The Help Desk: Crossing Jordan

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

So I tried to read a Jordan Peterson book. It was dumb — a mix of evolutionary science, cognitive behavioral therapy, and bad Bible interpretation. It was clearly intended to attract rootless young men in their moments of need, with suspicious frequent references to the undying pain of being betrayed by a lover. Peterson almost immediately lost me when he referred to men as agents of order and women as agents of chaos.

My question is, should I bother reading the rest? I like to be informed about people who are affecting the culture, and some people think he demonstrates something uniquely toxic about this moment. But I think Peterson is just a gross fad, like The Game or the Jersey Shore. I didn't bother to learn about those two things when they were popular, either, and I turned out okay. Should I forge on to fully know the beast I'm facing, or can I give myself a pass?

Dana, Madison Valley

Dear Dana,

Do not waste the precious time you have on this dying planet reading Peterson. His work is silly. The men who read it are the type of men who ask questions like "what gives you an intellectual erection?" to their cringing Tinder dates and, once rejected, spend whole weekends furiously ironing their pant collections and brainstorming words that rhyme with "white bitch."

From one agent of chaos to another, I suggest you offer to buy a relative, friend, coworker or online stranger/Tinder date who's a fan of Peterson a bottle of cold white wine if they'll spend an hour telling you all about 12 Rules for Life. Then, while they're talking, jovially interrupt and push back on the parts that are bullshit – make his fans defend his lazy thinking. It's how I got through college without reading a single Ayn Rand book while at the same time enjoying my first pregnancy scare.