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I bought this book so I could brag to people about reading it. I am joking of course. However, since finishing it I have been troubled after identifying elements of my own behavior chronicled within. It is both a confirmation of what I have experienced and felt in our society for a long time and a call to action to begin making my own changes.

The authors do a highly credible job of proving the symptoms and causes of narcissism in society drawing on extensive and rich research. Their starting point is the differences between self-esteem and narcissism providing a platform for the entire book. They write, "Narcissists are overconfident, not just confident, and - unlike most people in self-esteem - place little value on emotionally close relationships." They discount the commonly held myth that narcissists are insecure and are compensating for low self-esteem.

Among the most interesting aspects is their contention that narcissism is so pervasive that it impacts core social values to the point we are losing our way. Our culture is replete with examples of ridiculous behaviors that are symptoms and contributing factors to narcissism:

- Botox and tanning to fulfill unrealistic notions of physical beauty (skin cancer among women 15-34 has jumped 20% in the last decade)
- Reality television (e.g., My Super Sweet 16 where kids have over the top parties)
- Greed and materialism with emphasis on extravagant homes (over the last 35 years, family size has shrunk but home size has increased 66%)
- Social networking (vacuous and/or inappropriate content: 25% of teen girls have appeared nude or nearly nude on the Internet or on cell phones)
- Music lyrics (the average teen spends at least thirty minutes a day listening to songs describing degrading sex)
- Cheating in school (two-thirds of teens admit to cheating on tests/exams)
- Behaving badly in the workplace (I recommend the book, The Cost of Bad Behavior, on this subject)
- Theft (one-third of teens have stolen)
- "Hooking Up" (a convenient phrase for very casual sexual relationships)
- Loss of perspective between work and pay, value of a dollar, and value of earning for accomplishment

I took to heart that much of reversing poor behavior lies with parents. The authors write, "Not that long ago, kids knew who the boss was - and it wasn't them. It was Mom and Dad. And Mom and Dad weren't your "friends". They were your parents." They point out that now parents want their children's approval not the other way around. So a great many parents are doing their children a disservice by emphasizing materialism, indulging incivility, and accepting what has become all too common in society, namely, a lack of discipline, poor manners, service for the community.

A Time/CCN poll found that 80% of people thought kids were more spoiled than they were in the 1980's and 1990's and in the same poll two-thirds of parents described their own kids as spoiled. And while that is qualitative data, the authors provide the following empirical backup, "Adjusted for inflation, kids in the 2000s spend 500% more than their parents at the same age. Many kids don't earn the money to pay for such things, instead expecting they will just be given to them. This is the very definition of entitlement, one of the central facets of narcissism."

But the book is not focused on teens - it is just that a great deal of research has been applied to them of late. Overall there are two aspects of our society that have troubled me for some time and apply to all age groups: incivility and lack of reciprocity. I am amazed when someone is surprised that I hold the door for them (which to me is so utterly basic). The authors write, "Reciprocity is the glue that binds society together, and entitlement dissolves that glue."

The book is filled with facts, examples to make you shudder, and clear, level-headed thinking. And the authors not only diagnose the problem but provide ideas to remedy the situation. They are hopeful when they write, "we have a chance to slow the epidemic of narcissism if we learn to identify it, minimize the forces that sustain and transmit it, and treat it."
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In spite of a few repetitive factoids, the authors have created a well researched examination of the hows and whys of the cultural shifts that we are all experiencing around us. We have evolved from 'the greatest generation' of the 30s and 40s to 'the egotistical generation' of the 2000s. This shift is caused by child-centered parenting and educational practices, the narcissitic internet sites where superficiality and pomp have replaced actual relationship building, a media that has taught us to place its idols on very tall pedestals and, lastly, a banking and lending system that strongly encourages loans to those who cannot afford them simply because of the profit-taking that ensues. The future of such a social plague is not very pretty and it appears that only an economic or social crash will stop this character consuming process. Are we now entering the era known ultimately as 'the worst generation' or can we, as a group of shrinking but concerned persons, turn this anomaly around?
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on January 30, 2016
I found this book in a used book store about a year before becoming pregnant with my daughter. Best parenting decision of my life. Set me on the right track to understand what she needs from me. I wouldn't call this a parenting book, but it is extremely valuable to parents.
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on April 18, 2015
Easy read, good observations, although nothing more.
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on March 22, 2014
This is exactly what we were looking for. I am also surprised that this was a used copy as it is in excellent shape
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on October 16, 2013
Doctors Campbell and Twenge have done a great piece of work in this book.I think it's all that we need as Americans in general,but young Americans in particular are the ones most in need of reading this piece of art work.After reading this book,I broke down into tears recognizing that while self-esteem is very important for us,narcissistic flamboyance we often exhibit is not very welcoming.Humility is key to having people like you no matter now brilliantly gifted you might be.I know that we have an exceptional nation in these United States of America,but being overtly narcissistic does not do us much good as humility would do,I think.Buying and reading this book from cover to cover will do good to those who live by what these two scholars have written.
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on February 18, 2016
You were right about the current state of affairs in our modern culture :(
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on April 18, 2016
Interesting book with good references.
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on January 4, 2010
This guy at work is always blowing his own horn. Just the other day, I heard him on the phone saying to someone "I had to foresight to...". Coming from a less narcissistic culture, I couldn't understand why he acts the way he is. I happened to pick up this book the next day and it enlightened me about how to recognize this type of behaviour, root cause and side effects. Some pointers on how to deal with it. At the same time, I learned about how some of my behaviours affected others.
My friend moved into a new house and is having a child this month. I gave him one for his birthday because it talks about parenting, granite countertops and facebook. Not that he is a narcissist, but I think everyone should always be conscious about how one's attitude affects the upbringing of children, especially with all the focus on "self-esteem" nowadays. Even the most harmless "would you like to come to this store with mommy" may lead to something bigger.
Children should be taught that respect is earned in the real world, not given by parents to their child, nor by someone boasting about themselves.
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on September 6, 2014
I really enjoyed reading this book, although it saddened me and makes me feel a little ill at ease in terms of the current and future generations. Perhaps this is how parents of the children of the 80s felt? Narcissism (well, entitlement) does seem to be an epidemic, but is this because we have a label for it, or have the related behaviours and mentality really exploded? Read the book and decide for yourself.
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