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Publisher's Summary

What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.

Humorous, surprising, and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticize too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street.

What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant, and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure, and responsibility, distilling the world's wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. 12 Rules for Life shatters the modern commonplaces of science, faith, and human nature while transforming and ennobling the mind and spirit of its listeners.

©2018 Jordan B. Peterson (P)2018 Random House Canada

Critic Reviews

"Jordan Peterson is the most important and influential Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan. His international fame and impact continue to grow exponentially. Peterson's bold interdisciplinary synthesis of psychology, anthropology, science, politics and comparative religion is forming the template for the genuinely humanistic university of the future." (Camille Paglia)

"Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life hits home - from identifying the deeply engrained hierarchical ladder that motivates our decision making to asking indispensable and sometimes politically unpopular questions about your life and suggesting ways to better it. If that's not enough, its first twenty pages give a summary of evolutionary psychology that's breathtaking." (Howard Bloom, author of The Lucifer Principle)

"Firm but caring.... Peterson speaks the way I always wished my father had.... He is the right man at the right time, someone capable of showing young men that cleaning up their room has cosmic significance, and that imposing a little order upon chaos is good for the soul, which in turn is good for the world." (National Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This is my favorite self-help book I have ever read!

In this book, I found what I have been lying to myself about. I have been trying to climb my way up the dominance hierarchy by being successful in the world’s eyes. I’ve been trying to raise my status to make me more attractive to a potential wife. I’ve been doing this by being successful in business, eating healthy, reading books, working out, trying to gain fame, and becoming surface level friends with high status individuals. However, I realized in this book that a lot of it is a farce. I have mainly been doing these things to avoid doing the hard work that terrifies me: deep, meaning relationships. This book isn’t really about that, but a good part of it is about cleaning out your own closet before you try to save the world. I think anyone can read this book and realize another dragon they have been ignoring. I am going to start it again soon, and I have already made hard moves and had challenging conversations towards cleaning up my personal relationships. Maybe a year from now I will actually be someone that someone great wants to marry instead of just looking like someone who is. Thank you Jordan Peterson.

860 of 1,030 people found this review helpful

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Powerful

It's hard to imagine a more impactful work than 12 rules. There were moments, many moments, when I had to stop the book and think and reflect. As other reviewers have mentioned, the author is brought to tears during the reading. This was not some stunt, the topic he was discussing was so biting and deep that it was impossible not to cry.

It's important not to go into this book pre judging Peterson. His or your ideology is not relevant to the importance of this book. He speaks truth, simple and plain. Of course, it is HIS truth and you must understand it as such. It's also not simple. Peterson has this uncanny ability to talk for an hour and have 20 soundbites you want to remember. It's honestly, uncanny.

I can't possibly recommend this book highly enough. It's interesting, it's funny, it's biting, and it's deep. It will change you, but in a good way!

318 of 393 people found this review helpful

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No More Shame

The trouble with Peterson is that he's long winded, but won't stop saying meaningful things, won't stop speaking truth, and won't sugar coat reality to make us feel better, and is therefore impossible to stop listening to. That's good.

It's so disturbing to hear a grown man cry during a reading, because it forces us to encounter vulnerability and strength and breaks apart our denial of reality as a place of suffering. That's good.

Only listen to this book if you want direct blunt reality, wisdom, and odd encouragement. Only listen if you want life to never be the same. This book has helped to initiate me as a man, because, perhaps for the first time, I don't feel ashamed of my masculinity, and so have lost some of the guilt around being a man in western culture.

I think this book will mark a turnaround for men (and perhaps women) everywhere who feel disillusioned with life, because here, implicitly, he calls out the gold in men by telling them, "You have something to offer the world." Now I know there is something worth fighting and suffering for, a better tomorrow for me, and for those around me, because I've realized that because I'm a man, I can make a little more chaos into order.

316 of 391 people found this review helpful

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The cure to find meaning in a meaningless world

If you could sum up 12 Rules for Life in three words, what would they be?

Ancient Modern Wisdom

Who was your favorite character and why?

The underdog lobster has to be the best. Some antidepressants and he's right back in the fight.

What about Jordan B. Peterson’s performance did you like?

I liked his intellectual honesty and also he is a good narrator.

What did you learn from 12 Rules for Life that you would use in your daily life?

If you do not run from your suffering, one day you will overcome it.

Venture into the unknown and slay the dragon of chaos.

Share the treasure.

And become some sort of hero.

How to live a meaningful life, in a practical way.

Any additional comments?

If you like Jordan Peterson, Jocko Willink has similar ideas from a very different perspective, also worth checking out.

331 of 413 people found this review helpful

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Best audiobook I have ever bought

This is by far the best audiobook I ever bought. Very deep, authentic and healing. I want to give the highest recommendation that I have ever given to any audiobook.

225 of 284 people found this review helpful

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Completly eye opening!!!

I've listened to many of self help crap and even read, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F#ck. It didn't matter what I read or listened to, I wasn't finding the answere I was looking for, to a question I truly didn't understand. This book along with Peterson's many online lectures put more into perspective for me than anything has in years of searching. I've identified the Dragon growing ever more powerful in my life and come up with a game plan for slaying it!...This book didn't solve my life problems, it helped open my eyes to the most obvious issues that I'm responsible for correcting....

225 of 287 people found this review helpful

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Great Guidance

I've always been a pessimistic person since I was a young kid (I'm 26 now). Although my family who I rarely speak to anymore is and raised me with religion, I am not religious. I've been depressed since high school and struggled to find a validating meaning to life other than to go with the flow and enjoy the roses.

I got this audio book specifically because I'm beginning to feel as though every time I feel like I'm on the right track with my pursuit of happiness and meaning, I'm always proven otherwise. I picked this up in the hopes of finding an antidote to my chaos.

A lot of the rules in this book were generally things I already knew - however hearing someone else not only say them, but also give much deeper meaning and examples for them helped reinforce them for myself. There are a lot of religious references and examples used but they aren't forceful or anything other than just examples.

After finishing this audio book I do feel more confident about myself and have more of a grip on how to manage the balance of chaos and order in my life and within myself. I'd recommend this to anyone who feels like they need an extra or even the first nudge to get them started on identifying what's wrong in their life before you can begin fixing it.

As a side note, I love when authors read their own audio book. Jordan B. Peterson has a teaching voice (duh), but I couldn't help but smile every once in a while when I would start picturing the words come from the mouth of Kermit the Frog. While comparing the rules to my specific chaotic situation, it was additionally comforting to picture Kermit giving me advice. I mean no offense to the author, and this only made my enjoyment of the book larger.

118 of 153 people found this review helpful

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Faulty tools produce faulty results.

I'm generally not a fan of self-help books and this one would have probably never hit my to-read shelf if a good friend of mine hadn't invited me to attend a live Jordan Peterson lecture in Phoenix a little over a week ago (June 1, 2018). The only other exposure I had to Peterson was a wave of seriously negative posts about him by some of my most liberal friends on FB. I was intrigued. Here I have some friends who found something of value from him, enough to want to share with me (also, we were using Peterson just as a reason to reconnect) AND other friends who absolutely abhorred the man. All of this fascinated me. I was relatively a tabula rasa on this guy. I hadn't even read some of the more negative pieces on him. I loved people that upended the status quo. I loved early Camille Paglia and Andrew Sullivan. Now I was curious. Was this guy throwing sand into the salad of liberals on purpose? Was he just thinking in a way that was unique and not bounded by usual boundaries?

So, I went and heard him speak. I found his lecture == like I found his book -- fascinating. It was a mixture of science, myth, story-telling, Disney, and confidence man bullsh!t. The box I was in had 6 men and 4 women (not a bad ratio since a large proportion of Jordan's rabid fan base is white men). And when I say rabid, I mean foaming-at-the-mouth rabid. When he was introduced several men in the crowd grunted like they were prepping for a football game or battle. It was a little intense.

After the show, and while reading this book, I've also come across several of his interviews and YouTube videos. I think an obvious example of the way Peterson gets misread is the Cathy Newman interview or the recent New York Times piece. These don't do a good job of actually getting to the root of what Jordan Peterson is saying. Personally, I think 80% of what Peterson is saying is actually NOT bad. How can you really argue with ideas like clean your room, treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping (rule 2), pursue what is meaningful not what is expedient (rule 7), or tell the truth -- or at least don't like (rule 8)? A lot of what he says makes sense. But it is the last 20% of what he says that kind of drives me nuts (and I'm a white man, I can imagine that women/minorities/university intellectuals would feel a bit stronger than me). His critiques of feminism, white privilege, post-modernism, modern universities, etc., aren't narrow and tend to violate his own rule 10 (be precise in your speech). He rambles, rages, and makes pretty big assumptions on areas that are far from well-established (and often a bit beyond his areas of expertise).

My other issue with Peterson, that was clarified more in the lecture than the book, is he is actually seeking the role of secular prophet/revivalist/guru. Hell, in his introduction is basically admitted that the book's subjects were basically market-tested on the internet. People like lists. They really like certainty. Many of the population Peterson was aiming at aren't familiar with myths/Jungian archetypes/philosophy, so it becomes easier to use Disney movies. Why not tell your audience what to do in a nice list of 12 things? Like Steven R. Covey on confrontational steroids. Dr. Peterson walked around the Comerica stage and riffed on one of his rules (mostly Rule 10 in Phoenix and a dash of Rule 11). Like the text of his book, he circled around, repeating stories and points, declare something true (or false), making a joke, and then absolved his mainly white male audience from some of their social guilt and anxiety. They loved him for it. He was Jimmy Swaggart in Canadian professor garb. Because it is hard to define white privilege, it doesn't exist, so ignore it. Rinse and repeat for feminism, and other issues plaguing our modern culture and often aimed at privilege, money, or power. It was wild seeing white, single men showing up to this even wearing t-shirts with his picture on it. It must be hard to not let that kind of cultish adoration go to your head - even if your background is the human head.

32 of 41 people found this review helpful

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Exactly what you'd expect from Peterson

Would you listen to 12 Rules for Life again? Why?

I already got through the text version, this book starts off a tiny bit slow but each chapter winds up to make a really great argument. Pet that cat and clean your room.

What other book might you compare 12 Rules for Life to and why?

Maps of meaning is pretty good too but it's a bit stuffy.

What does the narrator bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He sounds a lot like Kermit, which is a plus.

What insight do you think you’ll apply from 12 Rules for Life?

I'm going to do my best to imitate a lobster in all walks of life.

113 of 147 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

I purchased the Audible version of Peterson’s book with high expectations. It was recommended for me based on previously purchased books (perhaps Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking” and Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”?). It had lots of 5-star reviews, a very-glowing Wikipedia article, and an ever-growing author fan-base, as demonstrated by the sold-out appearances across Canada and the USA.

The first rule “Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back” went from a common-sense understanding for the need to respect oneself, to an analogy of lobster dominance hierarchy – maintained through physical battles with the goal of attracting the best mates. I thought, OK, Humans don’t do that, but it was a unique presentation.

Then on to “Treat Yourself Like Someone You are Responsible for Helping”. A good idea, better expressed in other books as ‘you are responsible for your choices and actions and improving your life.’ This chapter starts off OK, but then Peterson interprets deeper meaning into Bible stories and why you need to know these to understand yourself. Including in his dialogue is the assertion that there are no real atheists, they just haven’t found their God yet. There is no mention in this chapter, or future ones, that there are other stories from other cultures that pre-date the Jewish culture, and some of those stories were incorporated into the Old Testament stories. No recognition of other religious heritages. No examples from Greek and other philosophers, although there was some Stoic-sounding phrases used.

I continued listening and my disappointment in this book grew. Each rule is presented authoritatively, and it becomes clear that each is presented in a way to support his underlying agenda, which I interpret as: let’s go back to the days of the male dominant culture of the 1950’s, and get rid of any indoctrinating ideology that conflicts with this view from colleges, universities and public discourse (even though I say I promote free speech), and society will be the better for it.

I reached my conclusions based on the some of the ideas presented by Mr. Peterson:

1) Dividing humans into stereotypes of males and females. Men are meant to be strong and take care of women so they can take care of children, because that is what all women want. Women represent chaos. Men are in danger of being feminized. To Peterson, the concept of “transgender” is not real – it is a language issue.
2) Men need to be “strong” to attract the females, because having sex reduces violence. “Strong” is never defined specifically, and the term is often used to mean physical strength.
3) The overuse of Jungian archetypes to describe the roles of humans (mostly men) in society. This is outdated psychology.
4) The either/or characterizations of viewpoints. One either agrees with Mr. Peterson, or one is a horrible person – a liberal, leftist, post-modernist, SJW (Social Justice Warrior), promoting politically correctness, and equality seeking to the detriment of white males.

Overall recommendation: I wish I had not bought this book. I do not understand why there are so many 5-star reviews.

From a literary standpoint, it is not well written. It is rambling and unfocused.

On overall content: It is preachy and moralizing. These are RULES – and Mr. Peterson reads these like a father lecturing a child, and often his tone is angry. The basic sentiments expressed are shallow and only serve as a basis for his preaching.

I can see how this appeals to younger men, but not to those who are older and whose life-experiences led to observations that are contrary to Mr. Peterson’s.

167 of 219 people found this review helpful