Jeffrey Kluger warns of an epidemic of self-obsession in ‘The Narcissist Next Door’

(Riverhead Books)

“It is not love that should be depicted as blind, but self-love.”


Jeffrey Kluger is a senior writer at Time  magazine and is the author of The Sibling Effect  and Apollo 13, the book  upon which Ron Howard’s film of the same title was based. The Narcissist Next Door  wanders into the snake-pit mental territory of personality disorders, particularly narcissism.

Personality disorders, as Kruger points out are very pervasive and difficult to treat as they are described as being “ego-syntonic,” or rather the disorder is not in direct conflict with the individual’s perception of reasonable behavior. While a person suffering from an irrational fear or behavioral obsession knows that his or her demeanor deviates from the norm, the personality disordered may have no idea that something is amiss. Obviously this creates a challenge for treatment, as it may never be sought out or followed once it begins.

The narcissist flavor of personality disorder involves a pathological elevation of feeling of self-importance and worth. The disease is typically manifested in a sense of entitlement and expectations of special treatment that go beyond simple arrogance into the truly psychotic.

‘Echo and Narcissus’ by John William Waterhouse (Walker Art Gallery)

Kluger draws heavily upon examples from well-known actors, athletes, and politicians, and cites many egregious and nearly inexplicable actions and statements from these categories of people that seem particularly prone to the disorder. From a distance, the exploits of these mental pandemonia masquerading as humans can be entertainment, albeit often low-brow (e.g. Keeping up with the Kardashians), but in close quarters they can wreak no small amount of havoc on one’s family, career, love-life, etc.

With an engaging style and the sense of an adept storyteller, Kruger takes us through the ins and outs of pathological self-love and all the varieties of the disease. He discusses the complete spectrum of those masking a shredded underlying self-esteem with an inflated ego, to the individuals utterly convinced that they are masters of the universe.

Descriptions of the potential upside of this behavior (think Steve Jobs) are accompanied by a full account of all the pitfalls to watch out for when encountering this breed. Kluger also sounds the alarm bells warning of a pandemic of sorts potentially arising from our culture awash with advertising trumpeting entitlement and ever-increasingly child-centric parenting techniques.

The book ends with a test commonly used to initially diagnose tendencies to the disorder, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), along with scoring instructions. Take it if you dare!

About Andrea Sefler

Andrea Sefler
Andrea is a consultant and technical writer for various scientific software and instrumentation companies. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Berkeley and has never met a genre of music or books that she hasn’t liked. As a gamer since the days of the Apple II, Andrea can relate any number of hair-raising tales about role-playing games stored on 360 kB 5.25” floppy disks and may, someday, put them to paper.

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