Clear, easily digestible pop psychology.




A guide to defending oneself from narcissism in the selfie age.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the reference used to diagnose mental disorders. In the fifth edition, released a few years ago, one of the changes was the elimination of “narcissistic personality disorder” as a diagnosis. The reasons behind its elimination are complicated, but the decision reflects the shifting values of our culture, as social media has given public platforms for budding narcissists to broadcast every selfie, every meal, and every witty remark about the weather. There is growing evidence, partially as a result of the online petri dish of narcissism, that it exists on a spectrum. While you talk about your vacation on Facebook and only exhibit minor traits, there are other people who, described in this highly readable book by longtime psychotherapist and clinical psychologist Burgo as “extreme narcissists,” exhibit traits to such an extent that they can be extremely harmful to relationships. The author outlines the traits specific to narcissists that pose the greatest risks—e.g., making obvious plays for the attention and admiration of others, lacking insight into how behaviors can affect other people, playing the victim and using guilt to manipulate people, and often appearing as self-righteous and “bullet-proof” in disagreements. Taking these, among others, Burgo develops profiles in a series of chapters that use a “type” as a launchpad—e.g., “the bullying narcissist,” “the narcissistic parent,” “the self-righteous narcissist,” etc. Cross-referencing the traits across chapters with examples drawn from case studies of clients he has worked with, Burgo also cites examples drawn from a few of celebrity culture’s shining stars, including Madonna, Mel Gibson, and Kanye West, among others. At no point in the book are narcissists treated as terrible people; Burgo seeks instead to provide a guide for understanding our own narcissism and for figuring out the roles these people can play in our lives.

Clear, easily digestible pop psychology.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-8568-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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