My favorite personality books

My favorite personality books

I’m a personality junkie, and have been for years.

(In fact, I wrote a book about personality: Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything. The cover was inspired by the Puffin in Bloom books. I hope you can see it!)

I’ve read a metric ton of personality books over the last few years, and these are 9 of my favorite titles. I’m not focusing on the highly technical or scientific stuff here, but the accessible, eye-opening, and life-changing books (not exaggerating here) that have also given me genuinely enjoyable reading experiences.

Series: My Favorite Personality Books
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Author:
This is one of the best books you've never heard of ... although I hope to put it on your radar! According to psychologist Carol Dweck, who has now spent decades studying this topic, “mindset” simply means the way you see the world. It’s a simple core belief that guides a large part of your life. Some people have a fixed mindset; others have a growth mindset. Unlike many other personality frameworks, which are value-neutral in their descriptions, there is definitely a "better" answer here: you want a growth mindset! The topic may sound dry but Dweck's numerous story-driven examples make this a fascinating—and potentially life-changing—read. More info →
The Highly Intuitive Child: A Guide to Understanding and Parenting Unusually Sensitive and Empathic Children

The Highly Intuitive Child: A Guide to Understanding and Parenting Unusually Sensitive and Empathic Children

Some of you are going to think this one is a little (or a lot) woo-woo, but if you're an intuitive type, or are close to an intuitive type, don't miss this one! "Highly intuitive" is not the same as "highly sensitive," but many consider highly intuitive people to be a small subset of HSPs. The book's scope is broader than you’d expect from the title: the author addresses very small children through late teens, and the final chapter is devoted to adult intuitives. More info →
The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide

The Essential Enneagram: The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide

I really like the way this book explains the 9 enneagram types, and the self-test is genius. If your primary goal is to identify your type, start here. Instead of an inventory of questions that delivers a definitive answer, Price and Daniels present nine paragraphs describing each of the nine types. You pick the three that sound most like you, and the authors guide you from there. My favorite part is how Price and Daniels rely heavily on statistical analysis to tell you how you're likely to get your type wrong. (For example, the authors state that 68% of Nines get their type right on the first try, and the most common look-alike types for a Nine are 2, 4, and 7.) More info →
Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive

Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive

This book is based on the Myers-Briggs Type Index; it shows you how to boost your creativity by learning more about your type. I enjoyed it my library copy enough that I bought it, and wrote about it in this post. You'll appreciate this book most after you've identified your Myers-Briggs type; it focuses on the types one-by-one, it's not laid out in a way that makes the types easy to compare. The reviews on this are decidedly mixed, but I love it—I got so many good insights about myself out of this book, especially pertaining to the ways I plan, organize, and work. More info →
The Birth Order Book

The Birth Order Book

Author:
I have a longstanding love for this book, which a family member introduced to me decades ago. Kevin Leman calls himself America’s top “pop” birth order psychologist: the book relies on anecdotes and personal experience more than serious research. But birth order makes sense for a vast majority of people most of the time, because there is no greater influence on a young child growing up than his or her family. (If you want the serious research, the deliberate practice literature is full of findings on birth order.) First borns and functional firsts are most likely to love it, but whether that’s because of their nature or because their type is covered so extensively within its pages is yet to be determined. (I’m a firstborn, and I love this book.) More info →
The Highly Sensitive Person

The Highly Sensitive Person

Author:
If you're an HSP, your nervous system is more sensitive to physical and/or emotional stimulation than the general population, and about 20% of you fall in that category. If that rings true for you (or someone you love or interact with) this book is life-changing. Highly recommended. (More about highly sensitive people here.) If you suspect yourself to be a sensitive sort, or if you think you might be raising a highly sensitive child, you can skip this book and read The Highly Sensitive Child. (I say that because The Highly Sensitive Child is gentler in its descriptions of how the world bruises highly sensitive types, and contains all the essential information contained in Aron's original HSP book.) More info →
Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Author:
The book that made introversion sexy again. I thought I was well-versed on personality issues, but Susan Cain’s brilliant book made me go “Aha!” over and over again. Despite my interest in the topic, I was hesitant to pick this one up because it sounded boring. I expected dry and boring and instead it was riveting. The content is fantastic but Cain is also a top-notch storyteller. Highly recommended, for introverts AND extroverts. More info →
Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence

Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence

Author:
This little blue book(which has never been advertised, but spread only by word of mouth) was one of the first books to popularize the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and bring MBTI categories into the public consciousness. The book begins with the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II, the most widely used personality test in the world. Keirsey's four temperaments–Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational–don't exactly align with Briggs' and Myers' theories; the two differed in their beliefs in small ways. But I wasn't able to understand MBTI until Keirsey explained the four temperaments to me, explaining why these types are the way they are, and what that means in practical terms. More info →
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

This is the newest book on the list, just published in late 2016. Cron is an Episcopal priest, and in this book he explores using the Enneagram (that's pronounced "ANY-uh-gram) as a spiritual tool, along with his co-author Suzanne Stabile, an Enneagram master teacher. I loved the way Cron shares stories that vividly illustrate what each type may look like in action. (Though I was surprised he shared so many examples about his children and celebrities, because it's widely believed that no one can identify your Enneagram type but you, and that people can't be typed with certainty before close to age 30.) If you're new to the Enneagram and would appreciate a Christian perspective, this book would be a great place to start. More info →

 

my favorite personality books

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43 comments

  1. Laura says:

    Your book’s title is absolutely perfect for you! Can’t wait to read it. I always appreciate your insights into personality (I’m also an INFP/9/HSP).

  2. Tara says:

    I had to learn some things related to birth order in training for my job; I find it fascinating! Quiet by Susan Cain is one of my very favorite books; I felt like I learned so much about myself, as well as others, while reading and have listened to it twice on audio!

  3. Jennifer N. says:

    Mindset is a book I’ve heard about over the various podcasts I listen to and I really do need to get a hold of that one, although I am terrible at reading non-fiction (audio is usually much better for me with this type of book.) I’ve also been thinking about picking up Quiet. I consider myself an introvert, but I’m not completely convinced as I do find *some* time with other people to be re-charging (although too much can fully deplete my batteries.)

  4. Susan says:

    Mindset is required reading in Freshman English in my school district, and the English department puts it into practice by always allowing revisions on papers because they want to encourage students’ growth in/through their writing.

    • Michelle says:

      This is an excellent practice for students to adopt and I love that your school encourages this actively. It’s a skill that will serve them well going forward into higher education, and their personal and professional lives.

      • Jennifer N. says:

        I had one English professor in college (admittedly, I was a chemistry major) who allowed you to make up half credit with revisions and I was in love with this policy. If I were an English teacher this is definitely a policy I would adopt. My work was much better and therefore, my grade 🙂

        • Jes says:

          As a 7th grade English teacher, I would always let students submit corrected work for up to half of their credit back. Sadly, the ones who really needed it, never took me up on the offer.

  5. rebecca says:

    What a great list. I am intrigued by the Birth Order book and wonder if Leman references Walter Toman’s extensive research on this very subject decades ago Toman’s research is so interesting, however his book is so outdated that it is almost offensive to read in this day and age; I’ve been hoping someone would freshen up the language a bit. Also, Murray Bowen later borrowed from Toman’s research to include in his theory of family systems and he stressed that only if all things are equal in the family, the birth order is relevant. Interesting stuff that I can easily geek out on (as a self-described social theory junkie).

  6. Anne, I love the cover of your book! It’s just perfectly you 🙂

    If you like the Birth Order Book and you’re a firstborn, you really should read The Firstborn Advantage. All the firstborns in my life are currently reading it 🙂

  7. Mary says:

    Huge congratulations on your new book, Anne! Imagine having your name on a cover…..and a most beautiful cover at that! Enjoy the fruit of your hard work!

  8. Angela Mills says:

    I am just so excited that you wrote a book! I can’t wait to read it. I love all things personality-test related! It’s helped me so much in understanding myself and others. I so look forward to reading your book.

  9. The only one of these I’m familiar with is The Birth Order Book. I was surprised to not see Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin on this list. I think it’s a great place to start for people who are interested in learning about personality types because she only details four categories – less intimidating and easier to understand for beginners than the endless possibilities you find with Myers-Briggs and Enneagram.

  10. Krista says:

    I’m interested in the Enneagram book! I took the official test a few months ago and know that I’m a 2 and read the very thorough info provided after the test but would love to know more. It was so interesting reading the info provided because when I was reading the weaknesses in my type I could very easily picture things I do that lined up exactly with the mode things!

    My favorite personality books are anything to do with the Strengths Finder. In grad school I took the assessment (independent of my coursework) and had a wonderful leadership in education professor who allowed me to modify my assignments to include my SF results in my papers (so my papers turned into epic 13- and 20-page novellas on leadership and my personality type!). For me it was like a lightbulb going off, especially when I realized my number one strength is Woo.

  11. Kathy Kelada says:

    Hi Anne,
    I love all your selections and have found some fabulous reads on your blog so thank you so much!! I have recently written a book about women and shoes – attaching women’s personalities to different shoe types. Please check it out: Be The Shoe, betheshoes.com
    I’d love to send you a copy if you’re interested. Just seemed like the perfect time to let you know since this was the topic today!
    Best,
    Kathy

  12. Shauna says:

    Congratulations on your book! That is HUGE and fantastic news! I’m sure it should be added to this list.

    I’m excited to pick up the enneagram books, as I’m less familiar with it than I am with Myers-Briggs (ENFP here!), and especially because I’ve had a hard time pinning down my enneagram number. I have found Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before helpful. I’m neither an introvert nor an HSP, but most of these titles still intrigue me (I’m a firstborn and think I have an HSP child).

  13. M.E. Bond says:

    Congratulations, Anne! I was wondering what you were writing a book about. I will echo the other commenters who already said that the cover is beautiful. 🙂

  14. Amy says:

    You should check out Carol Tuttle’s “The Child Whisperer.” It has opened my eyes to the wonders and potentials of my beloved kiddos, as well as myself and even my biggest child: my husband.

  15. Rachael says:

    Hi! I am a 34 year old wife (to a pastor) and mother of 3. I’m a first born; ISFJ; HSP; Obliger; Enneagram 5w6; Strengths Finder results: Deliberative/Intellection/Harmony/Input/Responsibility; former fixed mindset (growing in this area!)… I am so looking forward to reading your book. I love working out personality types! I could read about them (and other topics like habits) all day. I guess I am trying to work myself and others out. Problem is, aside from my husband, noone around me really cares to hear what I have been learning so I’m left to mull over things on my own. Any suggestions for how I can use what I learn to actually contribute to society (beyond my family)?! If you look at my 5w6 + Intellection + Input, I basically like to ‘collect’ information I am deeply interested in and have the space to think about it. Beyond that, I’m stuck!

  16. Nice list. My absolute favorite is “The Four Elements of Success” by Laurie Beth Jones. It sparked more conversation amongst friends than any book I’ve read and was sure spot on for my personality.

  17. Mandy Turner says:

    Would love to see a podcast series centered around personality stuff, similar to the one this fall about kids lit – maybe timed around the book release? I always find it so interesting when personality is discussed.

  18. Livia says:

    I find personality interesting, but I have trouble when it gets taken too seriously. I feel that none of the varieties can account for every person nor for how that person changes. I really dislike the idea that personality is somehow set in stone. I especially feel that meyers-briggs is taken too seriously (I’m one of the people who gets different combinations and none of them describe me too a T; my sister who was even across the four personalities (the lion, otter, whatever one, choleric, melancholic one, did feel hers fit her to a t). I don’t know, I feel that sometimes personality types are used to excuse some behavior or are entirely too limiting.

  19. Libby says:

    I have been so obsessed with the Enneagram the past few weeks. I listened to an episode of the Liturgists podcast all about it and I just want everyone around me to figure out their numbers so I can love them best. 🙂
    The Road Back To You is on it’s way to me right now.

  20. Kaitlyn says:

    I actually really didn’t like the Birth Order book, it didn’t apply or fit almost every single family I knew! Disappointing.
    But if you like personality books, you should definitely check out The Child Whisperer, by Carol Tuttle. Its different then taking a personality test, etc. Very positive about what each Type brings to the world. She has a number of books about it but this one is probably the most detailed personality and movement wise. She also makes a ton of videos on her site about things like: how each type expresses anger, whats in each type purse, humor for each type, etc. Its a really fun way to get into energy and personality. 🙂

  21. Jillian says:

    The birth order book seems very interesting. I am a twin (with very different personality than my twin) and would love suggestions on the psychology/personality of twins!

  22. I loved the review of “Creative You” where you can discover your own personality with the help of few simple exercises.
    The tools provided in the books also helped me and I have added a few things and trust me I have improved …
    Great post

  23. Carrie says:

    “Quiet” is a great book. I have a degree in Psychology, so personality typing always interest me and this is a very good list! But, for me, the Aha moment came when I read about the HSP on this blog. Then, I read Elaine Aron’s book. It explained so much to me as to how I reacted to things and that I was OK

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