The Dinner- Herman Koch
Sometimes I like reading books with unlikable characters, and oh man is Paul Lohman unlikable. The book begins with Paul talking about how he is hiding something from his wife. He rambles on about how perfect and loving their family is- which is comprised of him, his wife and their teenage son. And then, somewhat at odds with the aforementioned, he recounts catching his son doing something very disturbing on his phone.
The timeline of the story spans 4 hours; it revolves around a conversation, taking place in a restaurant, between Paul, his brother, Paul's wife and his brother's wife. And throughout the dinner, the same question is brought up: what are they going to do about their kids?
This book is really psychologically switched on. I LOVED seeing things from Paul’s perspective, which proves itself to be increasingly paranoid and distorted. It has tonnes of pathological behaviour and abnormal psychology- as well as a great exploration of relationship dynamics.
The Psychopath Test- Jon Ronson
Just like the name suggests, you do actually get to learn about a few different psychopath tests. But it's about more than that. It's about finding out the dubious manner in which the DSM-V was created.
It's about wildly inappropriate, drug-fueled experiments they conducted to 'rehabilitate' active sociopathic serial killers and how that backfired. It's about his experiences meeting psychopaths like Haitian Death Squad founder Emmanuel 'Toto" Constant, disgraced corporate leader Albert J. Dunlap and Tony, a young man detained in a psychiatric ward because of the psychiatric industry's unfalsifiable diagnoses. It's about how that label alone can write someone off for good and the implications of that. Good, good book.
A Little Life- Hanya Yanagihara
Four Liberal Arts Graduates move to the Big Apple, each set on actualizing their disparate ambitions - JB the Artist, Willem the Actor, Malcolm the Architect and Jude the Lawyer.
You follow these best friends and the development of their relationships for a lifetime. Gaining access to secrets and pasts the other characters are often denied.
This book is a testament to how friendships can be complicated and integral parts of our lives. Hanya Yanagihara actually touts it as a friendship love story and argues that friendships as primary relationships are frequently underrated. It’s about grappling with what it means to be a good friend and a good person. And trauma- its effect, how it can manifest and how it can restrict us.
This book was very popular in 2016, which is actually when I finished it. It's been recognised as a [surprisingly] accurate portrayal of male friendships and the author is a straight up, self-proclaimed 'bad person', which I dunno, I think is sort of cool? There is also a bounty of d&m interviews with her on YouTube and articles like this one that are oozing with aesthetics and inspirational vibes. Just keep in mind, if you are an ab*se survivor or are recovering from self-harm, this could be potentially triggering.
Confessions of a Sociopath- M.E. Thomas
This memoir is interesting in that Thomas explores a lot of ethics questions surrounding sociopathy. She explores what it means to be a good person, giving examples of both shitty and very generous things she's done. *I* think she's a bit of an unreliable narrator, as she says her childhood had nothing to do with her sociopathy when it actually seemed pretty traumatic? Some noteworthy links: a video arguing that psychopaths don't logically exist, an article about how psychopaths are capable of love and a website (created by M.E. Thomas) that was active years before the book was published.
The book is extremely disclosive, you get a thorough account of her entire life, from childhood to when it's published. Andddd if you do a bunch of lurking you can find a ridiculous interview of her on Doctor Phil- hiding under a synthetic blonde wig and engaging in the power battle of a lifetime. Super entertaining.
Under The Dome- Stephen King
I went into this without having previously read any other of Stephen King's books (I know, I'm the worst) and deciding to trust the review on the front cover, "The best yet from the best ever." I spent weeks trying to get past the first few sentences (which to summarise is just a bird dying after coming into contact with the dome) but when I finally worked my way past it, oh boy, was I thrilled.
I've read other books by Stephen King since and what I've noticed, and come to really enjoy, is how they are written almost as literary films. They are dialogue heavy; even though it's in the third person, it's still filtered through each of the characters perspectives and the imagery just really reminds me of vignettes of Americana. Not being from America, I find that really appealing, but it's also I think why so many of his movies have been adapted successfully (including the Stan series 11/22/63, featuring James Franco. Very good, do recommend) and why reading his books is so relaxing.
The character assembles features a teenage sociopath named 'junior' (who I envision as an older version of Sid from Toy Story), a hallucinating, skeletal meth head and Barbie- a stoic, roguish type with a heart of gold. CBS totally ruined it, so bypass the series and get yourself a genuinely fulfilling reading experience.