Micro-Review: Lost at Sea

Jon-Ronson-Lost-at-SeaLost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
by Jon Ronson
Riverhead, 2012
400 pages (hardcover)
Source: Public library


I first heard of Jon Ronson in 2011 when he read an excerpt of his book The Psychopath Test on This American Life. A British journalist, he’s known for his investigative reports for the Guardian and has a popular BBC Radio show. Lost at Sea is a collection of essays that originally appeared in the Guardian and other publications between 2001 and 2012, and if there’s a theme, it’s that there’s no end to what people will believe and do. Jon ferrets out the most unusual characters, and his style of reporting is to show up, ask an obvious question or two, and document the bizarre conversation that follows. In “Doesn’t Everyone Have a Solar?” (excerpted in a great Radiolab episode) Ronson talks to a cutting-edge robot created to immortalize a beloved partner. In “A Message from God,” he takes a 10-week course designed to convert agnostics by a man who is either a gifted prophet of God or a worldwide cult leader. In “Santa’s Little Conspirators,” he investigates whether too much Christmas spirit has pushed a group of high schoolers in North Pole, Alaska, to (unsuccessfully) plan a mass shooting. And in “The Man Who Tried to Split the Atom in His Kitchen,” he interviews a man with Asperger’s who gives up his at-home physics experiments only when he’s banned by his landlord – and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. Entertaining, disturbing, and fascinating, Ronson’s reporting is a reminder that our neighbors are not at all like us – and we have way more in common with them than we think.

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