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10 books from Jordan Peterson’s recommendation lists that you must read

Canadian clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson wears many hats. He is an author, podcast host, online educator and commentator, too. But, above all, he is a reputed name in academia and a well-known public figure. He believes a common quality that one could find among some of the most successful people is the “ability to articulate”, which he says comes through reading, along with writing. His vast canvas of knowledge and standing as a social figure is a testament to that. On his website, Jordan Peterson has listed a few book recommendations, which he believes played a part in his “intellectual development”.

Peterson, who was once described as “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world”, has himself authored three books — Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999), 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018) and its sequel Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life (2021). Additionally, the professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Toronto has essayed over a hundred scientific papers, along with his students and peers, that talk about modern interpretations of alcoholism and anti-social behaviour, as well as emotions, creativity, competence and different personalities.

Books recommended by Peterson dwell on the subjects of the mind while blending literary and imaginative power with psychology as well as cover a vast spectrum of authors. Hence, if you are a curious bibliophile who wishes to take a plunge into the realms of the mind, Jordan Peterson has a list for you.

Some of the best books recommended by Jordan Peterson that unearth the secrets of the mind

This 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley talks about a dystopian future society, ‘World State’. The society, where children are born outside of the womb and cloned, follows a rigid caste system. There is no place for long-lasting emotions, and the government encourages the use of a mind-conditioning drug so as to keep everyone in a euphoric mood, away from reality.

Jordan Peterson on the book: He has mentioned this book in the list ‘Influential Books Everyone Should Read’. He even has a lecture on the author and his interpretation of Abraham and the Bible.

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Written over seven decades ago, this political novel is a timeless classic. It gives a bone-chilling account of a leader, Big Brother, taking complete control of a superstate, Oceania, through his Party. The totalitarian government implements violent forms of manipulation, mass surveillance and harsh measures to control the people of Oceania. The Guardian, a British daily, had described it by saying, “Orwell’s novella is a warning for the human race.”

Jordan Peterson on the book: “I came to understand, through the great George Orwell, that much of such thinking found its motivation in hatred of the rich and successful, instead of true regard for the poor. Besides, the socialists were more intrinsically capitalist than the capitalists. They believed just as strongly in money. They just thought that if different people had the money, the problems plaguing humanity would vanish,” Peterson said about Orwell and his works, according to Goodreads.

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Published in 1866, acclaimed Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky takes on the psychoanalysis of a poor and desperate person, Raskolnikov, who murders an elderly pawnbroker. The young ex-law student sees himself as a great man with higher purposes. However, contrary ideas of guilt and remorse begin to fill him, and he ends up in prison, where he begins to feel that suffering and pain are the only ways to redemption. 

Jordan Peterson on the book: In one of his talks, Peterson said, “Crime and Punishment is the best investigation I know of, of what happens if you take the notion of there’s nothing divine about the individual seriously.” Peterson sees no flaw in the logic of events and feels Dostoevsky got the psychology absolutely right.  

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Nietzsche’s philosophy is quite a complex subject, and with this book, the German philosopher cements his position as one of the most prolific minds of the time in Europe. He suggests that Western ideas of ‘morality,’ good and evil, and the concept of one true God are created instead of naturally inherited. He propounds that all these ideas have formed a ‘slave morality’ mindset in people to maintain a social order, and individuals must break out of the same and impose their will.

Jordan Peterson on the book: Peterson considers this as one of the most profound studies of existentialism and even has a detailed video analysing the intricacies of this work.

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Another dark and gritty novel, this book follows a Jewish boy who is left to look after himself after his parents abandon him during World War II. Published in 1965, it provides heart-wrenching vivid accounts of the sorrowful days and juxtaposes terror with love. The book is believed to be partially based on Kosinski’s life, although he has never commented on it.

Jordan Peterson on the book: Peterson, who takes a particular liking to grim stories having existentialism concept, believes that this book has played a part in his intellectual development, and that is why he kept this novel on the list of recommended books.

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Initially published in three volumes, the book is a semi-autobiographical work detailing the harsh prison life in the Soviet Union. It is based on the author’s own account of eight years (1945-53) of imprisonment and information taken from around 200 survivors and archives. It also shows the close network of secret police and informers and unearths the cruelty prevalent at the time.

Jordan Peterson on the book: The Canadian psychologist often refers to the stories depicted in it and even wrote the foreword of its 50th-anniversary edition. An abridged version with all three books clubbed into one volume is also available.

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One of the highly influential reads for those interested in psychology and themes of alienation in modern society, Modern Man In Search Of A Soul goes into the depths of dream analysis, the primitive unconscious, and the relationship between psychology and religion, as well as addresses structural differences between Carl Jung’s and Freud’s theories.

Jordan Peterson on the book: It comes as no surprise that such a moving and influential book has been recommended by Peterson, who, by his own admission, is an admirer of the Swiss psychiatrist, especially his views on enlightenment.

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The very concept of emotions, specifically the ones expressed by animals, was for long thought to be beyond scientific research and study. However, innovations in neurosciences and neurobiology have brought man closer to its nuanced understanding, and this book, published in 1998, provides a detailed analysis of brain functioning and what contributes to feelings and emotions in mammals.

Jordan Peterson on the book: In one of his social media posts, Peterson wrote, “One of the best books on the neuroscience of emotion is Jaak Panksepp’s Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions….This book is graspable, creative, deep, informed, and personal.”

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Published in 1929, A Farewell To Arms is Ernest Hemingway’s version of Romeo and Juliet. The tragic love story is about an American ambulance driver who falls in love with a British nurse in Italy during World War I. After a certain chain of events, they both flee to Switzerland and spend several months together until she dies while giving birth to their stillborn baby.

Jordan Peterson on the book: A Farewell to Arms finds a place among Jordan Peterson’s Great Books list, and he promoted the same on Twitter.

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This 1952 novel by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is about two generations of brothers in a family. Set in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the plot is about how one brother struggles with holding a grudge against his elder brother and chooses evil in a weak moment. The same ordeal is repeated in the next generation as well. The book has several religious elements derived from the Book of Genesis.

Jordan Peterson on the book: Apart from mentioning it on his Great Books list, Peterson also has an extensive lecture on a biblical story, Cain and Abel, which forms the underlying theme of East of Eden.

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Hero and feature image: Courtesy Jordanbpeterson.com

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: What books has Jordan Peterson recommended?

Answer: Some books recommended by Jordan Peterson include ‘1984’, ‘Road to Wigan Pier’, ‘Demoms’, ‘Ordinary Men’, ‘The Rape of Nanking’ and ‘Affective Neuroscience: The Foundation of Human and Animal Emotion.’

Question: Which Jordan Peterson book should I read first?

Answer: ‘12 Rules For Life’ is his first and one of the most popular books. It can make a good stepping stone into Jordan Peterson's books.

Question: Which is Jordan Peterson's best-selling book?

Answer: ‘12 Rules For Life’ is one of the best-selling books by Jordan Peterson.

Question: What are the 12 rules for life according to Jordan Peterson?

Answer: According to ‘Guardian,’ the 12 rules for life as stated by Jordan Peterson include: standing up properly with shoulders held straight, treating yourself as if you are responsible for helping yourself and making friends with those who want the best for you. It also says to compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not the useless person you are today, don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them and tidy your house before you go to point out the flaws of the world. It adds that one should pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient and always strive to tell the truth or at least refrain from lying. One should always believe the person they are listening to knows something they don’t; one should be concise with their words, not disturb children when they skateboard and finally always stop to pet a cat on the street.

10 books from Jordan Peterson’s recommendation lists that you must read

Trinetra is an ardent foodie and bibliophile who writes about films, travel, food and lifestyle. As a writer and literature student, slam poetry and storytelling are her go to jam. When not working, Trinetra is busy looking for her next place to visit or binge-watching Instagram videos for travel inspiration.


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