Book Review: ’12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’ by Jordan B. Peterson
Clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor Jordan B. Peterson already had a vast library of YouTube videos documenting his university lectures and other talks when he found himself at the center of a free speech controversy in 2016. Since then, his popularity has skyrocketed as countless curious individuals sought him out initially, one might guess, for his views on the controversy but stayed for the wisdom he had been sharing for years.
His new book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” is the culmination of that wisdom— expounding practical advice like “stand up straight” and “tell the truth” backed up by none other than the edicts of evolutionary biology, psychology, ancient mythology, Eastern and Western philosophy, and the Bible.
“12 Rules” is not the typical self-help book you can page through in one free night with a few cups of tea. Peterson dives deep, really deep, into the most foundational thinking of humanity to explain why he believes his 12 rules are ones that can make life worth living.
It is not an entirely optimistic book; Peterson has no problem facing head-on life’s suffering and malevolence. Some may find this a refreshing dose of reality, and some may find it dark and disturbing. Rather than sugarcoating life, Peterson is like a forthright father who will tell it to you straight.
So, what are the “12 Rules”? The author recently explained each one in great detail for an audience at London’s How To Academy, which founder John Gordon described as “the most popular talk we’ve ever done in 15 years.”
Each chapter explores one rule:
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
- Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
- Make friends with people who want the best for you.
- Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
- Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
- Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
- Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).
- Tell the truth—or, at least, don’t lie.
- Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.
- Be precise in your speech.
- Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.
- Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.
Within these 12 rules, Peterson manages to traverse science and religion, history, and philosophy, simultaneously educating a reader who may not be well-versed in classical thinking, while breaking it all down to ideas as simple and practical as those above.
Peterson’s recent rise to fame seems to signify a craving among his ever-growing audience for ideas like this—a message our modern culture has not been delivering. He implores individuals, most simply, to take responsibility for their lives and is best known, perhaps, by the phrase “Clean Your Room,” which has become an internet meme.
At times, the book takes, perhaps, more effort than it should to get through. Sometimes the train of thought seems to be unduly winding. Peterson has given his audience the benefit of the doubt that they can hang in, stay focused, and get through to the end. Fingers crossed.
For those who make it through, the effort will have been worth it. “12 Rules for Life” has the potential to expand minds and changes lives. The book, coupled with Peterson’s vast array of online content, is an education in itself and the young men and women its reaching can find little like it elsewhere.
Shortly after its release, “12 Rules For Life” became the No. 1 best-selling book on Amazon. Peterson recently announced a book tour that will span the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.
’12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’
Random House Canada
448 pages; hardcover, $25.95