9 Life Changing Books Recommended by Jordan Peterson

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He is well-known for his extensive study in personality assessment.

He is the author of the international best-seller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, which has sold over 5 million copies and been translated into over 50 languages. We have put up a list of the best life-changing books recommended by Jordan Peterson.

#1 The Painted Bird

The Painted Bird is a great book recommended by Jordan Peterson
The Painted Bird: shot from movie

Even though The Painted Bird is set during the Holocaust, it is not a Holocaust novel. The novel is mostly allegorical, dealing with the harshness of human nature and how the horrors we inflict on one another become a part of us.

The protagonist of the tale, a youngster who is an outsider, or “painted bird,” experiences acts of tyranny and cruelty and strives to understand why certain individuals are more powerful than others. The novel’s themes include the conflation of humans and animals, as well as the interplay of violence and control.

The painted bird, the protagonist of the novel endures long-suffering at the hands of different people throughout his life. From a very young age, the young man witnesses the cruelty of humanity and life.

Considering that Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist, it makes so much sense how this book might have influenced his perception of reality, and his career path.

Even though Prof. Jordan may not have experienced such monstrosities himself, he has read many books(as we’d see later in our list of Jordan Peterson’s recommended books) that feature multiple scenes when the protagonist goes through a life of horrifying pain. It is no wonder, that Jordan captivates his audience by tapping into their painful experiences.

A World Overturned With War and Hatred

Back to The Painted Birds, The book is told from the first-person perspective by a nameless boy of an unknown race. The setting of the novel is centered around the Eastern Europe part of the world during World War II, commencing in 1939, when the boy is six years old, and lasting six years.

When the novel begins, a third-person narrator reveals that the boy’s parents are afraid of being arrested by the Nazis and decide to go into hiding. They plan for their son to travel from their city to a town in the countryside.

The villagers there are secluded, poor, superstitious, and lack modern conveniences. While the youngster is dark-haired and dark-eyed, the peasants are fair, and the boy’s educated language is foreign to them.

The young boy’s dark hair and dark eye, makes him stand out from the rest, attracting the cruel display of “racism” and violence throughout his life. while trying to survive the ordeal of his difference, he also gets to witness, first-hand, the brutality of the Soviet soldiers.

In a village called Kalmuks where the young boy resides, the soldiers invaded and killed its occupants. The Boys parent would later come to claim him, but having lived in the “wild for too long” the young lad would escape back into the hell that he had gotten used to.

#2 The Rape of Nanking

The Rape Of Nanking is a great book recommended by Jordan Peterson
The Rape Of Nanking By Iris Chang

The Rape of Nanking is a historical nonfiction book written by American novelist and journalist Iris Chang that was published in 1997. The book, titled The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, describes the 1937 Nanking massacre, in which the Imperial Japanese Army massacred between 260,000 and 400,000 Chinese noncombatants and raped between 20,000 and 80,000 women over six weeks.

Prof Jordan Peterson is a clinical Psychologist, who investigates the origins of human suffering. One such book that provides horrific details is the “Rape of Nanking”.

He also points out that Humans have come a long way in history, and is often seen breaking down on some of his shows due to the pain he fills for the unending suffering of humanity. It is not a wonder, this book makes the list of Jordan Peterson’s recommended books.

The Rape of Nanking was extremely effective in calling attention to Japanese wartime atrocities, garnering Chang multiple honorary degrees, and the Organization of Chinese Americans’ National Woman of the Year award.

The Horrors of War

The author begins by recounting the historical events leading up to the Nanking massacre. Japan enters a significant slump after a period of continuous economic expansion throughout World War I. Resentful of both the West and its Asian neighbors, Japan embarks on an imperial expansion policy that begins with the conquest of Manchuria in Northeast China in 1931.

After six years of hostility between the two countries, Japan starts a full-scale invasion of China’s major cities, beginning with Shanghai, in the summer of 1937. After a three-month fight, Shanghai is captured by the Japanese Imperial Army, which marches inland toward Nanking, stealing and destroying everything and everyone in its way.

Iris Chang tells the story of the devastating events in three parts. She employs different perspectives of the participants of the war. Firstly, she tells the tale from the perspective of the Japanese, which having been affected by the war around them, are stirred up into hate towards everyone else.

The author gives chilling accounts of the terrifying events that play out. She also mentions the “kill all captives” order given by the then Japanese emperor, Asaka Yasuhiko. The Japanese as described by the author are said to have embarked on a rampage of rape, murder, and torture.

#3 Ordinary Man

Ordinary Men is great book recommended by Jordan Peterson
Ordinary-Man by Paul Rusesabagina

An Ordinary Man is Paul Rusesabagina’s autobiography published in 2006. He is the manager of a Belgian-owned Rwandan hotel. Rusesabagina’s account, written with the assistance of journalist Tom Zoellner, focuses on the challenges Rusesabagina and his family had to survive the brutal, racially driven genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994, a tragedy that was later adapted into the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda.

The tale has a conversational tone, simple vocabulary, and an unobtrusive manner. Following a description of Paul’s past and what he did to help those targeted during the conflict, the book delves into his perspectives on the genocide.

Racism at its’s Best

Rusesabagina grew up on a modest farm, the son of a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother. He eventually becomes the first Rwandan general manager of the opulent Hotel Mille Collines in Belgium. He transforms the hotel into one of Africa’s most profitable businesses.

The author traces Rwanda’s history to explain the interaction between Hutus and Tutsis. When Germany and Belgium colonized the country, they employed the tactics of amplifying and manufacturing the tension and mistrust between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes.

To maintain their power and authority over the Rwandan people, they pitted one tribe against the other and prevented the colonized from rising against their white oppressors.

#4 Modern Man in search of a Soul

Modern Man In Search Of A Soul By Carl Young
Modern Man In Search Of A Soul By Carl Young

Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud’s most famous student, wrote Modern Man in Search of a Soul in 1933, a book of collected lectures that had a significant influence on psychotherapy theory and practice. The book questions Freud’s understanding of the nature of the unconscious mind, which Jung argues is the source of basic wants and needs rather than the churning cauldron of anti-social urges depicted by Freud.

According to Jung’s lectures, persons who come to grips with their conflicted yearnings can not only overcome repeated psychiatric disorders but also acquire strong mental and spiritual vitality.

Modern Man in the Lookout for a Soul Jung’s beliefs about personality types, the collective unconscious, archetypes, and the therapeutic effects of Eastern religious ideologies were made available to a large audience.

A Journey into the Mind of “Man”

Patients seek the assistance of psychotherapists to help them deal with neurotic behaviors that cause problems in their life. The deep mind, the unconscious, is responsible for these symptoms. Dreams serve as a portal into those depths.

Dreams and desires are not expressions of the hidden, dark side of the human psyche, as depicted in Freudian psychoanalysis, but rather a representation of wants and needs that a person has ignored. Jung’s therapy technique uses dream analysis to bring these repressed desires to light so that the patient might learn how to constructively fulfill them.

Freudian treatment emphasizes the importance of a confessional process in which the patient addresses opposing drives that manifest as neuroses. Jung argues that this approach does not work for everyone and that some people respond better to direct explanations of the unconscious.

Psychotherapy: Prof. Jordan Peterson’s Shared View With Carl Yung’s Psychotherapy

While some individuals are more responsive to Freudian treatments, another group thrives best when they are educated on how to improve their social interactions, and some or all patients have the opportunity to transform into people who have full access to their creative mental powers, rather than just regaining normal behavior.

The goal of psychotherapy is not to force people to adhere to any psychological theory-based ideal; rather, it is to help them accept their deepest longings and lead them in manifesting those needs in productive ways.

It’s in responsibility that most people find the meaning that sustains them through life. It’s not in happiness. It’s not in impulsive pleasure. Jordan Peterson

Each patient, however, is unique, and no single explanation can account for all of them. Jung, on the other hand, assists patients in comprehending the significance of their dreams and fancies. Patients allow thoughts to emerge as a result of conscious free association. Some people sketch or paint images based on their thoughts. They frequently generate visuals that correspond to reoccurring symbols in art and history.

prof. Jordan Peterson speaks very highly of Carl Sung and recommends his books often. If you’ve listened to any of Jordan’s “talks” you’d see he mentions Carl Sung many times. Jordan- himself is somewhat leaned toward spirituality and doesn’t disregard the phenomenon. It is why many mistake him for being an atheist. However, shares Carl’s views, on the idea that,

#5 Beyond Good and Evil

Beyond Good And Evil
Beyond Good And Evil

Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche delves into the philosophy of the “desire to truth.” The premise at the center of Nietzsche’s argument is that in order to learn the truth, a person must question everything. Everything she or he has ever learned or witnessed must be revisited.

Nothing is immune to this self-examination, including self-perception, society teachings, and religion. According to Nietzsche, each human being has the power to do this, but most do not because they lack the motivation to examine all they have ever learnt.

Nietzsche despises those who lack the desire to go into the deepest recesses of their minds in search of the truth.

So, where does Nietzsche find his truth? He claims that his beliefs are the consequence of his rigorous education, notably his studies of Ancient Greek and current thinkers. He, on the other hand, is dismissive of newer philosophers. While he feels they may offer unique and fascinating issues, he also believes they are untested and unproven.

Language Barrier to enlightenment?

Blind faith is the enemy of the will to truth in Beyond Good and Evil. He also explains the significance of tempo in language. He claims that a misunderstanding of pace leads to translation mistakes.

In reality, there are some mistakes in the English translation of Beyond Good and Evil, but whether or not they are related to pace is unclear. If this were not an issue, Nietzsche argues that other civilizations would have a better comprehension of both ancient and modern philosophy.

Jordan Person, like in Friedrick’s book, recommends you ask for answers

To delve deeper into Nietzsche’s ideas about intelligence, he believes that anyone unwilling to abandon their faith’s traditions, what they have learned from their parents and society, and what they believe to be true in order to seek their genuine truth is stupid or dimwitted.

He has little patience for these people and even reveals how he terminates friendships if he discovers the other party to be doltish. He also argues that anyone who is not of German ancestry is subject to this classification because he feels that only the German language allows a grasp of philosophical concepts.

#6 Man’s Search for Meaning

Mans Search For Meaning
Mans Search For Meaning

What gives meaning to a man? These are questions that Jordan Peterson also tackles in his book-12 rules for life: an antidote to chaos.

Man’s Search for Meaning is about the author, Victor Frankl, and his attempts to overcome and understand the trauma of his experience in a concentration camp. The book is divided into three sections: I. Experiences in a Concentration Camp; II. Logotherapy in a Nutshell; and III. Postscript 1984: The Case for Tragic Optimism.

Victor Frankl was born in Vienna in 1905 and went on to become a psychiatrist. Despite being Jewish, Frankl was shielded from arrest by the Nazis for a time due to his employment as a doctor. When given the opportunity to obtain a visa and go to America, he chose to remain in Nazi-occupied Austria to be near his aged parents.

He and his family were eventually apprehended and deported to the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz. The author was lucky to be deemed young and robust enough to be assigned to work as a slave labourer rather than being gassed.

Victor’s ordeal with Racism

The first half of the book is a narrative and analysis of Frankl’s experiences in concentration camps during the war. He survived against all chances, displaying both incredible luck and a ferocious resolve to live.

After the war, Frankl returned to his profession in psychotherapy, strongly inspired by the question: How had he and others he knew in the camps maintained their will to live? What kept them alive and sane in a world when millions died in hopeless despair?

This investigation into the ultimate questions of life and death led Frankl to develop a whole new branch of psychotherapy that went beyond the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud—which is rooted in the idea that man is motivated by the drive for pleasure—and Alfred Adler—which is rooted in the idea that man is motivated by the drive for power.

In the second section of the book, the author goes into great detail about his “logotherapy” methods. Jordan Peterson is a very harsh critic of totalitarianism and recommends this book to his audience who he advises fighting totalitarianism at all costs. The Holocaust was majorly fueled by totalitarian political ideologies and racism.

#7 Brave New World

Brave New World
Brave New World

Brave New World, a novel by English author Aldous Huxley, was published in 1932. This influential fantasy novel, which depicted a future society ruled by totalitarianism, was inspired by world events.

Huxley wrote Brave New World Revisited, a short nonfiction book that reexamines the novel’s ideas and predictions in light of events that had occurred since the publication of Brave New World, in 1958, a full twenty-seven years later.

Huxley contends that the world is moving much faster than he predicted in Brave New World toward the dystopia he predicted in Brave New World. The book diagnoses many problems that were at the forefront of speculation in mid-twentieth-century society, the majority of which persist today in ever more pressing forms.

Jordan Peterson Fights the Canadian Government’s Bill C16

Jordan Peterson’s Brawl with the Canadian government on the matter of “freedom of speech”, is a delicate matter that Aldous Huxley also discusses. Jordan Peterson feared that the implementation of Bill C16 would lead to a government-enforced approach to “language orientation” and use.

It may be because of the warnings in Huxley’s book that Jordan Peterson recommends this book to his audiences. People must be aware and constantly on the lookout for subtle technics used by governments to brainwash society.

#8 1984


1984 (also known as Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel) was first published in 1949. It was written under the pen name George Orwell by Eric Arthur Blair, an Indian-born English novelist, and critic.

The author, writing as Orwell, was known for his social and political criticism in his work. He advocated for democratic socialism and opposed totalitarianism, which are reflected in the themes of his most well-known works.

Plot- Gorge Orwell Reveals the Darkness of Totalitarian Rulership

The book describes the ordeals of Winston Smith, who is a member of the Outer Party and lives in London in 1984. The future looks bleak: London has become a city in the super-nation Oceania, which is ruled by an oppressive totalitarian party and is constantly at odds with the other world superpowers, Eurasia and Eastasia.

Winston despises the totalitarian Party and its symbolic figurehead, Big Brother, but speaking or acting against the Party is a crime that will result in death.

Although the Party retains power, the proletarian class, which is described as filthy and subhuman, constitutes the majority of Oceania’s population. Despite their lower-class status, Winston believes that the common men had the best chance of overthrowing the Party.

Winston makes alliances with a member of the inner-Party member O’Brien, who he believed to share similar views as him. Another notable alliance was his entanglement with Julia, a dark-haired girl (also of inner-party members)who Winston believed to be a spy and feared she might expose his motives.

Winston and Julia visit a rented apartment above a shop in the proletariat district regularly, despite the dangers of a love affair. Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper, appears to accept their loving relationship, and his shop becomes their refuge for sexual intimacy and political discussion away from the Party’s constant surveillance, or so they believe.

#9 Crime and Punishment

Crime And Punishment
Crime And Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment was first published in 1866. The plot follows the isolation of a student named Raskolnikov, who decides to commit the perfect crime to prove his philosophical superiority over others. The novel explores the depths of his mental disintegration as he grapples with the psychological ramifications of murder.

Dostoevsky is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest writers of psychological fiction and a pillar of Russian literature. All of his works, including this widely acclaimed novel, have been adapted for film, television, and the stage. This guide makes use of Nicolas Pasternak Slater’s translation.

Plot: The Human mind is an unknown and Dark land

Raskolnikov, a poor, paranoid young student, convinces himself that he is extraordinary. He proposes a theory in which the world’s most extraordinary men should be allowed to commit any crime in the name of the greater good of humanity. Raskolnikov lives in a small apartment, spends his meager funds on strange, altruistic causes, and plots some mysterious, terrible deed to prove his superiority.

Raskolnikov finally decides to put his theory to the test. He assassinates an elderly pawnbroker whom he regards as a drain on society. He also murders the pawnbroker’s half-sister, who unexpectedly enters the murder scene. Raskolnikov flees the crime scene, but soon becomes ill with a fever and spends several days unconscious in his cramped apartment.

This event would spark many unprecedented events in Raskolnikov’s life. Raskolnikov is plagued by memories of the murders. Raskolnikov requests the return of his own pawned items after learning that the local police magistrate, Porfiry, has begun interviewing all of the pawnbroker’s clients. His strange conversation with Porfiry raises even more questions.

Porfiry pays a visit to Raskolnikov and admits that he knows the truth. He does, however, want to give Raskolnikov time to make a genuine confession. Raskolnikov visits the police station and confesses after an anxious night and with the support of Sonia. He is sentenced to life in a Siberian penal colony, where Sonia joins him. While there, he reassembles his life.

While scholars like the philosopher, Friedrick Neitschze, assert that morality is but an illusion, the book takes us through a journey of the psychological turmoil that the human psyche undergoes when it begins to reprimand itself. The human conscience’s role in shaping who we are cannot be overestimated. Jordan Peterson says this regularly.

Jordan Peterson argues that psychology is a physical component and a spiritual one, and would recommend that everyone curious should read the book.