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BNH Book Review
Published Monday, September 25, 2017

Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World
by Mitch Prinstein
2017, Viking
$27/$36 Canada
273 pages

None of the other kids like you. They don’t include you in anything; in fact, they often just plain ignore you, and some even pick on you. You don’t understand why this is, but there isn’t much you can do: quitting your job is not an option. In “Popular” by Mitch Prinstein, you’ll see why being Top Dog matters after all these years.

There’s “more than one type of popularity,” says Prinstein, and there’s a difference between popularity and likeability. Popular people have status but are often loathed. Likeable people are, well, liked. We need to be liked—it’s a matter of evolution—but can popularity be a problem?

Yes: some people will go too far for status, to the point of bullying. Others may be allowed too much status and power.

Popularity can also be negatively addicting because we believe it might make us happy. It won’t. But one thing’s for sure: “Following the example of likable people might just change our lives.”

Oh, how “Popular” is going to make you squirm. Whether you were cheerleader, class leader, or the last kid picked, reading it will whisk you back to high school with all its attendant issues and feelings. And maybe that’s the point. Prinstein makes us want to look inward to explain why we’re always invited for Happy Hour (or not) and why co-workers cheer or groan at certain names on team projects.

The squirm comes, maybe, from embarrassment or chagrin, and the realization that “we never really left high school at all” still bothers us. Fortunately, there are things we can do to change our likeability and to begin to atone for any meanness. This is an excellent book for those who want to understand what happened in their childhoods or to their kids, or for anyone who wants to be more accepted.

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