Book Review: The Men Who Stare At Goats

‘Most goat-related military activity is still highly classified…’

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If I were to mention MK Ultra in certain weird circles, many people would nod their heads sagely, safe in the knowledge that they know all about it. If MK Ultra means nothing to you then fire up Google and prepare to tumble down the rabbit hole. Whilst The Men Who Stare At Goats touches on that dark era of CIA madness, it also reveals other sinister truths that are just as shocking as the MK Ultra scandal if not more so. Oh wonderful scandal. How I love to drink thee from your glorious, bloodstained cup.

Jon Ronson’s third novel explores the CIA’s many dalliances with the paranormal, whether that be with psychics, torture or dead goats. Ronson’s great strength as a writer is that he can go from sombre introspection to laugh out loud humour, often in the same paragraph. This ability, combined with his investigative skills and superlative choice of subject matter, ensure that he is one of the most compelling and unique voices working in journalism today.

TMWSAG is so immersive and fascinating that I had to keep stopping to research some of the people, places and events mentioned in the book, therefore turning myself into an investigative journalist of sorts. An investigative journalist who exclusively uses Wikipedia and never leaves the familiar comfort of his bed, but an investigative journalist nevertheless.

I loved Jon Ronson’s book The Psychopath Test so much that I went to see Ronson talk about it live in Sheffield last year. TMWSAG is so damn good however, that it probably exceeds even that masterful work. Such is my obsessive personality that I will now be reading everything that Ronson has ever written. Having seen him live I also read all his work in his own soothing voice which only adds a much needed air or relaxation to a sometimes overwhelming and stressful read.

I read this book in two days, I became the man who stares at The Men Who Stare At Goats. I urge anyone with an interest in the bizarre to do the same.