Two critics who reviewed a book by Jordan Peterson have said their articles were quoted on its cover in a misleading way.
Quotes from reviews published in the Times and the New Statesman were used on the cover of the paperback edition of Peterson’s Beyond Order.
The book cover quoted a line from the Times saying the book was “a philosophy of the meaning of life”.
But it didn’t mention that the review described that philosophy as “bonkers”.
Peterson and his publishers Penguin have not yet responded to the BBC’s request for comment.
The Canadian psychology professor has gained a loyal following partly due to his opinions on so-called “culture war” issues such as white privilege, gender-neutral pronouns and gender roles.
But the 61-year-old is a controversial figure who is derided by others for his views.
Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life, which was published in paperback last May, quoted Johanna Thomas-Corr’s review in the New Statesman on its cover.
She said the quote that was selected to market the book was a “gross misrepresentation” of her 2,500-word review.
Thomas-Corr, who is also literary editor of the Sunday Times, posted on X (formerly Twitter): “I don’t have it in me to write some causally witty thing about how horrifying this is.” She added that her quote “should be removed”.
Thomas-Corr’s review appeared in the New Statesman, a left-leaning current affairs magazine, in March 2021, when the original hardback edition of the book was published.
Her article referred to what she called the “inadvertent comedy” of the book, and said Peterson spent several pages “ranting”.
Her lengthy review also said: “His unwillingness to address detail or confront counter-arguments feels cowardly.
“He repeatedly identifies masculinity with order and femininity with chaos and makes it clear which side he feels we should favour.”
But Thomas-Corr’s review did feature some praise, and it was these passages that were quoted on the paperback’s cover.
One line quoted Thomas-Corr saying it was “genuinely enlightening and often poignant”.
Another said: “Here is a father figure who takes his audience seriously. And here is a grander narrative about truth, being, order and chaos that stretches back to the dawn of human consciousness.”
Elsewhere, the book jacket featured a line from James Marriott’s review in the Times, which said: “A philosophy of the meaning of life… the most lucid and touching prose Peterson has ever written.”
However, Marriot has also also suggested his review had been quoted selectively to “disguise” the fact it was largely negative.
In a since-deleted post, Marriott jokingly praised the “incredible work from Jordan Peterson’s publisher”, adding: “My review of this mad book was probably the most negative thing I have ever written.”
The full-length review described Peterson’s prose as “repetitious, unvariegated, rhythmless, opaque and possessed of a suffocating sense of its own importance”.
Only in a paragraph praising one particular chapter did Marriott say the text was the best prose Peterson had written.
Marriott’s full review otherwise said the book “nails together shower thoughts, random prejudices and genuine insights into a decidedly rickety structure”, and repeatedly used the word “bonkers” to describe Peterson’s philosophy.
At the time of writing, Marriott’s review still features on Penguin’s online page for the book.
Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life was a follow-up to Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
Another review by Suzanne Moore in the Telegraph said Peterson’s book featured “hokey wisdom combined with good advice”.
The book jacket cut out the word “hokey” so the quote read only: “Wisdom combined with good advice.”
However, Moore gave a positive review to the book overall, awarding it four stars.
Although it is normal for publishers to use techniques to increase sales, the complaints could raise questions in the publishing industry about selective quoting.
The matter does not fall under the remit of the Advertising Standards Authority because the quotes feature on a book jacket rather than in an advertisement.