A history of the hugely popular Meyers-Briggs personality test, conceived a century ago by a mother and her daughter—fiction writers with no formal training in psychology—and how it insinuated itself into our boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond.
It takes a while to realize that Emre has gotten you hooked under arguably false pretenses, but what she finally pulls off is so inventive and beguiling you can hardly begrudge her for it ... The Personality Brokers is history that reads like biography that reads like a novel — a fluid narrative that defies expectations and plays against type ... The Personality Brokers contains a judicious amount of historical context ... it’s Katharine and Isabel who are at the core of this story, and Emre depicts these two women — long dead and largely unknown — with the acuity they deserve. Isabel, in particular, is drawn with precise, confident strokes.
The pleasure of Emre’s book...is not vague grandiosity but specificity. Whatever her reservations about Katharine [Briggs] and Isabel [Myers]’s work, her commitment to her subjects is total—she renders personality in all its detail and contradiction. Her heroines are readers and writers at heart, inveterate observers and storytellers, and Emre, a literary scholar, portrays them in this spirit. Both obsessive and dauntlessly able, they emerge as true, irreducible weirdos ... The Personality Brokers presents a damningly thorough critique of the MBTI: From its lack of scientific merit to its role as a tool of Cold War–era conformity, personality testing looks misguided at best and potentially sinister at worst. Emre echoes Theodor Adorno, who aligned the exercises of personality typing and people-sorting with fascism. And yet her book’s slyest argument against MBTI—conveyed forcefully, if only implicitly—might be its portrait of Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs themselves. Emre confronts the reader with an undeniable gulf between the normalcy they profess and the energetic, idiosyncratic intensity they display. The banalities of type falter beside their combined force of personality.
...in this riveting, far-reaching book she brings the skills of a detective, cultural critic, historian, scientist and biographer to bear on the MBTI and the two women who invented and promoted it ... when Ms. Emre describes her book as being 'for the skeptics, the true believers, and everyone in between,' she is absolutely right.