Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Baker Books, Anne Bogel, and Netgalley for sending me an advance reader copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Truly knowing yourself is one of the hardest things you can do, but it’s also one of the most valuable. The sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll begin to see the payoff.
Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything grew out of Anne’s love for personality frameworks. Reading People is a primer for several of the more common personality frameworks with easy to understand applications and examples for how to recognize the personalities in yourself and others.
The personality frameworks explored by Anne are
• Introversion / Extroversion
• High Sensitivity
• Chapman’s Five Love Languages
• Keirsey’s Temperaments
• Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
• MBTI Cognitive Functions
• Clifton StrengthsFinder
Personality is always a bit of a tricky subject for me. I’ve jokingly said that in personality quizzes, I always get the “worst” personality. Case in point: in the “Which Harry Potter Character Shares Your Myers-Briggs” quizzes, I’m invariably either Draco Malfoy or Voldemort. That kind of assessment doesn’t exactly make the heart sing or swell with pride at being an INTJ.
Even outside of Myers-Briggs, I’ve never had the personality that drew people to me. I have been called every variation of cold, unwelcoming, and intimidating (ironic given my five-foot-nothing stature). There’s obviously some gender bias here, since many of the things that make up my personality are sometimes viewed as problematic specifically because I am a woman who comes across as “cold” as opposed to a man who comes across as “analytical.” While I can’t find exact statistics, a quick search indicates that the INTJ is accepted as the least-common personality in women, with the associated personality traits direct opposites of the traits stereotypically seen as “feminine.” People who know me don’t describe me this way (…I don’t think) but this is apparently the first impression I give off, particularly in a public/crowded setting.
Over the years, I’ve come to terms with the benefits of my personality but it’s never been something I loved. This baggage and background is the minefield into which I waded with Reading People in hand.
What Reading People Is and Is Not
Reading People takes seven of the more popular/widely known personality frameworks, gives a basic overview of each, provides enough information to give you an idea of where you fall within that personality spectrum, and then provides resources to read more. The book is not an exhaustive resource on the major personality frameworks nor does it try to be.
Because of this structure, I can see the book have two main uses—the first is to give enough of an overview of each framework to make the reader pause during times of conflict and stress to consider whether the issue isn’t a misunderstanding based on personality. The book gives enough of a very quick overview of each different personality within each spectrum to give the reader a sense of the ways that each personality is different, with an emphasis that different doesn’t mean bad.
The other way this book can come in handy is to give enough of a taste of a particular personality framework to make you want to know more. This is particularly useful since several of the indicators do cost money to take “official tests”—like Enneagram, StrengthsFinder, and (to an extent) the Myers-Briggs (MBTI). If one particular framework resonates, you know it’s worth spending money to find more. Anne is also pretty meticulous about citing her sources and providing a Recommended Resources section for books to read on each type, providing an excellent starting point for further reading on particular frameworks.
If you take nothing else from Reading People, Anne is going to make darn sure that you know your personality is not a bad thing or a liability. It is perhaps the grand, overarching theme that each personality has strengths they bring to the table and that workplaces and societies don’t function without each type.
Ironically, what convinced me that Anne believed this the most was not her clear, concise writing or her insistence that this was the case, but the example Anne gave early on in when she discusses the pitfalls of having your personality defined by your aspirations rather than your reality. In particular, Anne pegged herself incorrectly for any years as an INTJ because this is what she aspired to be. Well if that doesn’t just flip the typical view of my Voldemort-personality on its head, I’m not sure what does.
Anne’s emphasis throughout the book is recognizing that personality is not a “grade”—there are not personalities that are better or worse than others, though certain personalities may find they are better suited to certain tasks than others. Moreover, personality is not the be-all-end-all. Personality doesn’t dictate character or your destiny—as people we are still in control and ultimately responsible for our kindness, how we treat people, and the choices we make in life. Personality is the “lens” of the camera but isn’t the camera or even the picture that results.
I am not in a place where I have any interest in reading “Christian books” right now. This presented a bit of a conundrum for me since I am a big fan of Anne’s blog and podcast and wanted an opportunity to see an ARC of Reading People. Anne doesn’t hide her own faith, though she also doesn’t mention it terribly often in these media. She’s highly recommended books like This Is How It Always Is about a family with a transgender child—books that would generally not fit the stereotypical mold of someone whose book is published by Baker Books, a division of the Baker Publishing Group that seeks to “publish high-quality writings that represent historic Christianity and serve the diverse interests and concerns of evangelical readers.”
Reading People manages to avoid most of the things that made me trepidatious about this book. If you are a person of (Christian) faith, the book has parts that will resonate with you, as Anne applies some of the frameworks to her prayer and faith life. There are several Bible verses quoted, along with quotes from C.S. Lewis (though most of those are not explicitly Christian)—these are easy to skip over and keep going. If you’re looking to avoid these references, there are never more than a sentence or two to skip before you can get back into the body of the book, without having missed anything. Reading People still stands entirely on its own. There is nothing that the reader misses by skipping these.
That said, if you’re in a place where you have no interest in even seeing references to Christian faith, this isn’t the book for you. Two of the personality frameworks—the Five Love Languages and the Enneagram—are explicitly rooted in the Christian faith. While they have applications outside faith and don’t require any particular faith to use or apply them, there is no getting around these roots. Several of Anne’s examples for how she learned to recognize different personalities and apply the lessons of the book also come from church examples because that’s where she was spending her time at the time she had some these personality insights.
From my interactions with Anne in Book Club as well as the launch group for this book, I feel pretty confident in asserting that Anne’s goal was to make this book welcoming for all readers, even those who don’t identify as Christian. Ultimately, I think so long as you are not in a place where Christian references are highly-triggering, this is a well-written, highly-readable book that is a great introduction to personality frameworks that will still resonate with most readers interested in the topic.
Anne’s writing style is clear and straightforward and the book is well-organized. As an introduction to personality frameworks, Reading People is a good introductory book that gives you enough of a taste to let you know where you might want to find more. Some sections are easier to read than others, though that tends to be a function of the test—the Five Love Languages are conceptually simpler than something like the MBTI Cognitive Types or the Enneagram.
Because of the way the book is structured, this book is better read in pieces—one or two chapters at a time, rather than a book you speed through. If you’re looking for an in-depth discussion of the personality frameworks or your particular personality, Reading People is going to be too shallow a dive. You would be better suited to consulting Anne’s Recommended Resources to find books with more depth into a particular framework.
Overall, I recommend Reading People for those generally interested in learning more about what makes themselves and others tick or looking for a place to start in getting to know themselves better. Reading People is a safe place to start, even for us Voldemort-types.
Because this book isn’t out quite yet, there are still some fun pre-order bonuses available for the next two weeks. If you pre-order the book in any form and provide proof of the pre-order, you’ll receive a free audiobook download of the book as well as access to a fun free class Anne did on reading personalities. Proof of purchase can be submitted at ReadingPeopleBook.com.
Other Reviews of Note
Several other readers also got copies of Reading People to review in advance of the publication date. Here are other reviews that might pique your interest:
Glistering: B’s Blog – includes a giveaway of a copy of the book along with ideas of how to implement/use the frameworks for writers, parents, teachers, and employers.
Marisa Mohi – with a focus on how to use personality frameworks to create consistent characters in fiction
Louden Clear in Education – applying the frameworks to life as a teacher
TBR, etc, – another reviewer looking at Anne’s Christian background and how it informed reading the book (so you don’t have to take my word for it).
Published: September 19, 2017 by Baker Books Preorder available on Amazon
Author: Anne Bogel (“Modern Mrs. Darcy“) (@annebogel)
Date read: August 4, 2017
Rating: 3 3/4 Stars