“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
Literature provides humans not only a way to communicate but also an opportunity to edify and entertain one another. As with Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, when the words we read resonate with us, a special connection exists between the writer and the reader. That bond doesn’t have to involve agreement or approval, but the alliance likely must include a shared interest to be effective.
We’ve all been assigned those boring books in school that were so unrelatable that it felt like reading them was the same as hiking through quicksand. So we want to offer a brief recap from our research on reading habits and attitudes and then offer some suggestions.
16Personalities’ research demonstrates that a person’s personality type offers a glimpse into what are likely to be among that person’s reading preferences and reasons for reading, at least in our community.
- Science fiction and fantasy rule the reading interests, with 47% of survey respondents preferring this genre. Technical/educational, mystery/thrillers, and classic literature individually don’t even come close.
- The least-read style of literature is poetry, with only 3% of respondents saying they enjoy reading verse the most. (What do you all have against poetry?)
- While almost all personality types prefer science fiction/fantasy, Introverted and Intuitive personality types are more likely to prefer science fiction/fantasy than their Extraverted and Observant counterparts are.
- Mediators (INFPs) and Logicians (INTPs) are virtually tied as the two types with the greatest affinity for books about distant, imaginary places and fantastic realities.
- Observant types prefer realistic, technical/educational books and mystery/thrillers more than Intuitive types do.
- Executives (ESTJs) and Consuls (ESFJs) are the least likely to select fantasy/science fiction as their chosen genre.
- Executives are the only personality type to choose technical/educational material as their favorite genre.
- Consuls are the only personality type to choose mystery/thrillers as their favorite genre.
Purpose and Importance
As stated, we also want to discuss what our research says about why some personality types read and how important the act of reading is to them. We’ll look at all the respondents and then consider some traits and types that stand out from the rest.
- 83% of all research respondents say they consider reading an important part of their lives.
- Each Role’s affection for reading, in descending order, goes: Diplomats (NF) 85%, Analysts (NT) 84%, Sentinels (SJ) 74%, and Explorers (SP) 66%.
- While most Roles indicate that they believe reading is important, appreciation for the significance of reading in their life remains a bit lower among Observant types.
- Action-oriented Entrepreneurs (ESTPs) are the personality type least likely to agree that time spent reading is important, with only 53% (still a majority) agreeing.
- Commanders (ENTJs) are the type that’s most likely to approach reading with a clear purpose in mind.
- Prospecting types fall below average in saying that they need the clear purpose that is preferred by Commanders for reading.
Now that we’ve discussed some research around what types of books personality types tend to read and a little about their reading habits, let’s look at some suggestions offered by our staff for books based on personality type.
Analyst Personality Types
Simple characters and plots won’t work for Architect personality types, and moral ambiguity as a given in society can pique their interest. People often don’t make sense or do what’s right, and fiction gives us many examples of that. Reading often challenges us to consider the best and the worst of human behavior, which Architects may find almost clinically interesting.
For Enjoyment: Frankenstein (also called The Modern Prometheus), by Mary Shelley, is sometimes called the first science fiction novel and an example of early feminist writing. Frankenstein isn’t just an old-timey horror flick. The book is chock-full of philosophical material about what it means to be human, to make decisions, and to be moral.
For Growth: Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. Watch for the roles of intellect and emotion and the way they manifest at different points in Charlie’s life. Charlie Gordon is an adult with special needs and an IQ of 68. After experimental surgery, his IQ leaps to 185. And, of course, the story doesn’t stop there – one can imagine the implications of such a life change. In many ways, the novel is dated and reflects the culture of its time, but the treatment of intellect and its effect on happiness is worth putting up with a few antiquated and unenlightened ideas.
Logicians are always looking for a different angle. If you don’t like what’s on a Logician’s mind today, just give it a day or two, and they’ll be off on something new. They are likely to consume books that have twists and a variety of themes throughout. Logicians typically appreciate fantasy/science fiction more than other personality types do. Still, anything that challenges conventional thinking is likely to attract their attention, sci-fi or not.
For Enjoyment: Fight Club (link has some serious spoilers), by Chuck Palahniuk, is a book with many twists and many interpretations. In other words, it’s a Logician’s playground. (The barista at the coffee shop where I’m currently writing endorses this choice after noticing the title over my shoulder.)
For Growth: Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto, by Anneli Rufus. This book is for any Introverted person who cringes every time a serial killer is caught and all the neighbors who are interviewed on the news mention that the killer was “a loner.” Logicians can sometimes be a bit eccentric on top of being a bit reclusive – thus, this feel-good, lone wolf–affirmative recommendation.
Due to their strategic and often ambitious actions, Commanders often float to the top and into leadership positions. Even if they aren’t leaders, their mindset is generally that of someone in charge. From that, we might assume that books about leadership interest them.
For Enjoyment: King Lear, by William Shakespeare. This was one of Steve Jobs’s favorite reads, and it’s all about authority, fawning, and chaos. Leaders who fall for insincere flattery…fall.
For Growth: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin. What Commander wouldn’t accept that invitation? Godin always does a good job of taking the pulse of our culture and describing more effective ways to interact with others on a business, leadership, or human level.
Debaters value gathering pockets of information, which they assemble into airtight arguments or compelling ideas. They get some pleasure out of defeating someone in an argument or turning people’s heads with unique takes on different matters.
For Enjoyment: Any hard-nosed detective novel, such as the Easy Rawlins books by Walter Mosley, especially Devil in a Blue Dress, which started the series.
Publishers have published thousands of such novels from this genre, both classic and modern, about detectives who get the upper hand by cleverly unfolding mysteries and showing disdain for the bad guys who cross their paths, especially those who believe that they’re going to get away with something. Some sleuth fiction is better written than others. Think Sherlock Holmes with more of a film noir edge. Philip Marlowe, from Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, may not have been a Debater, but most Debaters could be Philip Marlowe.
For Growth: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. You don’t have to be interested in economics to appreciate the many interesting factoids and perspectives in this book. You might even find yourself honing your reasoning skills, either agreeing or disagreeing with entertaining conclusions that the authors raise.
Diplomat Personality Types
Equality and fairness are the standards that Advocates value and aspire to live by. Some sense of order colors their values to the point that they may be overeager at times to use the word “should.” In other words, we Advocates can be a little preachy (count me among you). When they read fiction, Advocates will probably appreciate books that contain strong moral overtones and endings that give a nod to justice served or that recognize justice denied.
For Enjoyment: Consider Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club about the American dream, intergenerational cultural differences, and the often difficult relationships between mothers and their daughters. The novel is fiction, but it borrows heavily from events in Tan’s own life.
For Growth: The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. This book is about socially conscious entrepreneurs as disrupters. Although the book is written for businesspeople, it has some ideas and attitudes that can be applied universally to any group or organization.
As Introverted as Mediators are, human connection is huge for them. These soft-hearted souls are moved by the plight of others. Often, their sense of purpose involves helping others live fuller lives.
For Enjoyment: The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, is a series of vignettes that take place over a year in the life of a young Mexican American girl in Chicago. In this coming-of-age story, Esperanza develops a worldview based on some of the challenges and experiences that she lives through during that time.
For Growth: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a nonfiction book written in the form of a letter to Coates’s son about the challenges of being Black in America.
Protagonists have a heart for the people they inspire. They may benefit from books with the same vibe.
For Enjoyment: The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. The book is a nod to the power of forgiveness and the value of loving support and community. In 1964, a young girl and her family’s African American maid escape abuse and brutal discrimination and find shelter in the home of three sisters who are loving beekeepers.
For Growth: Authentic Happiness, by Martin E. P. Seligman. The book describes the tenets of positive psychology, which is designed to guide people to greater fulfillment. While this book may be beneficial for most people, Protagonists can be hard on themselves and may benefit even more. Positive psychology is about playing up one’s strengths to find happiness in life.
Campaigners are often purpose-driven individuals, as long as the purpose also provides some excitement. They are true Extraverts with an appreciation for being social and seeking out the novel, but they are also emotionally vulnerable and can stress easily. Fortunately, they’re also capable of balancing stress by kicking back and enjoying themselves.
For Enjoyment: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou. From Angelou’s earliest poems to her last, we get a glimpse into her world as she covers many of life’s topics.
For Growth: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah, is the famous comedian’s account of growing up in apartheid South Africa as a biracial young person.
Sentinel Personality Types
These personalities work hard and establish themselves as people who can be relied on. A sense of integrity is often what drives Logisticians.
For Enjoyment: The Bourne Identity or any of the Bourne books by Robert Ludlum. Jason Bourne: talk about a reclusive guy who gets things done.
For Growth: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Being the quiet person in the corner isn’t at all bad. We come bearing gifts.
Imaginative in practical ways, Defenders are diligent and pay attention to what others might call mundane details.
For Enjoyment: Any Agatha Christie novel. Defenders’ detail-oriented powers of observation could easily mimic the perfect Agatha Christie detective. Miss Marple comes to mind. Murder on the Orient Express is probably a good starter book, but I personally enjoyed anything with Tommy and Tuppence involved – you can find them in the short story collection titled Partners in Crime.
For Growth: Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, by Ethan Kross. We Introverts spend a lot of time talking to ourselves in our heads. Learning to have a better relationship with that voice doesn’t hurt.
Executives are known for the way they value leadership through practical logic and order. They are often team leaders who expect others to be as dedicated and competent as they are.
For Enjoyment: Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. As the stranded boys in this novel try to organize themselves, they reveal how far off the rails unbridled human nature can take a group of people if they are not careful.
For Growth: Who Moved My Cheese?, by Spencer Johnson, MD. A parable that looks at how two different mice…yes, mice…and two “Littlepeople’s” attitudes toward change affect business and life.
The same loyalty and sense of duty that we see in other Sentinels are part of the typical Consul makeup, but these personalities have a more expressive heart. Sometimes Consuls become enmeshed in other people’s lives a bit too much.
For Enjoyment: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Values and camaraderie abound during the quest that serves as the core of the story.
For Growth: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson. The combination of Sentinel integrity, concern for their image, and a need to be involved in others’ lives may have Consuls worrying about more than perhaps they need to.
Explorer Personality Types
Virtuosos are among the most practical types. They are masters at thinking on their feet and wizards at using tools. They tend to be among the most independent of personality types as well.
For Enjoyment: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey. The novel is an exploration of conformity and independent behavior in the face of more repressive forces.
For Growth: Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (also titled The Case for Working with Your Hands), by Matthew B. Crawford. Virtuosos already get it, but it’s nice to have attitudes and behaviors confirmed.
Charming, sensitive, and imaginative, Adventurers are drawn to the innovative or unusual. This likely determines the type of book that they might appreciate.
For Enjoyment: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is about the spiritual development of a shepherd boy as he journeys in search of treasure.
For Growth: Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon. A fun book about being creative. In some ways, all creative work is collaborative and happens everywhere. Sure, the book focuses on artists, but it’s not limited to them. The book offers a mindset for imaginative productivity.
Entrepreneurs are bold and action-oriented. They are often practical and ambitious, but they may see it all as a game – a serious game, but a game.
For Enjoyment: The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. A controversial book for some, its strong emphasis on self-reliance and accomplishment may resonate with many Entrepreneurs.
For Growth: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen. A classic on how to take control of one’s days and life. When there are many moving parts, nothing beats structure for avoiding chaos, especially if the Prospecting trait makes one a bit too flexible.
These personalities are the consummate social butterflies. Entertainers love to hang around with fascinating people and offer such beguiling individuals unforgettable experiences in return. They are bons vivants who generally know what to do during any social situation.
For Enjoyment: The Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, by Kevin Kwan, about the social antics of superrich Singaporean and Chinese families. A fun romp for fun people.
For Growth: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. This is a self-help book designed to help people organize their lives more effectively. It’s not that Entertainers are terribly disorganized. But this area of their lives might need a little boost, especially when it comes to long-term planning.
So, What Do You Read?
As you can see, we listed several books or book genres/series. That means, with thousands of books being published daily, there are likely to be many, many other titles that might resonate with each personality type.
So, it’s your turn. Tell us your experience and preferences when reading and whether you recognize those preferences as being the product of your personality type. Then, help others by giving us your suggestions in the comments below.