Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Five notable books on madness

Jon Ronson’s books include the New York Times bestseller The Psychopath Test, and Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats—both international bestsellers. His latest book is Lost at Sea.

One of his favorite books on madness, as told to The Daily Beast:
Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
by Robert Hare

For all the wider problems with labeling and checklists, I found Hare’s book incredibly instructive. His contention is that psychopaths bury their madness beneath a veneer of normality, so you need the checklist to identify them by the nuances of their behavior. I’m certain he’s right. He once said to me, “When you meet a high scoring one it’s stunning.” Recently I was interviewing a spy and he started talking about how much he enjoyed—as a schoolboy—jumping out from behind trees to hit people with bricks. I used Hare’s teachings to ask him, “Do you think empathy is a weakness?” He said, “Oh yes!”
Read about a novel on Ronson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue