Currently Reading – April 17, 2011

The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson

If I showed you the list of books that I am reading right now, you wouldn’t even believe it. It gets out of hand when I can’t settle down into anything. Sometimes I have to read around quite a bit before I can settle into the right thing. I have to say that had no trouble at all getting into The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry by Jon Ronson.

The book starts out with the fascinating story of a bunch of scientists who receive a mysterious book in the mail along with a note that more will be coming. Convinced that they have been targeted for special reasons, one calls journalist Jon Ronson in to investigate. He gets to the bottom of the story but along the way notices the way an act of madness can affect the lives of many, and this begins his search for the craziness of individuals which shape the lives of the masses. Meet the psychopath.

I am about halfway through and so far I have read the interesting history and the original (sadly failed) treatments of psychopaths, a case of an institutionalized psychopath bent on proving to the world that he is sane, Scientology and the roots of the organization’s skepticism of psychiatry, and key points on the Robert Hare Checklist, which is “the” method these days for diagnosing psychopathy. I am expecting that this will be a good one all the way through.

A couple of books that I expected to love are proving problematic for me. I just haven’t been able to get into them and enjoy them the way that I have wanted. One of them is The Raising, by Laura Kasischke. I was so excited about this book for so many reasons – Kasischke wrote In A Perfect World, (a novel I really enjoyed), it’s set at a university, it’s a mystery, there might be undead. You get the picture. It is getting rave reviews all over the place and I am so disappointed that I just can’t get into it. so This might not be one that you should take my word on, but I just haven’t been engaged by the book or very many of the characters at all. I think only Staci may have felt a little of my pain. The character who has interested me most is Mira Polson, the breadwinner for her husband and twin boys, vying for tenure at the local university and teaching a course on the paranormal. I think if I were to continue with the book, which I am on the fence about at the moment, she will be pivotal in figuring out what happened to Nicole, a dead girl, killed in a car accident who might not actually be dead.

Similarly I am having a hard time connecting with Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses by Claudia Sternbach, another book that has struck a sweet note with many of my book blogging friends, but so far not with me. The premise of the memoir is one that interested me greatly, the study of different kisses, and the meaning that they can take on in a lifetime. The memoir so far has been a bunch of recollections of childhood memories and seem to be very loosely tied in to what is set forth in the jacket copy. Sternbach is certainly a capable writer, I think I was just expecting a different kind of book.

Over the past week I dusted of my copy of that childhood favorite Little Women to see if I would feel the same way about it after all these years, and because the classic is the subject of an upcoming What’s Old Is New podcast with Kelly O’Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. This is one that I had been reluctant to re-read, partly because after last year’s disastrous attempt at reading An Old Fashioned Girl (also by Alcott), I expected that I might not be up for her particular brand of moralizing. My estimation of the novel has suffered a bit with the re-reading. I really don’t care for any of Jo’s sisters, and I think I like Jo as much as I do because they are all so annoying in comparison. My crush on Laurie, however, endures, and I still refuse to forgive Louisa for what she did.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Literary Feasts: Dark Mirror, by M.J. Putney

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  1. You are making me dizzy! I wish I could read multiple books (besides just a print book and an audio). Because I have about a dozen that need reading RIGHT NOW!!!

    I have these issues when I am feeling so-so about a book everyone else has loved. I always blame myself, but let’s be honest. Maybe it IS a mood, but if it were a really good book, it should be enough to pull you out of a mood, right?

  2. I’m in some sort of polygareading craziness right now. The past few months I’ve had a hard time settling on any one book, and so I’ve been floundering between like five at a time. Not the best way for me to read.

  3. I haven’t read Little Women since I was about 12 and now I’m afraid to reread it. I’ve always considered it one of my favorite books, though Amy always annoyed me. Hoping that if I do pick it up again, I won’t have the same reaction you did!

    1. Yeah. I think you should probably leave it alone then! I’m not sure that it is one of those that stands up. I always liked book 1 more than book 2 so I can’t imagine how I will feel about it once I get there.

  4. Can’t wait to hear your full review on The Psychopath Test! I’m always intrigued by the way the mind works, in both positive and negative ways. It’s interesting to read about all the failed attempts by scientists who misunderstood a patient’s condition. I can see why this one caught your attention. Enjoy the rest of it!

  5. The Psychopath Test sounds fantastic! I love that sort of nonfiction, so I’ll be adding that one to the wish list for sure.

  6. The Psychopath Test sounds like a riveting read to me. I might have to pick that up since just this past weekend my husband and I were trying to remember the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath.
    I finished The Raising but, getting to the last page was a chore. I wanted to like the book so much but it just didn’t work for me. So I can relate to how you’re feeling.

    1. There is no real difference between psychopath and sociopath. Psychiatrists use he terms interchangeably! I will probably try another chapter or two of The Raising at some point, but I have set it aside for the moment.

  7. The Psychopath Test sounds fascinating to me too. Have you read The Sociopath Next Door? It’s about the same family of disorder, and my mother looooved it.

    1. I haven’t read that one but I remember really wanting to read it. According to this book the terms are interchangeable. Ronson’s books is interesting because while he is shedding light on psychopathy, he is also poking a little bit at the idea of mental illness and the criteria we use to define it. To me, it wasn’t a straightforward read at all.