Should Myers-Briggs Affect Readers’ Advisory?

“Feburary by Lisa Moore,” I said as I handed it to her.
“Okay! But why?”
“Because you have the right personality for it.”

Matching the right person up with the right book is one of my favourite ways of showing people that I care about them. I think in order to confidently recommend a story to a person, you have to understand them on a deeper level than “What other books do you like?” You have to know what makes them laugh and how deeply they can feel ; you have to know what they want to believe in. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I came across Huffington Post’s Myers-Briggs Book Recommendation. Two of my greatest academic interests. Colliding. In one aggressively nerdy dream come true.

I’ve always been slightly sceptical of online reader advisory services. Often times I find the criteria advisory services take into account too limiting (i.e. genre, subject, or age/gender). And the English Major in me is (unfortunately) too critical (and snobby) for most bestsellers. I’ll admit it: I’m a difficult patron. Yes, I’ll read anything, for the experience. But what do I want to read?

“A dark comedy with elements of magic-realism, philosophical allusions, emotional turbulence, and maybe even some absurdity. Written in a poetically compelling way. But not too scary. And not too predictable. And definitely not by Stephanie Meyer.”

Despite my extreme interest in personality typology, I opened the Huffington Post article with some skepticism. Would every ENFP type personality really have similar enough interests to warrant the perfect recommendation? Apparently yes.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/myers-briggs-books_n_4098232.html

ENFP “The Advocate”
Traits: Energetic, bright, confident, imaginative
Book: Russell’s work is stylistically innovative and conceptually playful — these traits recently won her a MacArthur Fellowship — and her stories undulate quickly from fantasy to grim reality. ENFPs are likely to appreciate such an intellectual and emotional roller coaster.” [1]

The explanation of why “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” is perfect for an ENFP shows that whoever wrote this list deeply understands the nuances of the typology. If there’s one thing ENFPs are drawn towards, it’s a bizarre story. Innovative, playful, emotional roller coaster? It’s difficult to tell whether the reviewer was describing the book or her ENFP friend!

I’m a quarter of a way through this book and it has lived up to my high expectations. It’s surprising, intelligent, heart-felt, insightful, and imaginative. Not only have I discovered a new favourite book, but I’ve discovered a new way to recommend books to my friends.

There would be great value to creating a more extensive recommendation list or data base of books based on which personality type they serve. Libraries would benefit by offering a joint personality analysis + book recommendation service. I’ve already begun brainstorming other books that fit the ENFP typology (Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Lemony Snicket). Maybe one day I’ll have a chance to implement a similar concept in a public library.

Imagine personality type sticker labels added to the decoration of book spines. Horror, Short Stories, ENFP. Science Fiction, INTP. Historical Fiction, ISTJ. What would this do for patrons? It would allow them to understand themselves better, by identifying their personality type and by experiencing a story which is perfectly suited to their cores. And isn’t that the point of fiction? To help the reader understand his or her own self and how that self relates to the rest of the world?

1. Crum, Maddie. “Here Is The One Perfect Book For Every Single Myers-Briggs Type.” 13 October 2013. The Huffington Post. Webpage.

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