Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

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Overview

A PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST OF 2013 STAFF PICK

As M.E. Thomas says of her fellow sociopaths, “We are your neighbors, your coworkers, and quite possibly the people closest to you: lovers, family, friends. Our risk-seeking behavior and general fearlessness are thrilling, our glibness and charm alluring. Our often quick wit and outside-the-box thinking make us appear intelligent—even brilliant. We climb the corporate ladder faster than the rest, and...
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Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

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Overview

A PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST OF 2013 STAFF PICK

As M.E. Thomas says of her fellow sociopaths, “We are your neighbors, your coworkers, and quite possibly the people closest to you: lovers, family, friends. Our risk-seeking behavior and general fearlessness are thrilling, our glibness and charm alluring. Our often quick wit and outside-the-box thinking make us appear intelligent—even brilliant. We climb the corporate ladder faster than the rest, and appear to have limitless self-confidence.  Who are we? We are highly successful, noncriminal sociopaths and we comprise 4 percent of the American population.”
  
Confessions of a Sociopath—part confessional memoir, part primer for the curious—takes readers on a journey into the mind of a sociopath, revealing what makes them tick while debunking myths about sociopathy and offering a road map for dealing with the sociopaths in your life. M. E. Thomas draws from her own experiences as a diagnosed sociopath; her popular blog, Sociopathworld.com; and scientific literature to unveil for the very first time these men and women who are “hiding in plain sight.”

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

M.E. Thomas is proud to be a diagnosed sociopath. In fact, she has made it her mission to convince people that the vast majority of sociopaths are neither criminals nor creepy. They are much more likely to be high-functioning, risk-seeking people, not cold-blooded killer or animal-torturers. In fact, on her Socialpathworld.com blog, she contends that these generally law-biding men and women "hiding in plain sight" constitute a full four percent of the U.S. population. In Confessions of a Sociopath, she escorts readers into her own life and the lives of other sociopaths. A provocative look at outsiders.

The New York Times Book Review - Jon Ronson
Confessions of a Sociopath turns out to be an intermittently gripping and important book…it is a revelatory if contradictory muddle of a memoir in which [Thomas] succeeds in simultaneously humanizing and demonizing herself.
Publishers Weekly
An essential, unprecedented memoir by a law professor who is a clinically-diagnosed sociopath, these revelations from the pseudonymous Thomas deign to counter the label's public image. There are no tales of violent crime or unrecognizably perverse fantasies. Rather, her intelligent, measured prose conveys her message and her mindset yet betrays sociopathic characteristics: "While others were learning to play kickball, I learned to play people." Unlike those without this disorder, she has neither conscience nor remorse, manipulates to fulfill desires, and describes a lifetime of inability to relate to others' emotions. However, she is confident, charming, worries about having kids, and whether "they will be like me, and I worry even more that they will be not be like me." Sociopathic brains are structurally different from others, but the disorder's root causes are unknown. Thomas asserts that we have misunderstood a group that constitutes between one and four percent of the general population, and her arguments against using the diagnosis as an indicator of evil or a pre-emptive reason to imprison are a slam-dunk. This is a critical addition to narratives of mental illness, deepened by the awareness that we're reading someone whose most intense motivation is "acquisition, retention, and exploitation of power". (May)
Library Journal
Thomas, a diagnosed sociopath, begins this part study of sociopathy, part confessional memoir with narcissistic descriptions of personal style and grooming habits that develop into a complex and layered self-portrait. She describes growing up in a large Mormon family and how her religious practices continued into adulthood, her time as both a music and law student, and how lacking empathy affected all stages of her life, notably her experience with making friends and enemies. Noncriminal sociopaths are, Thomas says, "hidden in plain sight," and her account of this experience doesn't bother with political correctness. She writes with blunt, witty insight on human behavior, particularly sexuality, and is strangely endearing. She smartly overlooks the potential damage to her reputation if a student or colleague reading the book recognized her as the author. Yet the story is too convincing to be a fabrication, and a sociopath isn't likely to feel remorse for expounding intimate details to shed light into the kind of life lived by four percent of the American population. VERDICT A page-turner with broad appeal. Some material has previously appeared on the author's blog, sociopathworld.com; fans will find an enjoyable companion in The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, who offers a psychiatrist's view of the condition.—Chrissy Spallone, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
The biting memoir of a "successful" sociopath, from the pseudonymous Thomas. The author is a lawyer, a teacher and a sociopath--she abjures "psycho" as a little too much--a full-blown example of anti-social personality behavior, with "a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others"--not in a legally criminal way but certainly capable of inflicting damage. Her self-portrait is not likable, but readers will admire her drawing attention to all the sociopaths out there. "We are legion and diverse," she writes. "At least one of them looks like me. Does one of them look like you?" Thomas treats her life as a case history, reaching for cognizance while pulsing with a frankness that roves between raw self-evaluation--which might be disarming if she had more emotional capacity--and an undiluted meanness toward those she would ruin, the many "gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race." She scours her past to see where her sociopathy was nurtured and genetics to see where it might have found a foothold through nature. She invites us into her courtroom, classroom and bedroom to witness how her behavior has stunted her work life and made her love life difficult. She explains her view of risks and consequences, "but my mind is almost always at peace no matter what I do." Much here is chilling, but there are also cracks that make you ache for her: "Sometimes I can't see people's disgust for me because I'm so single-mindedly inclined to see adoration." A work of advocacy for greater awareness of sociopathy's reach and conduct.
From the Publisher
Praise for Confessions of a Sociopath

“[A] gripping and important book...revelatory...quite the memorable roller coaster ride.” New York Times Book Review

“Fascinating...part memoir, part psychological treatise, and entirely not to be trusted.” Boston Globe

“The goal of Confessions is to redefine sociopathy—or at least to shake off the stigma associated with it. And Thomas accomplishes both. Through her honest portrayal of herself as a highly capable yet deeply flawed individual, she demystifies her disorder.” Scientific American

“Fascinating stuff, and Thomas delivers...riveting...chilling...Her incisive observations about human nature can be breathtakingly pointed.” Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An essential, unprecedented memoir...intelligent, measured...Her arguments against using the diagnosis as an indicator of evil or a pre-emptive reason to imprison are a slam-dunk. This is a critical addition to narratives of mental illness, deepened by the awareness that we're reading someone whose most intense motivation is ‘acquisition, retention, and exploitation of power’.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Fascinating and compelling as well as chilling, Thomas’ memoir offers a window into the mind of a portion of the population that usually remains shrouded in mystery and fear.” Booklist, starred review

“[Thomas] invites us into her courtroom, classroom and bedroom to witness how her behavior has stunted her work life and made her love life difficult...Much here is chilling, but there are also cracks that make you ache for her....A work of advocacy for greater awareness of sociopathy’s reach and conduct.” Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307956644
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/14/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 492,038
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

M. E. THOMAS is a diagnosed sociopath and the founder of SociopathWorld.com. She is not a killer. Quite the contrary, she is an accomplished attorney and law professor who writes regularly for major law journals, donates 10 percent of her income to charity, and teaches Sunday school.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 32 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Confessions of a Sociopath was a difficult read, in a way. It wa

    Confessions of a Sociopath was a difficult read, in a way. It wasn't the content or the writing style as much as the tone, which felt a little odd, and at times, disconcerting. It was often cold and very pretentious. After a while, it really grated on my nerves. By the final few chapters, I would catch myself skimming the text and have to reread large portions. I think it would have been wiser of me to take the book in smaller doses, to break it up a bit.

    But... the content itself was pretty fascinating. It's easy to dismiss psychopaths as "evil" (especially thanks to Hollywood and the media) and not think about them with any more depth than that, but there's actually a pretty wide spectrum. I learned a lot reading this book. I didn't realize there were non-criminal sociopaths, nor did I know they could be as high-functioning as the author.

    There were some aspects of her story that were hard to believe. I couldn't tell if she was contradicting herself, if she was embellishing things, or if I just wasn't understanding her. Then came the epilogue, and everything that didn't make sense to me before sort of fell into place. I think the parts I had trouble believing were due to differences between how we (author and reader) view the world, not because of an intent to deceive.

    Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas was an eye-opening book. I wouldn't place it on my favorites list, but I did come away with more knowledge and understanding about a personality disorder I knew little to nothing about. (3 1/2 stars would better reflect my rating)

    40 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2013

    Its pretty interesting.

    I would first like to say : those of you writing a review for a book you did NOT even read, should NOT be rating or reviewing. I (and I'm sure others) do not care about your personal opinions from you watching the Dr. Phil show. Just because may not agree with or like someone, doesn't mean you can hijack their book review and try to ruin it for the rest of us!
    If those of you who are doing this would EVEN read before you so rudely rate and review... you WOULD have read the authors reasoning for writing the book along with her addressing manipulation.
    With that out of the way... (sorry I just get really sick of people doing that to authors and those of us who might just look at the stars if we don't look at the written review. Not just this book, but apps if they don't install correctly, other books if they didn't like the free Friday selection. That is no reason to review a book or app when you're not even basing it on the content!)
    This book was pretty interesting although a little creepy. I agree with the other review that it is best read in smaller doses, it can become a little boring and hard to grasp at times. I had really no idea what a sociopath was. The book fueled me to do quit a bit of research on my own and I found out a lot of info about psychopaths and sociopaths and the difference between the two.
    All in all I thought this was a very interesting book from the perspective of a sociopath (she does reference quite a few books written by specialized doctors so for those of you who think evil and sociopath go hand-in-hand you can look for yourself).
    If you have any interest in psychology or human behavior, then I think this would be a really good read for those of you. If I could a would have given the book 3 & 1/2 stars.

    17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2013

    I just flagged half of you morons.

    Don't write a review if it has nothing to do with the book. No one cares about what you think of the author on the Dr. Phil show. We care about the content of the book.
    Five stars to even out the negativity of the morons who refuse to give real and constructive criticism.

    Morons.

    12 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2013

    After watching this author/woman on Dr. Phil yesterday, I would

    After watching this author/woman on Dr. Phil yesterday, I would never give her my money by reading this stupid book.

    11 out of 72 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    First, this is written by a confessed sociopath. Which means, th

    First, this is written by a confessed sociopath. Which means, this book is a form of manipulation. Second, all sociopaths are dangerous. Very dangerous. And evil. They are the definition of evil. They have no conscience whatsoever. None. It's as routine for them to cause lethal harm as it is for the rest of us to use an ATM. And third, just because she isn't out dismembering bodies, doesn't mean she isn't doing harm, real harm, to people in her orbit.

    8 out of 50 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

    Read the whole book not just the internet excerpts. Story of redemption.

    I read the whole book not just the internet excerpts. Reading to the end was the best part. It took about two weeks and at times I read way too late in the night as I wanted to finish a chapter and then started another chapter. The author has a high opinion of herself but if she truly graduated from a top tier law school, worked for a large LA law firm and taught as a Law school professor then she really is a high achiever. There was absolutely no humility until at the end of the book. The EGO is huge. Other reviews about animal cruelty, sex, and creepy physical violence misstate the book. We kill gophers don't we? How can a story about allowing a baby nuisance animal drown in the family swimming pool equate to killing the family pet. Kissing strange men in Brazil does not seem that salacious. The sex is not explicit. With the authors professed virginity through her teenage years and Mormon moral "lines" it is unclear how far her "seductions" really went? Lots of talk of kissing but is she really having affairs? The real heart of this book is the lack of emotions and the total lack of typical quilt boundaries. WOW, this is very reveling, looking into someones mind to find out how they think and why they do what they do. I was like a voyeur wanting to know the next juicy tidbit and thought at times that more could be revealed in the story line. The BAD: the book is repetitive and preachy at times. ME really wants us to like her and is trying to be a Joan of Arc spokesperson for understanding for her disability. She seems to change her point of view as the book progresses. She starts off angry with her parents, the world, and wanting to take vicious advantage of friends, acquaintances and family. By the end of the book she is talking about the good things in her life, how well her parents raised her and how sociopath children should be raised. I had to go back and reread sections to see if this was completely contradictory or if there was an arc progressing through her story. I concluded that she was being as honest as she could be, for a crazy sociopath, and that the two different points of view were consistent with who she now is compared to where she started on her journey. The GOOD. I liked the side paths about the scientific evolution of "sociopathy" and wished the book had footnotes so I could look at the sources. Sprinkled throughout the book were thoughtful comments about assorted things that made me read them twice. She has thought about her POV and has something to say. As a story, it was a waste of time until the end when she talks about wanting to have children and how she would raise a genetically probable sociopath. In the end the struggle for a socio without emotions and normal quilt to want to have a family and want to raise children in the best way possible was a story of redemption. She claims to be active in her strict church, teaching Sunday School, claims to be sexually abstinent at this time and says she loves her nieces and nephews. She compliments her parents on doing the right things in raising her even though this was done by their own self interest and not through some intentional desire to do good parenting. By the end there is a picture of a flawed human trying to do the best and I found this uplifting. My version of the book lacked an appendix,quoted on the internet, did Barnes cheat me?

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    I just got out of a six year relationship (four year marriage) w

    I just got out of a six year relationship (four year marriage) with a man with Border Line Personality Disorder. M.E. reminds me of him. I'd rather read about sociopaths from a professional, because people like M.E. are superficial and grandiose and offer no real insight. You can't tell whether they are lying or manipulating, and the truth is only used if it benefits them. It irritated me on the Dr. Phil show when she compared her disorder with being deaf. Give me a break. Last I checked deaf people don't cause harm to others. And as an attorney, she must know that a mental disorder may explain why a person causes harm, but it is never an excuse to cause harm. If a sociopath commits a crime, she must still pay the consequences despite the way her brain is wired. I find these people love to blame others or their disorder. It seems her "intelligence" is wasted on writing this book when it could be used to study the proper behavior of mainstream humans and to practice empathy and correct treatment of others. If she's smart enough to know she's manipulative, then she should have the ability to avoid being manipulative. I will not buy this book out of sheer principle. I would recommend reading "Whose Pulling Your Strings?" instead. This book uncovers the mechanisms of manipulation and takes any mystique away from people like M.E. She's actually about as mysterious as a toddler crying for attention.

    7 out of 37 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    Only Recommended For People Interested in Unusual Sociological Topics

    Because I'm generally interested in things psychological and sociological, I found this book an interesting look into a diagnosis I had no idea existed. It was both insighful and a bit frightening - the fact that there were cases out there of people diagnosed with non-criminal sociopathic tendencies was a total surprise to me. I recommend this book only to those who find such things interesting and helpful.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    Fake

    I saw her on Dr Phil and what a drama queen, she was very hard to even watch her talk

    5 out of 56 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2013

    Boring. I would say the author is more of a narcissist than soc

    Boring.

    I would say the author is more of a narcissist than sociopath. She's very invested in being a sociopath- I get it, it's rather exotic, dangerous sounding, etc. To those who can slog through the agonizingly long and boring accounts of her childhood, congratulations.

    I'll confess that the opening to the book did make me squirm, although I'm not certain why. I have no problem dispatching nuisance animals on my rural property. Perhaps it was the baby "cuteness" factor of the toddler opossum in her pool. As for being able to cut off all ties to friends when there's too little of their time and emotional presence to sustain the relationship, that seems like a normal, human thing to me. So much of what she considers proof of her "otherness" doesn't seem that bizarre.
    The author is clearly fascinated with herself. Unfortunately, I was unable to join in and appreciate the wonder that is Ms. Thomas.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Awful!Not worth a look cold and boring

    I think this sociopath manipulted me into buying this book with promises of a memoir! But seriously a cool cover and a cool subject do not however make for a great memoir. There is no personal touch no personal info nothing just this peson pontificating endlessly on what a sociopath is...don't tell me show me by telling me yopur personal stories. This book is one dimensional and a bore never got throu it.

    4 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    What began to sink in as I plodded through this dry tome was tha

    What began to sink in as I plodded through this dry tome was that the author, in lacking empathy, automatically lacked the humanity to employ genuine humor, to spin an interesting anecdote or simply to engage regular folks like myself. The hundred or so pages I read before throwing in the towel read like an essay by a very sophisticated computer program. Dull as paint. Dry as a bone.....

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2013

    Great read & a little revealing, I must say!!

    The book had a great flow & at the end of it, you don't LOVE the author but don't HATE them either. It just helped to understand how they were looking at the same things in a different way.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    Yawn

    After wading through most of this story, I wondered if the author was just having a good laugh at those of us who "anted up" and bought it. Perhaps that's the whole point? I'd recommend you pass on this one. There are better books about sociopaths; lots better.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Have you ever manipulated anyone? Or used your charm to get what

    Have you ever manipulated anyone? Or used your charm to get what you want? Or rationalized bad behavior? Chances are, even if you don’t want to admit it, the answer is yes, which means that you, too, exhibit slightly sociopathic tendencies. The idea that everyone can relate to a sociopath is the undercurrent of Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas. Thomas, a self-proclaimed sociopath, offers readers an inside glimpse into the minds of sociopaths everywhere. Although the book is largely personal, she draws from encounters with other sociopaths on her website to draw broad conclusions. Here are five things that might surprise you:




    - Not all sociopaths want to kill puppies. Sure, they may not go out of their way to save a puppy if there’s no benefit to themselves, but there’s such a thing as survival of the fittest that sociopaths subscribe to.




    - Most sociopaths follow the law. It’s all about details. Yes, sociopaths are inherently selfish, but it is this same selfishness that compels them to follow the law. Granted, the won’t refrain from killing you because they have a moral aversion to it, but they will refrain from killing you because going to jail is inconvenient to them.




    - Sociopaths aren’t necessarily crazy. Granted, there are some crazy sociopaths out there, but for the most part they are successful, law-abiding citizens who are fully aware of the fact that they don’t feel emotions – they just don’t care. More often than not, they come across as the office jerk, but in certain professions this works to their advantage.




    - Sociopaths can love. According to Thomas, she feels true joy when she plays with her niece and prefers to have her family around as opposed to not. She’s also been in love, even if what she considers love is different than what an empath (someone who has emotions) calls love.




    - Some empaths are more evil than sociopaths. This actually makes sense. Think about how many crimes are committed in a fit of passion or in the name of religion. One of the quotes in the book that struck me is the following: “It’s as if the existence of evil…. provides a safe haven for the good to engage in evil.” Basically, there are a lot of people who commit crimes against “bad” people in the name of “good.”




    It any of the above have sparked your curiosity, then I highly recommend reading this book. Thomas blends personal experiences (including her devout Mormonism) with scientific studies to try to understand herself and educate the public about why they shouldn’t start chasing sociopaths with pitchforks. One criticism of the book that I’ve come across on a few occasions has to do with her appreciation for her parents even though they were clearly awful. I chalk this up to her rational approach to life – she doesn’t care that her parents were awful because she can see how her upbringing helped her become integrated into society. In the end, despite the jumpiness of the storyline, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the subject.  

    Allison @ The Book Wheel

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2014

    A play on empathy

    Although the book reitterated the same basics points many times, it was a decent read. After having encountered more sociopaths than I would like to admit, and being hurt by them in the process, it was eye opening to see the logical way they go about their exploitations. Although I agree that sociopaths have a right to be a part of a law abiding society ( as long as they are law abiding) I wouldn't say its reasonable to hold close relationships with them, especially if you are volnurable and trusting. It may be nessecary to have some contact, if you have to, but avoidance should be used. The author definetly uses the audience's ability to empathize to gain likeability but that is just a tactic so that she and her group can be more vocal about how great they are. In my opinion, sociopaths do not add to society as she suggests, but this is not a witch hunt either.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2013

    you must check it out if you have people in your life who seem emotionless

    I found no boring parts and found this book highly entertaining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Revealing

    If you can try to drown a baby opossum in a pool, find that the opossum won't drown, leave it struggling in the pool to go shopping, come back to find that it had drowned, and be glad, then you may be a sociopath. You'll find Ms. Thomas' stories like this one in her book. And you may start wondering about yourself, as I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2013

    I'm not sure why I bought or read this book...

    ...but if everything she writes is true, I'm not about to flat out criticize it.
    I will say the first half of the book is a good read for almost everyone interested in human behavioral variation. Warning to the easily shocked; the opening scene is startling and unsettling in a way that makes Stephen King seem like an amateur.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2014

    Confessions of a sociopath is about the author who was diagnosed

    Confessions of a sociopath is about the author who was diagnosed as a sociopath and she explains how sociopaths think and how they can be dealt when faced with one. It’s a fast read book, but it drags on a little because the author tends to repeat the same idea over and over again to the point of me saying “yah I know I get you ok”..  The first few chapters are interesting because you will be amazed on how they think of their selves as superior to others and there’s this air of confidence that would make you think that it’s too much boasting. But that’s the point of the book, I mean sociopaths are very confident and they think that they can please everyone with their charm. The author really made it clear that sociopaths doesn’t always connect with people and the book doesn’t connect to me either. It’s interesting and very educational but  I think that she could just make the book a little short and less on the bragging about her extremely magnetic personality, charming and very persuasive character. 

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