Advertisement

Book of the week: A self-help guide for the young

Book review: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaosa guide for life that refuses to bow to political correctness.

884-book-100

Published by Allen Lane, £20

Buy at Amazon

Why not "sit in your mother's basement and eat Cheetos and play video games and watch pornography? That's a perfectly valid question." Max Read, interviewing Jordan Peterson for New York magazine, is stumped.

His mother doesn't even have a basement. But Peterson a clinical psychologist and social philosopher who shot to fame for refusing to bow to political correctness and identity politics in his native Canada, and for giving a hostile Channel 4 journalist an intellectual thrashing in an interview that then went viral here in Britain meant the question rhetorically.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Peterson's subject is the "existential plight of human beings", and his message is being picked up especially enthusiastically by young men. His lectures on YouTube and now this new book have, as Amol Rajan puts it in the New Statesman, filled a "gaping hole" in the lives of a generation that is now ready to grow up. The book is basically a self-help guide, and "like every other contribution to that bloated canon contains a mixture of the persuasive and self-evident".

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

It insists that some ways of life are morally better than others and comes at a time when liberals baulk from saying such things and Christianity has lost its appeal. Socioeconomic changes mean that people remain children for longer: the youth of today have more freedom to do what they want than previous generations would have dreamt possible but to what end?

Peterson's answers to that question are a breath of fresh air, says Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. He brings a fresh perspective to stale political certainties and has a "warm, scholarly respect" for the insights found in the stories in the Bible, for example. His basic message is that life is a battle against evil and suffering, and that you may as well face it clear-eyed and with some sense of bravery and adventure; and that political ideology is no answer when your life goes wrong.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"Don't blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your enemies. Don't reorganise the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your household, how dare you try to rule a city?" asks Peterson. That, says Noonan, is "a dangerous thing to say in an ideological age". But it needs saying. Peterson's 12 Rules for Life "is a good book, blunt and inspiring".

The advice is obvious stuff I've been saying it for years without attracting a cult following, grumbles Peter Hitchens in The Spectator. But Peterson's stand against the modern-day Thought Police is brave; his prose is leavened with personal stories that are "genuinely moving"; and his book gives "good advice for troubled, lost people". Peterson draws crowds of enthusiastic youngsters who thrill to what he has to say, says Douglas Murray, also in The Spectator. I'm not entirely sure what he's up to. But it is "wonderful".

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Theatre review: The Visit
Films

Theatre review: The Visit

Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Swiss classic The Visit, transported to 1950s America, poses the question: how much would you kill for?
28 Feb 2020
Six contrarian books for Christmas
Films

Six contrarian books for Christmas

Merryn Somerset Webb picks six of her favourite contrarian books to help you look clever and perhaps win a few arguments over the Christmas dinner tab…
9 Dec 2019
Coming to terms with Anna Sorokin
Films

Coming to terms with Anna Sorokin

My Friend Anna: The true story of the fake heiress of New York CityWilliams is a solid writer who does a good job of explaining how she, and other int…
21 Aug 2019
Book in the news… the inside story of Spain’s tumultuous crisis
Films

Book in the news… the inside story of Spain’s tumultuous crisis

After the Fall Crisis, Recovery and the Making of a New SpainA book that goes beyond politics to offer a deeply sympathetic portrayal of a country.
21 Aug 2019

Most Popular

BP has slashed its dividend – and markets love it
Income investing

BP has slashed its dividend – and markets love it

BP has bowed to the inevitable and cut its dividend in half – and its share price promptly rose. John Stepek explains what it means for shareholders …
4 Aug 2020
Listed companies are dying out, and that could have serious consequences
Stockmarkets

Listed companies are dying out, and that could have serious consequences

Private equity is taking over from public stockmarkets as the biggest provider of capital to companies. That’s bad for investors and bad for society a…
3 Aug 2020
Gold hits the big $2,000 level – are Aim miners about to play catch up?
Gold

Gold hits the big $2,000 level – are Aim miners about to play catch up?

With the price of gold shooting through $2,000 an ounce, the yellow metal looks unstoppable. Things are so bullish, even Aim-listed junior gold miners…
5 Aug 2020