Sociopath by Patric Gagne is a memoir about the author’s experience going through life as a sociopath. As a young girl, Gagne knew that there was something different about her, but it took her a few decades to truly understand what it was. Sociopath is not only about her process of accepting herself as she is, but also her effort to help other sociopaths as they too follow the road to understanding and acceptance.

Why I picked it up: Sociopath was a buzzy book this spring, and I love memoirs.

As a young girl, Gagne started to realize that she didn’t experience emotions the way other kids did. She never felt guilt when she did something mean or wrong, and in fact never felt much of anything at all. She was told by others, including her mother, that there were things she should be experiencing – love, affection, a sense of right and wrong – but she was mostly just bothered by the fact that she didn’t experience those things. Gagne was honest, always telling her mother about how she felt and the things that she did, even when she knew, deep down, that those things were probably bad. Her mother appreciated her honesty, but also worried about Gagne’s lack of moral compass or sense of remorse.

As she grew older, Gagne came to identify what drove her to do certain things, like “borrowing” people’s cars or entering locked homes. The reaction she got from doing those things simply came the closest to experiencing the emotions that she was missing. When she felt anxiety and discomfort from the emotional void in her life, she did something bad. She wasn’t remorseful afterwards, but instead found her need to feel something temporarily sated.

Sociopath follows Gagne into her twenties and thirties, as she establishes a career in the music industry and reconnects with a high school boyfriend. She also goes into therapy so that she can finally understand sociopathy (and how it differs from psychopathy) and figure out how to live a fulfilling life, with other people in it, while still accepting herself as who she is. Her desire to truly understand sociopathy and to help others with the same diagnosis propels her into studying psychology and, ultimately, into writing her memoir.

I learned a lot from reading Sociopath. I certainly had misconceptions about sociopathy, and Gagne’s meticulous, analytical writing helped dispel them. Unsurprisingly, Gagne is matter-of-fact and sort of clinical, which makes the experience of reading the book a somewhat cold one. I also thought it was too long – there is a lot of repetition, and it could have been a fair amount shorter. I listened to Sociopath on audio, and it is narrated by Gagne, who is – again, not surprising – an unemotional narrator. Even when she is talking about her lifelong struggles, her delivery is casual, almost off-handed. Perhaps her narration reveals even more about sociopathy than the memoir itself.

Sociopath was the 18th book of 2024 and satisfies the One Word Title category of the 2024 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.