I’m a personality junkie, and have been for years.
(In fact, I wrote a book about personality coming out this fall: Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything. Click here to pre-order. 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.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →