots of school books, I have gotten used to how non-fiction is often written dryly, only including facts and no emotion. Usually, I actually enjoy objective literature, as it gives room for me to make my own opinions. However, the first thing I noticed in The Psychopath Test was how alive, Ronson narrates his actions and experiences. It felt like I was reading fiction, but the names, events and locations mentioned were very much real. To my surprise, I greatly enjoyed this way of narrating non-fiction, as it made otherwise mundane people and interviews more exciting with Ronson narrating them like events of a story.

The most obvious way that Ronson does this is by pulling himself into the story. He is not just a journalist, but a man, who becomes friends and enemies with the people he meets. Ronson becomes the protagonist of the book, and this personal inclusion of himself is what I loved the most about it.

Another interesting feature was one, I only realized had been there, as I was reading the second half of the book. Throughout the narrative, Ronson includes tiny paragraphs of reflection on what he learns about psychopaths, but more so on what he realizes about himself and society. He constantly finds psychopathic traits in himself and the people around him, and thereby starts to question the idea of self-diagnosis and putting people into certain boxes. It is interesting how Ronson, as he gains more knowledge through books and interviews on psychopathic behavior, becomes increasingly doubtful of his own mental state.

While I didn’t find the book as hilarious as the reviews on the cover promised, I did find it extremely entertaining (and sympathetic even) how Ronson includes his own bad sides, bad quotes and naive opinions in the narrative. He does not try to sugar coat his own personality or interviewing skills. He portrays his flaws to the audience, and this makes him seem human and likeable. And he probably narrated it like that, because he knows this. (Could that be a sign of Item 5 on Hare’s checklist: Cunning/manipulative?)

I wasn’t quite sure where the book was heading, as I was reading it. However, I found that this was okay, because the narration was so enthralling. Ronson was able to show both good and bad sides of the people he interviewed, which made them more realistic, while also adding suspense. On an end note, I would like to mention how I found Ronson’s small paragraphs of meta comments incredibly fun and quirky.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (English), 292 pages, Picador

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Review: Reality is Broken – Jane McGonigal

”We live in a world full of games.

More than 31 million people in the UK are gamers.

The average young person will spend 10,000 hours gaming by the age of twenty-one.

In this ground-breaking book, visionary game designer Jane McGonigal challenges conventional thinking and shows that games – far from being simply escapist entertainment – have the potential not only to radically improve our own lives but to change the world.”

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Reality is Broken – Why Games Makes Us Better and How They Can Change the World is a non-fiction piece written by Jane McGonigal, who is one of my role models and someone I respect a lot. Jane McGonigal is a game designer, known for making alternate reality games, where reality becomes a big part of the game.

In Reality is Broken Jane McGonigal focuses on how we can use games to brighten our everyday lives and to change the world in a bigger perspective.

Let me start by saying that I could agree with almost everything, McGonigal envisioned and discussed in the book, and I find her ideas and perspectives very interesting and useful.

I also personally loved how much I could relate to the theory she spoke of, and how everything she said fit some sort of game I have played myself. For a gamer, the book was very relatable.

As for the structure of the book, I was not very happy though. McGonigal build her book up like an academic paper, where theory comes first, then analysis and discussion, whereas it would have been nice, if she had put her discussed examples straight after mentioning the fitting theory. I have never been fond of this structure, but of course, this is a personal opinion which differs a lot for different people.

Also for the writing, Jane McGonigal gets very repetitive as she keeps rephrasing the same thing many times. Unfortunately, if all the repetitive content was cut away, the book would be much thinner than it is now.

Looking away from the style of the writing, I really enjoyed the book, and I learned many new ways to use games in the real world. The book also introduced me to many alternate reality games that I had not known before, and I love alternate reality games, so I appreciate that a lot.

Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal (English), 396 pages, Vintage Books

Review: Ignite Me – Tahereh Mafi

“Everyone Juliette cares about may be dead. Now Juliette is the only one standing in The Reestablishment’s way. But to take them down, as well as Anderson, the man that nearly killed her, Juliette needs the help of the one person she never thought she could trust: Warner.

And as they work together, Juliette will discover that everything she thought she knew – about Warner, her abilities, and even Adan – was wrong.”

Ignite Me is the third and last book in the Shatter Me-series – you can read my review of the first and second book here:

Review: Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

Review: Unravel Me – Tahereh Mafi

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I feel like I have been too much of a jerk towards this series, but I really feel the need to write down my honest thoughts.

I can’t even begin to say how disappointed I was with how Tahereh mafi did a complete 100 % character-change with Warner. He is not at all the same character as he was in the first book. I almost wanted to throw up – yes, I’m over exaggerating, but going from loving the character of Warner so much in the first and second book to hating him in the last book is a really big change that I was not happy about.

Once again the plot was too unrealistic – in war everything does not always go in your favor – but apparently it does in the Shatter Me-trilogy.

The ending of this last book was rushed. Incredibly rushed indeed. Like the first book, it felt like the writer just wanted to end it right then and there, like she was tired of writing the story, so she just rushed through the last part of the story like all Juliette’s problems suddenly solved themselves in a second.

I have never been so frustrated with a trilogy as I have been with this one. Sometimes it was amazing, other times it was terrible – and it just kept changing between the two until the end. But as I have said with the two other books in the series, the books are quick and easy reads which are nice for a train ride home.

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (English), 408 pages, Harper

Review: Unravel Me – Tahereh Mafi

“Juliette has escaped from the Reestablishment. Now she’s free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch. Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

Haunted by her past and terrified of her future, Juliette knows that she will have to make som life-changing choices. Choices that may involve choosing between her heart – and Adam’s life.”

Unravel Me by Tahareh Mafi is the second book in the Shatter Me series – you can read my review of the first book here:

Review: Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

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To start off with the negative critique I have to say that the novel has too many repetitive words and sentences. Sometimes I think Tahereh Mafi tried to be a bit too poetic, and other times it felt like she had forgotten what she had already written earlier in the book. I mean, of course it is easy to forgot what has already been written in a 400 pages novel, but you would think at least the editor would notice and point this out.

I found that the first half of the book had quite too many unrealistic events, as in the first book, and I felt like something was missing regarding the relationship between Juliette and Adam. It may just be because I’m a Warner-fan, but it felt like I was being thrown into an extremely passionate relationship that I didn’t feel anything for. Juliette’s feelings and thoughts about Adam are described extremely expressive and wanting, but as a reader I found that the relationship didn’t really have any depth and it was boring to read about. It just seems too excessive of how much Juliette loves Adam after such a short time of knowing him, and I almost found it funny how extremely experienced Juliette seems with sexual pleasures, when she for obvious reasons shouldn’t be.

With all that said I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than the first. The story had more depth and had many interesting revelations. It was very suspenseful, and did well at only revealing a bit at a time. It kept the story going, and kept it interesting all the way.

In contrast to the first book this one was full of great examples of character development, and Juliette started to act less boring and more like a real person. It also revealed a lot more background stories on characters like Adam and Warner which was great.

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (English), 461 pages, Harper

Review: Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

I have a curse.

I have a gift.

I’m a monster.

I’m more than human.

My touch is lethal.

My touch is power.

I am their weapon.

I will fight back.

No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength til fight back for the very first time – and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.”

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Shatter Me written by Tahereh Mafi revolves around the 17 year old Juliette who is locked in a cell convicted for murder, and she cannot remember the last time she has touched another person. Juliette’s touch is lethal, and while sitting in her cell, she dreams of a world she never experienced. A world where birds still fly in the sky. After being isolated for far too long Juliette’s life changes drastically after Adam joins her in the cell. The story of Shatter Me seems to me to be more of a female daydream about romantic bad boys, more than an actual plot of a selling novel. What I mean by that is that is not very creative and not very well written, and the story has too many overly unrealistic details that reminds me of a daydream. As I said, the novel is not very good literary vise, and Tahereh Mafi is often trying to be too poetic in her choice of words. I like that idea of how Juliette’s touch can kill people, it is original and exciting to imagine, but as a character, Juliette is bland and not very interesting to read about. I also don’t understand her choice in guys~ The novel ended too abruptly, because nothing had really happened yet. To me, it seemed liked the author cut the story short just to make a sequel. I honestly do not think Shatter Me should have been a series, and instead the three books should have been only one. With all that said, I will admit that the novel was a nice and quick read, and I was always looking forward to reading it on the train. It is good to read when tired or exhausted, so even with all my critique of the first book I still decided to buy the rest of the trilogy.

Read my reviews of the two other books in the trilogy:

Unravel Me

Ignite Me

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (English), 338 pages, Harper

Review: Columbine – Dave Cullen

“On April 20, 1999, two boys went to their high school with bombs and guns. Their goal was to leave “a lasting impression on the world.” The horror they inflicted left an indelible stamp on the American psyche.

Now in this definitive account, Dave Cullen presents a compelling and utterly human profile of teenage killers. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boys’ tapes and diaries. This close up portrait of violence, a community rendered helpless, and police blunders and cover-ups is an unforgettable cautionary tale for our time.”

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Columbine is a true crime non-fiction book written my Dave Cullen. It examines and informs the reader of the events that happened before and after the well-known massacre which happened in Columbine in 1999. The book portrays both the real story of the school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, but also what happened to the people involved in the incident.

I found Columbine to be an amazing book, even though I had some problems with it at first. In the beginning I found it distracting how the timeline is presented in no logical order, but later I found it very appealing how new questions and revelations appeared in every chapter, and how later chapters would answer and refer to earlier ones.

At the same time I had a problem with how the focus constantly shifts between a lot of people. I honestly was more interested in the two shooters than everyone else around them. But again this feeling changed throughout the book, because it got more and more interesting to learn about everything and everyone who were connected to the incident.

While reading this book, it was obvious that Dave Cullen has spent a lot of time researching this topic. He both portrayed the people and events, but also the evidence and the reactions to the massacre. He has made a few mistakes in his statements, but none that ruined the overall oh, that’s what happened-experience. Dave Cullen was also a bit too repetitive, but again this did not affect much of the book.

Columbine shows what happened and what was hidden by the police force for years, and the book can also be seen as a critique of both the police and the press.

Columbine by Dave Cullen (English), 443 pages, Twelve