Thursday, April 26, 2012


Okay, I'm not Jon Ronson's biggest fan in the whole world.  I read bits and pieces of his book Them, and to be honest, he seems to take a teeny bit too much delight in his subjects' weirdness.  It wasn't bad, just a little odd to me.  Plus, there's this story from This American Life (don't you love their new searchable archive?), which, while honest in a vulnerable way, is also not completely charming.

Which is why I've had The Psychopath Test in my reader for ages and not read it.  Haven't even listened to the TAL story about it (I'm a plug machine today, right?).  Not sure why I picked it up, except that it seemed like the right combination of light and informative for my mood right now.  And OMG, it's awesome.

Now, wait, that's not exactly true.  It's a fun, interesting, personal-journalism-type story that so far is only just coming to the actual topic of the story in a roundabout account of the Ronson's introduction to the world of psychology.  What's awesome about the part I'm reading right now, though, is the Scientologists.

Now, what I know about Scientology has all been shouted by Tom Cruise on daytime TV, but I'm as intrigued by it as I am by any insular group with unusual beliefs.  Ronson, of course, has a lot of experience with such groups, and I think that makes him the right man to tell this story.  Because if there's one thing he can do it's strike a balance between respect and skepticism, between elbowing me and giving me an "isn't this nutty?" eyebrow waggle and falling lightly under the hypnotic spell of whoever he's listening to--really the best a lot of fringe types can hope for in the mainstream media.

I'm not very far in, but I'm tickled pink by this book so far.

In other news, my collective officemates are enabling me by talking me into reading Bill Bryson's I'm a Stranger Here Myself.  Because the delightful distinctions between England and America, coupled with Bill Bryson's quirky charm, and how can I go wrong?  My new coworker Harriet is reading it, and she's English, so if I can get it from the library fast enough, I can pick her brain as I'm reading it!


Aarti said...

I really like Bill Bryson! Though in some ways, I think he was pretty negative in his I'm a Stranger Here Myself book- I feel like his homesickness for England was pretty clear, perhaps.

LibraryHungry said...

I felt a bit of the same way about A Walk in the Woods--he was very critical of the whole "untouched nature" ideal that the Adirondack Trail aspires to, and talked about how little hamlets and farms like you find in an English walk is so much more charming. It's like he's trying to turn his opinion into fact. I kind of agree with his opinion, but it makes some of his observations seem pretty subjective.