The best personality books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about personality and why they recommend each book.

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Me, Myself, and Us

By Brian R. Little,

Book cover of Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being

The author is a psychology professor and a leading populariser of personality psychology. His book will give you a great overview of the most widely endorsed model of personality, which is based on the so-called Big Five traits, including extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness. Little is also renowned for his research into 'personal projects' – the goals you have that are meaningful to you. What I particularly took away from this book is how these projects feedback and shape your personality. So, if you want to have more control over who you are and will become, it is worth thinking about the goals that you are pursuing in life – whether they are satisfying and how they might be influencing you.

Who am I?

I'm a psychologist and neuroscientist and I've been writing for the public about all things mind and behaviour for more than two decades. Something I've noticed in that time is that the question people want to know the answer to, perhaps more than any other, is how much we can ever truly change, deep down. After all, self-help advice is seemingly endless, but does any of it really work, or are we ultimately destined to always revert to type? That's what motivated me to begin delving into the latest science of personality – defined by psychology as the habits of emotion, behaviour, and thought that make us who we are.

I wrote...

Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change

By Christian Jarrett,

Book cover of Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change

What is my book about?

Whether you're an introvert or extravert, creative and open-minded or focused and disciplined, psychology has always taught that there are various personality types. The common perception is that we’re stuck with what we’re given. However, drawing on the latest psychological theories and methods, interviews with leading experts, as well as a personal anecdote, in Be Who You Want I argue that although your initial personality type is moulded by a combination of genetic influences and early experiences, it is not fixed. It is malleable, voluntary even. In my book, which is packed with quizzes and practical exercises, I help you understand how your personality was formed and give you the tools to further shape your traits in the ways you desire and that will benefit you most.


By Daniel Nettle,

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

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…

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.

Alfred Adler's Basic Concepts and Implications

By Robert W. Lundin,

Book cover of Alfred Adler's Basic Concepts and Implications

I stumbled upon this book when I researched the psychology behind my first novel (the protagonist goes to therapy sessions). Although most psychologists follow Jung, I decided to make the therapist in my book an Adlerian psychologist. Why? Because Adler studied the criminal mind and posed interesting theories of how we follow a “faulty pattern of life” set forth from the time we are children. Kids develop defense mechanisms that allow them to cope with a given situation (violent parent, cloying parent, bullying at school, etc.) The problem is, as the kids grow up, they forget that these “patterns” they’ve cultivated were based on survival and may not guide them in the right direction. To be happy, people may have to rewire their brains. Good stuff! And I used the heck out of it. 

Who am I?

I suppose I’ve asked myself the question, “Why do people do bad things?” I became passionate about exploring the bleak side of the human condition. It wasn’t always a joy ride, I assure you. I’ve read many books and done hours and hours of research online. What I couldn’t garner from books and the Internet, I sought from the professionals. I even had the opportunity to interview one of the premier forensic psychiatrists in the world, Dr. Ronald Markman. He’s the guy who determines who is “competent to stand trial” and he’s interviewed the most infamous. His book, Alone with the Devil, would be my 6th book to recommend. 

I wrote...

In Twilight's Hush

By Laurie Stevens,

Book cover of In Twilight's Hush

What is my book about?

Troubled Detective Gabriel McRay investigates a cold case from 1988 involving a missing teenager named Nancy Lewicki. Evidence is sparse and Gabriel has no leads. Much to his dismay, a celebrity psychic, Carmen Jenette, hypes the unsolved case on her television show. Gabriel warns Carmen not to interfere. Meanwhile, strange dreams of water and corpses haunt Gabriel's sleep and unnerve him. Are they clues? Is he crazy? When the psychic's life is threatened, Gabriel connects the dots back to the missing girl and realizes his cold case is burning hot. Someone doesn't want Nancy found and will kill to keep her hidden. Named to Kindle Book Reviews’ Top 5 Mystery/Thrillers of 2021.

A Primer of Freudian Psychology

By Calvin S. Hall,

Book cover of A Primer of Freudian Psychology

This book gives an excellent overview of Freud’s thoughts about human psychology, and also shows the way he thought. Freud’s brilliance shines through. I hasten to say most, though not by any means all of his hypotheses are wrong. I read this book at 15 and knew when I finished it I was going to be a psychologist. Some of my work gives strong support to a few of his hypotheses about the unconscious. Ironically, Freud himself didn’t believe his ideas could be tested by psychology experiments.

Who am I?

Richard Nisbett is one of the world’s preeminent psychologists. His thinking is primarily about thought, but it is extremely wide-ranging – from biopsychology to social psychology to criminology to philosophy. His influence on philosophy has been compared to that of Freud and Skinner.

I wrote...

Thinking: A Memoir

By Richard E. Nisbett,

Book cover of Thinking: A Memoir

What is my book about?

Nisbett is one of the leaders of the cognitive revolution in psychology. He showed that conscious thought is less capable of solving some kinds of problems than unconscious thought. He showed some of the ways people’s approach to everyday problems in life goes awry and was the first to show that highly general rules of inference can be taught in such a way that they can solve unlimited numbers of problems having very different content. He showed that Eastern and Western thought – and even actual perception – are drastically different. All of this, and the sum of his 50 years of research, are presented in his highly readable book, which includes vignettes from his early life that are entertaining and that helped to prepare him for his career in psychology.


By Kevin J. Mitchell,

Book cover of Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are

We neuroscientists know a lot about how brains are, but not how they come to be. This book fills that huge hole: it explains how genetics and development shape the growing brain, and the consequences this has for our personalities and our mental disorders. Mitchell’s thesis is that the stochastic nature of development is key to understanding much of the variation between brains, and it has changed the way I think about the wiring of brains.

Who am I?

I’m a British neuroscientist and writer who’s been using computers to study the brain since 1998, and writing about it since 2016. How I ended up a neuroscientist is hard to explain, for my formative years were spent devouring science books that were not about the brain. That’s partly because finding worthwhile books about the brain is so hard – few delve into how the brain actually works, into the kinds of meaty details that, for example, Hawking offered us on physics and Dawkins on evolution. So I wrote one to solve that problem; and the books on my list are just that too: deep, insightful works on how the brain does what it does.

I wrote...

The Spike: An Epic Journey Through the Brain in 2.1 Seconds

By Mark Humphries,

Book cover of The Spike: An Epic Journey Through the Brain in 2.1 Seconds

What is my book about?

We see the last cookie in the box and think, can I take that? We reach a hand out. In the 2.1 seconds that this impulse travels through our brain, billions of neurons communicate with one another, sending blips of voltage through our sensory and motor regions. Neuroscientists call these blips “spikes.” Spikes enable us to do everything: talk, eat, run, see, plan, and decide. In The Spike, Mark Humphries takes readers on the epic journey of a spike through a single, brief reaction. In vivid language, Humphries tells the story of what happens in our brain, what we know about spikes, and what we still have left to understand about them.

Drawing on decades of research in neuroscience, Humphries explores how spikes are born, how they are transmitted, and how they lead us to action. 

The Five Elements

By Dondi Dahlin,

Book cover of The Five Elements: Understand Yourself and Enhance Your Relationships with the Wisdom of the World's Oldest Personality Type System

Dondi Dahlin’s book was a total surprise to me! I thought I knew a lot about the 5 Element theory, and wondered what she might add to the conversation. This was another book I could not put down. Her storytelling chops are amazing, and even if I wasn’t interested in the subject, she had me at hello. I was thrilled with the journey she brought me on. And I learned so much about myself, and about how people act the way they do. But more than that, I also learned valuable tools on how to interact better with people, how to extend compassion to myself and others, and how to see the world through a different lens. I adore this book!

Who am I?

I remember being a kid and wanting to know everything about everything. After I’d been teaching yoga for several years, and finding myself struggling with stress and trauma that the yoga wasn’t helping, I really started to dive into the world of Energy. That world is fascinating, endless, and powerful. And the more I study and learn, the better my life gets. I’ve created my own teaching methodology from all the studies I’ve done and helped thousands of people find their own inner strength and healing. I love learning how other people overcame their struggles and how at the root, we basically all want to help each other! That's the kind of world I aspire to. 

I wrote...

The Energy to Heal: Find Lasting Freedom From Stress and Trauma Through Energy Medicine Yoga

By Lauren Walker,

Book cover of The Energy to Heal: Find Lasting Freedom From Stress and Trauma Through Energy Medicine Yoga

What is my book about?

We all struggle with stress and most all of us have had at least one traumatic experience in our lives. It takes a lot of energy to get through these experiences, but most of us don’t fully complete, process or release that energy. We just move on in our lives, and the stagnant and toxic energy of stress or trauma remains in our bodies and quietly goes to work breaking us down. Imagine if you had simple, practical, and gentle tools to actually heal from your traumas and stressors? The Energy To Heal gives you just that!

Perfected over years of study, Energy Medicine Yoga is a customizable program with step-by-step practices that help you recover from trauma and gain resilience. 

The Four Tendencies

By Gretchen Rubin,

Book cover of The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too)

As far as books that help you understand yourself go, this one is at the top of my list! I never understood why I was so resistant to the pressure of others, why accountability buddies didn’t work for me (even though they worked so well for other people), and why my husband was always so insistent about following the rules! Understanding that my superpower is asking great questions is what ultimately led me to coaching and writing my own book. I promise knowing more about how you respond to expectations will help you in so many ways.

Who am I?

In 2014 I finally came to the realization that I had become the most negative person I knew. I couldn't stand being that whiney, unhappy person anymore. So even though I didn't know how I was going to do it, I made a no-turning-back decision to kill off Negative Past Mel and become Positive Future Mel. The first step in my how was a book that taught me how to create a morning routine. That book saved me and set me on a path of personal growth and development and helped me take my first steps forward to becoming a version of Future Mel I actually enjoy being!

I wrote...

Becoming Future You

By Mel Jolly,

Book cover of Becoming Future You

What is my book about?

This is not just another follow-your-dreams goals book or a stronger, better, faster book. This is a book about you and what you want. Even if you don’t know what you want… yet. This book is for you: if you’re not sure what you want; if you’re tired of the usual advice not working for you; if you struggle with motivation; if you feel like you’re running out of time; if you’re looking for hope and encouragement.

I have spent years coaching and encouraging countless people through my newsletters, webinars, public appearances, and courses to help them recognize their superpowers, embrace their desires, and make stuff happen!


By Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning,

Book cover of Self-Esteem: A Proven Program of Cognitive Techniques for Assessing, Improving, and Maintaining Your Self-Esteem

I recommend this book to many of my clients because you create your life based on your perceived self-concept about who you are in the world. If you don’t feel good about who you are it’s hard to build a good life. This book is great because it applies the well-researched principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy to overcoming the inner critic and building a positive view of one’s self, creating the much-needed platform for transforming your life.

Who am I?

I’m a psychologist in Los Angeles specializing in helping people identify their blind spots and break the cycles of their past by retraining their mindset about the future. I developed a new treatment called Future Directed Therapy and I’ve been helping people build better lives for over 15 years. I’m very passionate about empowering my clients to find practical skills and tools for taking charge of their emotional health and achieving the things they want in life. I recommend these books to my clients on a regular basis and find inspiration in them for my own blog Living Forward which I write as a featured expert for Psychology Today

I wrote...

Think Forward to Thrive: How to Use the Mind's Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life

By Jennice Vilhauer,

Book cover of Think Forward to Thrive: How to Use the Mind's Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life

What is my book about?

Science has shown that anticipating a positive future is the key to well-being and mental health. Yet when many people think of the future, they experience anxiety, depression, fear, and self-doubt. Unaware of how to change the future, most people are trapped in a cycle of re-creating their past. But your past does not define who you are or where you are going — you can break free. Future Directed Therapy (FDT) is a new psychological method that helps people create their future with awareness and choice, using skills based on cutting-edge cognitive science. Think Forward to Thrive is filled with information and step-by-step exercises to help you: overcome negative emotions; identify what you want in life; transform limiting beliefs; and take action.

To Have or to Be?

By Erich Fromm,

Book cover of To Have or to Be?

Erich Fromm isn’t so well known nowadays, but I am a great admirer of his. He developed a wide-ranging vision of individual and collective well-being. He investigated the whole spectrum of human nature, from the cruelty and brutality of Nazi Germany (which he personally experienced, as a German Jew who escaped to the United States) to love and altruism. This book is his last major work, in which he decries modern society’s emphasis on having and suggests that the only authentic and fulfilling mode of life is being. He develops a concept of a new type of human being who lives in harmony with themselves and the world. Fromm rarely wrote explicitly about spirituality, but it’s an underlying theme of almost everything he wrote. 

Who am I?

I’m a spiritual psychologist who investigates areas such as spiritual experiences, personal transformation, near-death experiences, and psi. I also write spiritual poetry. I had spiritual experiences (feelings of euphoria, harmony, and connection to my surroundings) as a teenager and always wondered why they occurred, how common they were in others, and whether they could become permanent. I became involved in the field of transpersonal psychology (which really is spiritual psychology) largely because I wanted to answer those questions. I see myself as an explorer of “the farther reaches of human nature” (in Abraham Maslow’s phrase). I’ve written many books about my explorations, including The Leap, Spiritual Science, and my new book Extraordinary Awakenings

I wrote...

Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation

By Steve Taylor,

Book cover of Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation

What is my book about?

Why do some people who experience the worst that life has to offer respond not by breaking down but by shifting up, into a higher-functioning, awakened state? And perhaps more importantly, how can we emulate their transformations? In Extraordinary Awakenings I share amazing stories of individuals who “woke up” to profound transformation following bereavement, deep depression, suicide attempts, addiction, military combat, imprisonment, or other intense encounters with mortality. I uncover the psychological processes that help explain these miraculous awakenings. I also highlight a number of lessons and guidelines from the experiences of shifters and offer readers hope and guidance to call on during their own struggles.

The Desire Factor

By Christy Whitman,

Book cover of The Desire Factor: How to Embrace Your Materialistic Nature to Reclaim Your Full Spiritual Power

Finally, an author who gives me permission to have anything materialistically that I desire and not feel guilty about wanting it! Growing up in a religious household, I was taught that it was selfish to want anything that exceeded my physical needs. In fact, desire is part of human nature, and it is a necessary step in the manifestation process. This book explores 7 Universal Principles to manifest any desire one has. The key is to become a master of your own energy.  

Who am I?

I am and always will be a teacher. For the past 25 years, I dedicated my life to inspiring students to achieve their goals and manifest their dreams. I finally decided to take my own advice and listen to the calling that has been ringing louder and louder over the years. I used my gifts to become a certified Law of Attraction coach, reiki practitioner, and Tarot reader. While I may have left the academic classroom, I was called to the world classroom. As an author, speaker, coach, and healer, I awaken the manifestation superpower that exists in all of us.

I wrote...

Living Your Own Aloha: 5 Steps to Manifesting Your Dreams

By Kelly Weaver,

Book cover of Living Your Own Aloha: 5 Steps to Manifesting Your Dreams

What is my book about?

The Hawaiian word "Aloha" evokes an image of white, sandy beaches and cool tropical breezes, but the significance of the word goes beyond a mere greeting and farewell. Aloha encapsulates all of the love, peace, compassion, and affection one feels when connected to the vibrational energy of the islands. The word is a definition of the force that holds together our very existence. Author and certified Law of Attraction coach, Kelly Weaver shares candid stories of her own struggles and successes through her journey of manifestation and personal growth as she learned to embrace aloha in her life.

With keen insight into the universal law that "like attracts like," she uses a mnemonic device and "Inspired Assignments", to guide readers through her process of self-reflection and discovery. 

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