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April 12, The Sociopath Next Door
RET's Skeptic Book Club meets on Sunday, April 12, 2009, 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 8029 Kingston Pike. The book this month is, "The Sociopath Next Door."

"The Sociopath Next Door," by Martha Stout

Discussion Leader: Lee Erickson

The Sociopath Next Door is the first book to take a hard look at the sociopaths in everyday life. Martha Stout, a practicing psychotherapist and Harvard Medical School instructor, explains that these people learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath live only to dominate others and win. The fact is, statistically, we each know at least one sociopath, and readers will have an “a-ha!” moment of recognizing that someone they know — someone they worked for, or were involved with — is a sociopath. Unfortunately, one of the chief characteristics of a sociopath is a kind of glow or charisma that makes them more charming or interesting than other people. They are more spontaneous, more intense, complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. But The Sociopath Next Door teaches us to recognize the ruthless among us.”

Praise for The Sociopath Next Door:

“A fascinating, important book about what makes good people good and bad people bad, and how good people can protect themselves from those others.”

—Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

From Publishers Weekly:

[Dr.] Stout says that as many as 4% of the population are conscienceless sociopaths who have no empathy or affectionate feelings for humans or animals. As Stout (The Myth of Sanity) explains, a sociopath is defined as someone who displays at least three of seven distinguishing characteristics, such as deceitfulness, impulsivity and a lack of remorse. Such people often have a superficial charm, which they exercise ruthlessly in order to get what they want. Stout argues that the development of sociopathy is due half to genetics and half to nongenetic influences that have not been clearly identified. The author offers three examples of such people, including Skip, the handsome, brilliant, superrich boy who enjoyed stabbing bullfrogs near his family's summer home, and Doreen, who lied about her credentials to get work at a psychiatric institute, manipulated her colleagues and, most cruelly, a patient. Dramatic as these tales are, they are composites, and while Stout is a good writer and her exploration of sociopaths can be arresting, this book occasionally appeals to readers' paranoia, as the book's title and its guidelines for dealing with sociopaths indicate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Posted by pking
Apr. 08, 2009