We dove into the extensive book recommendation list from Jordan B. Peterson and let me tell ya… they are some (as in many) intense reads on there. Doing the research on each of these books and why they are highly recommended was super interesting. The books from his ‘great books‘ list are all amazing for understanding ourselves and the world around us. He is one of the many minds that we find to be so intriguing to learn from.
His selections span topics like mythology, the Bible, psychology, history, and the state of the world today. Lucky for us, this booklist was just updated this past year! We have not completely read or analyzed every recommended text but based on our extensive research, here are our top 10 must-reads from his list and why!
Who is Jordan B. Peterson?
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and author. His main areas of study are the psychology of religious belief, the assessment and treatment of psychological disorders, and the nature of personality. He is known for his work as a clinical psychologist and his staunch opposition to political correctness, but what many people don’t know is that he has also been open about his own struggles with addiction. In recent years, Peterson speaks candidly about his past addictions, and how he eventually got sober. “I was really lucky in that I hit bottom,” Peterson said of his time in rehab. “I had no choice.” After years of battling his addictions, Peterson finally knew he couldn’t do it on his own. He finally had to admit he needed help, and that’s when his life began to turn around.
Guided by his realization of the importance of self-awareness, Peterson has spent years carefully curating a list of books that have been foundational in his own personal growth. In his book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” Peterson writes that reading these books helped him develop the framework he uses to this day to “understand how life works, what’s worth doing in it, and how you can do it.”
“These are books I have found deeply rewarding-books in which great minds grapple with essential questions,” says Peterson. So whether you’re trying to improve your own life or simply want to learn more about human psychology, you should definitely check out these top-notch titles from Jordan B. Peterson’s list of recommended books.
Our Top 10 from Peterson’s List
1. The Iliad, by Homer
To kick us off, the ever-so classic book on Peterson’s list is an ancient tale of war and revenge. Although it was written in approximately 800 B.C., Peterson believes that the story still has value for modern society.
“If you want to understand human nature,” he said, “you can’t do better than Homer.”
2. The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell
Campbell is considered one of the leading authorities on mythology and comparative religion. In this series of interviews with Bill Moyers, he talks about the hero’s journey, which is something he believes all people go through. He also discusses why understanding myths can help us better understand ourselves and the world around us.
Not a reader? Check out this amazing movie on Youtube about Joseph Campbell called Finding Joe. Finding Joe discusses the hero’s journey, the influence of myth on society, and the importance of the self-discovery story. It also features a lot of interviews with Deepak Chopra, Robin Sharma, Rashida Jones, Sir Ken Robinson, and more.
3. The Bible
Peterson has been known to say that the Bible should be mandatory reading for all university students. “It’s an extremely sophisticated book,” that contains a “profoundly deep structure,” he says that is “accurate about human nature.”
As he is very passionate about psychological analysis, it is evident that he puts a lot of thought into his book recommendations – especially this one. So it comes to no surprise when he says, “Read it. And don’t be lazy about it.”
If you happen to be that “lazy” type though or don’t feel like taking on such a tall reading task, here is the full playlist of his Biblical Stories series lectures on Youtube to sift through. There are 19 videos. I’m sure you knew it would be a lot given the series is covering … the Bible. Anyway, these videos are so interesting and a great place to start if you have any interest in religion or psychology.
Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories series
4. Affective Neuroscience, by Jaak Panksepp
Affective Neuroscience, by Jaak Panksepp, is an interesting book that highlights the neurology behind how we’ve learned to feel emotions. It’s scientific in nature, which Peterson believes will help readers understand themselves better when it comes to our emotions and how our brain works.
5. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, by Steven Pinker
In this book, Steven Pinker discusses the good news of human nature. He believes that the world is actually getting better, rather than worse like it’s often believed to be. Peterson advocates that reading this book will help people understand how to properly process reality and take action in their lives.
6. The Red Book, by Carl Jung
This book, written by one of Peterson’s mentors and in the Clinical Psychology category, is inspired by the author’s experiences in his dreams. In the prologue to this book, Jung wrote that it was “the product of spontaneous fantasy” that came from his unconscious mind. Peterson believes that this “highly unusual” account is an important resource for understanding the human mind. It provides deep insight into what it means to be human, which is exactly why Peterson thinks everyone should read it.
7. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, by Hernando De Soto
One of Peterson’s books that address the origin of human institutions, part of the History/System Analysis list, is a favorite among politicos and economists alike. De Soto argues that societies flourish when they respect individual property rights, which largely stem from the latter’s relationship to the community.
8. Maps of Meaning, by Jordan Peterson
This book is written by Peterson himself. It attempts to provide an outline for how the mind works, including information about what motivates people and why they make certain choices.
Not a big reader? His 2017 Maps of Meaning lecture series is on Youtube where Peterson discusses how myths and stories can help us understand our own lives. The lecture series is long but definitely worth the watch if you are not a reader.
2017 Maps of Meaning 01: Context and Background
9. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan Peterson
In his bestselling book, Peterson focuses on how we can use ancient traditions and modern scientific research to build a better world. He talks about what it means to live a good life and the importance of working together—rather than trying to climb an imaginary hierarchy.
10. Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson
Peterson released this collection of 12 rules in 2021 after his battle with addiction. It offers further advice on how we can successfully navigate our lives and society as a whole. Beyond Order includes a new “rule” on “Be grateful in spite of your suffering” which speaks the message of Buddhist teachings, AA, and other 12-step or spiritual programs that teach people how to be grateful for what you have and where you’re at.
Knowledge is Power
It is all in the learning and understanding. And with the right knowledge, you can make positive contributions to society and live a better life. That’s why it’s important that we read more of these books from Jordan Peterson and other great minds of our time. His selections span topics from philosophy, clinical psychology, neuroscience, religion, history & system analysis, and 21st century, the state of the world today. Each one intended to help readers grow in their understanding of themselves and the world around them. Check out our 10 favorite book recommendations from Russel Brand’s list. Should we start a 2022 book club? Let us know in the comments and join our free membership here!