You don't have to be a psychology nerd like me to be fascinated by sociopaths. The idea of a person with no conscience, with no limits to their behavior, with no guilt or shame, is truly mind-bending. And there's no one who explains it quite as brilliantly as Martha Stout, Ph.D.
The Sociopath Next Door is the single best book I've ever read about that percentage of the population (possibly up to 4%!) who have no conscience. She is a psychologist who has worked with many victims of sociopaths and she has an understanding of how they move through the world and through our lives. She has seen the damage first-hand and has taken the time to think through how they do what they do, why they do what they do, and why those with a conscience are really better off after all.
I've read her book several times, each time shaking my head at how sociopaths think. While many books have been written about those who kill and rape, those who steal millions of dollars in shady stock deals or pyramid schemes, those who lead with an iron hand, fewer books have been written about the sociopaths who we marry only to find out that they want nothing more than to spend their days lying around. Or those coworkers who undermine our work just to feel like they have a better position in their mental chess game. Or those parents and teachers who manipulate their children and students because they can.
This time I listened to the book. Narrator Shelly Frasier had the perfect speaking voice for this type of audiobook. She is smart and strong but compassionate. Her voice fits Stout's writing beautifully.
The Sociopath Next Door is not for learning the serial killers in your neighborhood. It's the so-much-more chilling tale of the people in our lives who try to take small pieces of us so that there's more there for them. It's also the story of why that doesn't work, because while the sociopaths try to steal our happiness and connections, those of us who have a conscience can build new connections and find new happinesses. In the end, we win.