Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad -- and Surprising Good -- About Feeling Special, by Craig Malkin. Harper Wave, 256 pp., $25.99.

Many people think of narcissism as a poor personality trait and narcissists as people we should try to avoid. Sure, there's some truth to this, but moderate doses of narcissism are not only good, but also necessary, for self-esteem, relationships and health, says clinical psychologist Craig Malkin, an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Malkin explains how narcissism, the drive to feel special, falls on a spectrum -- and having either too little or too much of it can be unhealthy.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"You can think of narcissism kind of like a drug," Malkin says. "When people become addicted to it, that's when they venture into becoming narcissists or extreme narcissists."

The book includes a 30-question survey that allows readers to measure where they fall on the Narcissism Spectrum Scale, an assessment tool developed by Malkin and his colleagues. (You can take a shorter version of this survey at

People who fall on the low end of the spectrum are called echoists, named after the nymph Echo in the myth of Echo and Narcissus from Ovid's "Metamorphoses." These are people who shy away from attention and "are convinced that being ordinary is the safest way to live," Malkin writes.