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The Personality Brokers: Emily M. Keeler in Conversation with Merve Emre about Her New Book


Flying Books and Random House Canada invite you to celebrate the publication of Merve Emre's acclaimed new book, The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing.

Whether you're an ESTJ, INFP, a different combination of these letters, or have no idea what they mean, come hear Emily M. Keeler talk with Merve about this amazing book, which, at its heart, is about what makes you YOU. 

If you've ever applied for a job or used an online dating platform, chances are you've encountered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; but how and why have so many organizations come to put so much stock in it? Did you know the MBTI was created by mother-daughter team Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, two aspiring novelists who aimed to bring the gospel of Carl Jung to the masses? 

Drawing from original reporting and never-before-published documents, Emre takes a critical look at the test that became not only a cultural icon, but also a tool to define the self by way of multiple choice. 

MERVE EMRE is an associate professor of English at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Bookforum, The New Republic, The Baffler, n+1, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Emily M. Keeler

Emily M. Keeler

EMILY M. KEELER is a Toronto writer, the Vice President of PEN Canada, and the series editor of Exploded Views at Coach House Books. She has been an editor at the National Post, Hazlitt, The Walrus, Joyland, and The New Inquiry, and has written for the Guardian, Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, Maisonneuve, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, September 17, 6:30 PM
The Ossington, 61 Ossington Ave., Toronto


". . . inventive and beguiling . . . The Personality Brokers is history that reads like biography that reads like a novel — a fluid narrative that defies expectations and plays against type."
New York Times

“This is a sparkling biography—not just of a pair of remarkable women, but of a popular personality tool. Merve Emre deftly exposes the hidden origins of the MBTI and the seductive appeal and fatal flaws of personality types. Ultimately, she reveals that a sense of self is less something we discover, and more something we create and revise.”
—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg

“Genius, passion, insight, love, heartbreak, war, family, competition, corporate villainy: the story of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, and the extraordinary mother-daughter duo who conceived and developed it, has all the stuff of a great novel, with the added advantage that it’s true. Chances are you didn’t know that Myers and Briggs were women. In the tradition of Hidden Figures, this brilliant book proves—yet again—that women were behind some of the most important scientific innovations of wartime and postwar America. I absolutely love it.”
—Liza Mundy, author of the national bestseller Code Girls

“Merve Emre pulls back the curtain on the world of personality testing and the mother-daughter duo whose work catapulted the field into a movement. The Personality Brokers is a fluid mix of history, research, and first hand reporting that speaks to both true believers and skeptics alike. With her engaging and persuasive narrative, Emre elucidates how personality testing became a cultural force, one whose influence persists.”
—Nathalia Holt, New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls

“Scholar and trenchant literary critic Emre uses archival research to tell this story, revealing the fictions woven into a supposedly ‘scientific’ instrument.”
The Millions

“An illuminating dual biography…Emre has dug deeply into published and archival sources to produce a deft, gracefully written account of Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers…a discerning history of the quest for self-knowledge.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[Emre] tells the fascinating story of the origins of the world’s most widely used personality test…she is excellent at recounting how the MBTI began to sweep American institutions in the 1950s. [A] fine study.”
Publishers Weekly