There are plenty of good places to start learning about MBTI. I am often asked what books to read to begin, so I am starting a series of book reviews related to typology and MBTI.
Carl Gustav Jung
I would actually NOT start with Carl Jung (CGJ) and Psychological Types, as it is dense, esoteric, and better reserved for the 3rd or 4th book after a more simple framework has been established. I think reading his book as your first foray into Typology might turn you away from it altogether. Even though in most cases we should always start at the beginning, this is a special circumstance where it will not serve you well.
Where to Start
I recommend starting with Gifts Differing, by Isabel Briggs Myers. It is essentially the Bible for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This book had been in the making for decades before it was finally released in the 80s. Isabel and her mother Katherine, had been developing an assessment that could take the incomplete theories of CGJ and make them into a digestible format that could be taken by anybody across the world. Carl had never truly ventured outside of his clinical practice to apply Type to the world, so this mother-daughter pair made it happen!
Gifts Differing, by Isabel Briggs Myers, is surprisingly technical; it contains lots of graphs, charts, and standard deviation analysis of all kinds of things such as Type and academic pursuit, Type and IQ, Type and romance, Type and career, Type and learning styles, etc. For those who need more than anecdotal evidence to be convinced, this book is shockingly dense with longitudinal studies to support the reality of Type.
The book also covers some more complicated parts of MBTI like cognitive functions, which is the true beauty of MBTI. Along with this, is how the types develop over a lifetime, another major differentiator of MBTI vs. other assessments. As all Typologists resoundingly agree, we can’t talk about personality type unless we talk about development.
The prose is quite remarkable and is only rivaled by the great David Kiersey who wrote Please Understand Me. Because, think about it–you can only use so many words to simply describe somebody (direct, quiet, shy, outgoing, gregarious etc.); it’s when you start using allegories and poetic nuances that you truly dig down into the depths of each type. Gifts Differing contains this language. After all, Isabel Myers was an INFP, so she gets right to the heart of each type. Her connection to each Type is thoroughly apparent throughout this book.
I give this book an 85/100. It definitely cannot be missed when studying MBTI! I consider it essential reading for a baseline understanding of MBTI, and how Isabel and Katherine began to form their assessment over many years. It’s a healthy combination of anecdotal and statistical information that will appeal to all “types” of personality enthusiasts.
For more reading list suggestions, look forward to some of my future blog posts.
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