Today I’m combining two of my favorite things: personality theory and summer reading.
I’ve chosen a great summer read that features a protagonist representing each of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types. (Is it difficult to type fictional characters? Yes, because the text usually provides incomplete information. I’d love to hear alternate theories in comments.)
Should you only read the book for your type? Of course not. But seeing which characters embody the various types will help you better understand the Myers-Briggs Type Index and yourself.
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ISTJ: «The duty-fulfiller.» (Traits: capable, logical, reasonable, peaceful)
This novel is such good fun for book lovers, and at its heart is small-town bookseller A. J. Fikry. He’s seen better days: he’s isolated himself after the death of his wife, his bookstore sales are at record lows, and he’s decidedly cranky about the state of publishing. Like any good ISTJ, he still takes pride in his work and is a model of personal responsibility. So when a mysterious package (a baby!) arrives on his doorstep, practical, no-nonsense Fikry does the right thing, and it’s incredible to see what happens next. An engrossing story about second chances. More info →
ISFJ: «The nurturer. (Traits: warm, generous, dependable, loyal)
Philologist and Oxford lecturer Diana Morgan has been obsessed with the mythical tribe of women warriors known as the Amazons since childhood, when her grandmother claimed to be one, then disappeared without a trace. When Diana is invited on a mysterious expedition that claims to have proof of the Amazon’s existence, she’s too brave (and stubborn) to refuse, even though the plan seems shady. Diana is soon trekking across continents to uncover the truth about the women warriors—and her own family. This sweeping novel switches back and forth in time between Diana and her ancient counterpart Myrina, putting a unique spin on the familiar tale of the Trojan War. More info →
INFJ: «The advocate.» (Traits: devoted, passionate, altruistic, gentle)
In this Southern classic, small-town attorney Atticus Finch attempts a hopeless defense of a black man unjustly accused of rape, and to teach his children, Scout and Jem, about the evils of racism. Atticus is that rare combination (truly, because INFJs make up less than 1% of the population) of idealism and action: though soft-spoken, he will fight to the death for what he believes in. There’s no question he’ll defend Tom Robinson: Atticus strives to see the world made right, on the large scale and the small. A moving story about an iconic character, and the powerful effect he has on his community. More info →
INTJ: «The strategist.» (Traits: intelligent, observant, self-confident, decisive)
Oh, My Darcy. You’re such a classic … INTJ. Everything about this man rubs Elizabeth the wrong way: he dislikes crowds and is uneasy socializing with strangers. He’s comfortable talking about facts but hates talking about feelings. And he’s very perceptive: in a short amount of time, he can form a picture of someone’s character. When he makes a decision, he acts on it, which only further complicates things (see: that awkward proposal, separating Bingley from Jane). But he’s a man of his convictions—brave and stubborn and protective of the people he cares about—and that brings us to a happy ending. Eventually. More info →
Who would have thought moss could be so interesting? Gilbert’s sweeping novel follows the life of the enigmatic Alma Whittaker, a 19th century scientist (before that was even a word). A maker at heart, and very aware of her strengths and limitations, Alma struggles to develop her unifying «Theory of Competitive Alteration» to describe her findings. Gilbert brings the field of botany to life in this ambitious novel. More info →
ISFP: «The composer.» (Traits: hands-on, creative, perceptive, free spirit)
Gabaldon intended to write a realistic historical novel, but a modern woman kept inserting herself into the story! She decided to leave her for the time being—it’s hard enough to write a novel, she’d edit her out later—but would YOU edit out Claire? I didn’t think so. A former combat nurse, Claire is smart and fearless, feisty and compassionate. Nothing proves a character’s adaptability by having them walk through an ancient standing stone and having them fall back in time to 1743 Scotland. Heads up for racy content and graphic torture scenes. More info →
INFP: «The dreamer.» (Traits: sensitive, imaginative, idealistic, thoughtful)
Anne is a textbook INFP: an idealistic kindred spirit who lives more in her dream world than the real world. She can talk the hind leg off a mule (according to Rachel Lynde), but she needs quiet time alone, and drifts into deep thought when she should be focused on practical matters (like geometry, or Marilla’s dirty dishes). She’s a hopeless romantic, committed to her ideals, and guided by pure intentions—though that doesn’t keep her from getting into plenty of scrapes. She brings compassion, kindness, and beauty wherever she goes, but it’s never a smooth road: when she’s happy, she soars as if through a glorious sunset—then crashes with a sudden thud. Unlike Marilla, who prefers to skip the flying and the thud, the INFP in Anne wouldn’t have it any other way. More info →
INTP: «The thinker.» (Traits: independent, unconventional, rational, ingenious)
In King’s beloved Maine, high school English teacher Jake Epping discovers a doorway into the past: into 1958, to be precise. In true INTP style, Epping starts experimenting, and realizes any changes he makes in 1958 have a corresponding effect in the present. (INTPs are inventive, creative, and smart, and tend to act on ideas that aren’t fully developed—like, say, stepping into a wormhole into 1958.) Before long, Epping commits himself to a bold mission: to prevent the Kennedy assassination. King’s weird blend of history is decidedly creepy, but not scary, and I found it enthralling, if a bit long. More info →
ESTP: «The doer.» (Traits: active, energetic, sociable, adventurous)
This epic Civil War drama tells the tale of the Old South from the dawn of the war through Reconstruction through the eyes of Scarlett O’Hara, a beautiful, vivacious Southern belle, and a quintessential ESTP. Dramatic and passionate, Scarlett delights in being the center of attention: she is quite literally the belle of the ball. Like many ESTPs, Scarlett can turn on the charm or be intensely practical (or both at once, if you consider her marriages). ESTPs live in the present and believe life is a daring adventure: Scarlett barely hesitates before she takes on midwifery, the Union Army, Atlanta burning, or battlefield hospitals. Her enthusiastic adventures keep you turning the pages. More info →
ESFP: «The performer.» (Traits: adaptable, spontaneous, outgoing, fun-loving)
In this breezy, relatable novel we meet Lanie Coates: a talented artist whose creative work has slowly been crowded out by her three small boys. Lanie’s spontaneous style is hampered by the demands of motherhood, and she desperately misses her art. (No surprise: ESFPs have the strongest aesthetic sense of any type.) Things come to a head when Lanie leaves everything behind to move across the country for her husband’s career. ESFPs are more likely to avoid conflict than address it, which predictably leads to trouble. It’s no spoiler to say that Lanie finds her way back to herself, and she does it by finding a way to let other people shine. Classic ESFP. More info →
ENFP: «The inspirer.» (Traits: bright, confident, enthusiastic, charming)
At the dawn of another New Year, Bridget Jones is 32, single, and desperate to take control of her life—so she starts keeping a diary. And such a diary. Bridget is a free spirit, fond of witty banter, enthusiastic about everything, and her enthusiasm lives on every page, where she shares her never-lukewarm opinions about everything from diet to work her love life. She may seem flighty, but she’s always searching for deeper meaning. She also has great people skills. This might not be obvious when she first meets straight-laced barrister Mark Darcy (INTJ), but the novel is based on Pride and Prejudice, so of course they get off to a bumpy start. More info →
ENTP: «The originator.» (Traits: quick-minded, rational, conversational, improvising)
Taylor Jenkins Reid branches out with a hot new summer release that’s quite a departure from her previous works. Her first historical novel focuses on an aging Hollywood starlet, fashioned in the image of Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth, whose successful career is less intriguing to the public than her tumultuous personal life, namely her seven husbands. Before she dies, Evelyn wants to tell the world which was her one true love, and so she plucks a young journalist from obscurity to write her celebrity tell-all. Evelyn’s ENTP qualities make her a strong candidate for her intimate memoir: she’s painfully honest and willing to deal with unpleasant truths. As was true with her career, Evelyn knows her weak spots, and expects the sucker punch. In the twilight of life, she knows what she MUST tell the world before she dies, and she’s doing it. More info →
ESTJ: «The guardian.» (Traits: dependable, straightforward, practical, conscientious)
Major Pettigrew is your typical model citizen: honest, dedicated, and dignified, devoted to tradition and order. He has clear ideas about what is acceptable, is absolutely inflexible, and sticks to his principles in all situations. So when an unexpected friendship, and then maybe something more, blossoms between this consummate Englishman and the local Pakistani shopkeeper, the whole village is aghast. Like most ESTJs, Major Pettigrew is socially adept, but not great at reading other peoples’ emotions, and that leads to all sorts of misadventures on the road to happiness. A winsome story with an unlikely hero. More info →
ESFJ: «The caregiver.» (Traits: warmhearted, tactful, consistent, enthusiastic)
This is Gaskell’s Pride and Prejudice. Margaret Hale, an outspoken and energetic woman from the South of England, is forced to move to an industrial town in the North with her family. As an ESFJ, Margaret is resistant to change, and is sentimental about the loss of her old, idyllic life. Margaret has zero qualms about calling out anything unjust, and she forms immediate, strong opinions about the Northern factories, which she doesn’t hesitate to share with John Thornton, who runs a local mill. But as Margaret begins to understand and participate in Milton life, she begins to understand, and then enjoy, the town and its people—and can see that she’s been clinging to a romanticized version of life in the South, and has seriously misjudged Mr. Thornton as well. (Don’t skip the book, but the 2004 BBC miniseries is terrific.) More info →
ENFJ: «The mentor.» (Traits: charming, gracious, warm, creative)
Jane Austen called Emma «a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.» That may have been true had Emma remained as she was on page one: 21 years old, «handsome, clever, and rich,» vain and snobbish. But, Austen’s own opinion aside, she’s not hopeless. Charismatic and confident, Emma is a natural leader. She loves being the center of attention, yet takes a genuine interest in others—and has a tendency to get a little to involved in their problems, especially when it comes to matchmaking. (No surprise: relationships are central to an ENFJs life.) In fact, she’s so focused on her idealistic dreams for other people’s matches that she fails to perceive what’s actually happening, whether in her own relationships, or theirs. Emma’s eyes are opened when that vanity becomes the source of her worse pain, plunging her into the familiar Austen journey of regret, remorse, and self-discovery. More info →
ENTJ: «The commander.» (Traits: goal-oriented, forceful, confident, efficient)
In the idyllic small town of Three Pines, Quebec, where people don’t even lock their doors, a beloved local woman is found in the woods with an arrow shot through her heart. The locals believe it must be a hunting accident, but the police inspector senses something is off. The story is constructed as a classic whodunit but it feels like anything but, with its deliberate pacing, dry wit, and lyrical writing. A stunningly good first novel. Still Life is the first in a series that keeps getting better. Great on audio.
More info →
Want more book recommendations? Check out the 2017 Summer Reading Guide and take the What’s your reading personality? quiz.
P.S. The Enneagram types of your favorite books, characters, and authors, MBTI: strengths :: enneagram: motivations, my burst of insight, and 5 reasons discovering your personality type will change your life.
P.P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.
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