Book Reviews

The Inkblots by Damion Searls


Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach believed that who we truly are can be found not in what we say, but in what we see. In 1917 he created an experiment that would go on to test this theory. The experiment consisted of ten carefully created inkblots.

In this book, the first biography written about Rorschach, Searls discusses the man, his life, and his work. We learn how culture shaped the test; how the test shaped culture (especially American culture); and how culture, in turn, reshaped the test, again and again.

The only thing that will stop me from giving this book five stars is that it became a bit stiff toward the end. What started as a writing style that felt more like storytelling turned more clinical and systematic. Perhaps it was unavoidable given the content, but it slowed my reading.

Otherwise, this is an excellent read. I knew nothing about Rorschach going into this book, and as I finished I left like I was leaving an old friend. Maybe because I see a bit of myself in him. He’s someone I think I would have enjoyed talking to.

It was Rorschach’s understanding and insight into both the human mind and the world around him that made the inkblots work. This was proven time and again through the years as changes were made to how the test was given and scored. It wasn’t something that could be quantified or standardized. Rorschach knew this, and expressed that he saw the inkblots more as an experiment than a test. Yet, he was able to use it, and teach others to use it, to uncover mental health issues and devise treatments.

The section of the book that interested me most was the use of the inkblots at Nuremburg on Nazi war criminals. The results were both fascinating and chilling, and something I’d like to read more about.

But Hermann Rorschach was a fascinating man himself. The book contains copies of a few of Rorschach’s inkblots, as well as some discussion of how scoring works. Searls also utilized many personal letters when covering Rorschach’s life, which adds a personal touch that drew me in, and the notes section is extensive. Searls did his research, and it shows.

1) Is it understandable = 4.5
2) Presentation of Information = 4
3) Quality of Writing = 4
4) Overall Enjoyability = 4.5

Average score of 4.25 out of 5

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

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