cover image The Narcissist You Know

The Narcissist You Know

Joseph Burgo. S&S/Touchstone, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8568-4

Psychologist Burgo presents an involving, if not always credible, study demonstrating that narcissism is more than just mirror-gazing taken to a pathological extreme. The idea that we are all narcissists is a commonplace, but he seeks to more critically define the many forms the condition can take—and, accordingly, the many ways in which we can confront it. Burgo compiles and organizes his chapters by different “brands” of narcissist (seductive, grandiose, know-it-all, vindictive), and though he draws on research and theory, his main evidence comes from cases he treated as a practicing psychologist, presented to the reader compellingly and without jargon. He also turns to cases that are famous in their own right or that involve celebrities, which add to the narrative’s entertainment value but seem less scrupulous as evidence. Indeed, narcissism as it is employed here seems a suspiciously flexible term, sometimes referring to behaviors that could be explained in other ways. Readers may also be left wondering how neatly the narcissists they know fit into Burgo’s prescriptive categories. Nonetheless, this book does offer lessons in self-criticism—guidance that is of undeniable value, whether sparked by narcissism or not. (Sept.)