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Book Review: '12 Rules for Life' by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Updated on March 19, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.


“12 Rules for Life” is Dr. Jordan Peterson’s second book. This 2018 book by Peterson can be described as a personal improvement book, but it also touches on evolutionary psychology, religion, sociology and the ever famous lobsters.

“12 Rules for Life” arose from a Quora question asked on what were the most valuable things people should know, rehashed further through his YouTube videos and questions others asked, until it coalesced into this book.

The Cover of "12 Rules for Life" by Dr. Jordan Peterson
The Cover of "12 Rules for Life" by Dr. Jordan Peterson | Source

The Strengths of “12 Rules for Life”

Before we had philosophy and reason, we had works like the Bible to show us how to live through the characters in our stories held up as the embodiments of good and evil. This book addresses the archetypes and foundational values built into Biblical texts, as well as the deeper meaning.

Why do you need a system of values? How do you determine what those values are? How can you tell what really drives you versus the answers and excuses you use with others? Dr. Peterson’s book explains how to make these determinations, and they’re quite universal … and you don’t have to be a Christian to follow the methodology.

There are so many incredible quotes in this book. A list of them would fill several pages in their own right. And many are thought-provoking. He goes into much deeper discussion in the book on the differing objectives between science and religion and why science cannot explain value systems humans need to order their own lives or society.

The Weaknesses of “12 Rules for Life”

It’s about 400 pages, and if edited to remove some of the repetition, it could have been 350 pages. This is the only criticism I have of the book.


Dr. Jordan Peterson does a good job combining science and religion, pointing how we do better when we have faith that we can do better personally and make the world better (in a realistic manner) and how science doesn’t assign the values humans need to be able to decide what is good, better and bad.

There are points where Dr. Jordan Peterson seems to be trying to reconcile Christianity with broader, universal ethical principles, approaching the attempts of Nietzsche to create something new and better. This may be due to the effort to tap into broader sources than just Judeo-Christian works and to present a universal set of guidelines that everyone could benefit from.

Related Reading

There are so many points Dr. Jordan Peterson tries to make in the point that there isn’t a lot covered in depth except for his justification for his rules for a better life.

A good companion book for Rule 1 is “The Like Switch”. That book better explains the psychology that determines body language and how your own body language influences your mood.

Chapter 3 discusses how letting others blame history or circumstance for their situation leaves them trapped in a victim status. If you’re dealing with people perpetually in distress, people who are chronically in bad situations of their own making, read Dr. Laura’s books “10 Stupid Things Men/Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives”. This teaches you how to recognize when people create the bad situation to force others to rescue them in order to feel valued, loved and important. It also discusses what to do when they’re constantly in these situations through their own bad choices, so you can address those bad choices.

If you’re focusing on Rule 5, don’t let your children do anything that makes you hate them, you really need to read “Boundaries with Kids” by Dr. Henry Cloud to learn how to set boundaries with your children. That book teaches you how to teach your kids healthy limits, proper behavior and emotional control.


Dr. Jordan Peterson’s book is an excellent modern self-help book, a call to draw on the wisdom of the ages for the current era with clear explanations on how to apply it to your life, no matter your circumstances. A must read for anyone who wants to “clean their room” or wanting to understand why trying to change the world before you’ve gotten control of your own life is doomed to fail.

© 2018 Tamara Wilhite


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    3 years ago

    Back Tamara...I just finished reading "The 12 Rules to Life". It was a good read. For some reason I was surpised by him having such a dark view/pessimistic view about human nature. However as I read his perspectives he flipped some of my views upside down. Jordan Peterson became the same as a lotus flower. That is, the more I read and moved deeper into the above book, Jordan Peterson reminded me that his own personal darkness and his own transformation was like the lotus flower growing through the dark murky mud and water, struggling to reach the light.

    As of last night I am taking one of his pieces of advice to heart and am putting it into action in my own life. I feel very grateful to Jordan Peterson right now.

    PS. Dr Henry Cloud is very good on boundaries.

  • tamarawilhite profile imageAUTHOR

    Tamara Wilhite 

    3 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

    Thank you, Threekeys.

  • profile image


    3 years ago

    There are a couple of thought provoking reads mentioned here, Tamara. I think l will follow them up. Peace to You and your family.

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 

    3 years ago from Norfolk, England

    This sounds like a very interesting book, I'll look into it. Thankyou.


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