The best books to understand personality and who you are

Mark Jabbour Author Of Election 2016: The Great Divide, the Great Debate
By Mark Jabbour

Who am I?

I’ve always been a talker. In the fourth grade my teacher, L. Wood, wrote on my report card, “Mark is a good worker. He is well adjusted and is well-liked in the classroom and on the playground. Mark needs to control himself when he likes to speak out too frequently.” Some things (personality) never change. Now, sixty years later with the help of my doctor, I’m working on it. I've been trying to understand myself, and others for most of my life. Using Nettle's descriptors I could be called a confident, callous, Poet Wanderer. Now, in my seventies, and having written three books about it - I'm beginning to get it.


I wrote...

Election 2016: The Great Divide, the Great Debate

By Mark Jabbour,

Book cover of Election 2016: The Great Divide, the Great Debate

What is my book about?

Election 2016 is gritty, thought-provoking, and a well-written account of Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States. Also, just how that happened. At once it's a masterful character study of Trump (a quintessential extrovert), and an intriguing, entertaining analysis of the psychology of tribalism and power. Those three elements combine to enable humans to dominate the planet like no other species. But they also threaten to tear us apart to the point of extinction.

Election 2016 is a day-by-day, month-by-month, real-time examination of the triumph of Trump. The book also considers the future we find ourselves in and what could happen. As Trump may once again become president, this book is a must-read. Because we don’t want to end up like Russia and Ukraine.

The books I picked & why

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

By Susan Cain,

Book cover of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Why this book?

My doctor and therapist, a clinical Psychologist, recommended I read this book. Because she thought it would help me understand people who are fundamentally different from me - introverts. She was right. This book opened my eyes to an entirely novel way of experiencing the environment. I am an extrovert.

I have been called "pig-headed, arrogant, narcissistic, [and] just like your father." This, by a woman I once loved. Okay, by more than one. My doctor doesn’t disagree.

Susan Cain's book is important. She wrote it to empower introverts. However, I think extroverts should also read it. Quiet could be taken as a screed against extroverts. Cain asserts the world's problems are the result of extroverts being in charge. Because we're loud, intense, and domineering. That's without a doubt partly true for the reasons she lays out.

I don't agree with all of Cain's assumptions and conclusions. Nevertheless, the book dramatically helped me see the peopled world more clearly. It has helped me to adjust my behavior to a more compassionate and accommodating approach. Quiet can help us all to live more balanced lives, and thus make the world a better place.


Training to Be Myself: An Indulgent Odyssey of Obsessions, Confessions, and Curiosities

By Jake Jabbour,

Book cover of Training to Be Myself: An Indulgent Odyssey of Obsessions, Confessions, and Curiosities

Why this book?

Full confession: the author is my son, Jake Jabbour. This is a memoir written in 2017 about the death of my father, his grandfather. They were close. My father died in October 2016, three weeks before the election of Donald Trump as POTUS. Subsequently, in the spring of 2017, we had a service for The Colonel. That's when this story begins.

After the service, Jake broke up with his girlfriend and embarked on a train trip across America. The reason was to teach and perform Improvisation Comedy. During that sixteen-day journey, Jake attempts to make sense of all that has happened. Moreover, to reflect on who he is. It's beautifully written, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

Jake identifies as an INFJ. Which stands for Introvert, Intuition, Feeling, Judging. It designates one of sixteen personality types per the Myers-Briggs Personality Type indicator test. My doctor doesn't give the MBTI much credence. However, a lot of people and businesses do. I score as an ESTJ.

The subject matter and characters of my book and TTBM are similar. But come from disparate perspectives and personalities.


Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are

By Daniel Nettle,

Book cover of Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are

Why this book?

This book is the best description of the general consensus of personality today. The book describes the concept of OCEAN, or the Big Five personality indicators. OCEAN stands for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

I like this book because it's not overdone. Nettle simplifies the complex - the Big Five. Chapter headings are: "Wanderers"; "Worriers"; "Controllers"; "Empathizers"; and "Poets". One word descriptors for persons who typically represent each trait.

Nettle does go into detail about clusters of traits and behaviors that characterize each type. Extroverts are Wanderers, generally optimistic, positive, and adventuresome. Introverts are aloof and can be Worriers, generally pessimistic, negative, and risk-averse. Or said another way - stay-at-homes, stick-in-the-muds, grounded individuals who could be happy being the way they are.

The one-word descriptors along with their opposites can be a fun and useful way to think about people. Such as novelist Lee Child's protagonist, Jack Reacher. Reacher could be described as a confident, callous, Controlling Wanderer.


American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan

By Matt Farwell, Michael Ames,

Book cover of American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan

Why this book?

I like this book because it's a case study of what can go wrong. If one doesn't know who they are. The consequences can have harmful effects. Not only for the person but for others as well. That is the definition of pathology - having a harmful impact.

The authors do a masterful job of explaining Bergdahl's personality. He was diagnosed as having a schizotypal personality disorder and never sought treatment. Using Daniel Nettle's Big Five personality indicators descriptors, Bergdahl can be described as a Worried, out-of-control, Wanderer.


Sometimes a Great Notion

By Ken Kesey,

Book cover of Sometimes a Great Notion

Why this book?

This is a novel published by Ken Kesey in 1964. Not only is it one of the best books to understand personality, but it is one of the best novels ever. It tells the story of an American family whose patriarch, Henry Stamper, is a classic narcissist. Stamper could be described as a confident, callous, Controlling Wanderer. He is an independent logger and owns his home and business on a river on the central coast of Oregon. He defies the small town, his neighbors, and the national union. His behavior ultimately leads to much pain and suffering. However, Henry has a good time.

The writing is poetic and insightful. All the characters' personalities are well fleshed out. It is the story of America coming of age in the '50s and '60s. Today, sixty years later, America's culture is changing; but personalities remain as they've always been. Personality is the bedrock of being human.


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