30 Books To Read Before 30

I decided to do a “30 Books To Read Before 30” because having reached 30, I know how reading these books helped me in my 20s and how much I am better for it in my 30s. A lot of these books really opened my eyes, my world, taught me something new, helped me to be more empathetic and got me through a lot of difficult times. I wish I had a list like this in my 20s but even if you missed this list in your 20s, it still holds true for your 30s.

My wish for you is that at least one of books below really speaks to you on a deeper level and changes your life in a way you never imagined.

1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I remember reading “The Diary of a Young Girl” By Anne Frank at a very young age, it wasn’t until I was older and much more aware of the Nazi invasion that I fully understood what this book meant.

We are thrown into the world of the Frank family who spent two years in an attic in Amsterdam hiding from Nazis. From Anne Frank’s diary we receive a first-hand account of soul crushing conditions and fear that gripped the family during that time.

As an avid journaler, this book cemented my need to document things that are happening around me because you never know how your story might form a piece of history.

 

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2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Whenever I am feeling lost, purposeless and generally down, I pick up “The Alchemist” and read about Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy whose travels teaches us so much about life and purpose. I have read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho at least twelve times, and each time I am shown something new that I never remember seeing before. To say this book is magical would be an understatement. If you are struggling to make an important decision, if you want to have more insights to your purpose, I recommend picking up and reading this book.

Remember, “when you want something, the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

 

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3. The Four Agreements A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements offers a practical guide to living your very best life. I wish I had read this book earlier in my 20s and actually put the four agreements into practice, I think it would have helped me navigate a lot of the difficulties I faced.

The Four Agreements are:

* Be Impeccable With Your Word

* Don’t Take Anything Personally

* Don’t Make Assumptions

* Always Do Your Best

If you succeed in living by these Four Agreements, let me know how.

 

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4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Undoubtedly “Americanah” sheds light on the Immigrant experience in a raw and refreshing way. The two main characters migrated from Nigeria to America and London. We get a firsthand look at how they grapple with their expectations of life in a first world country and the different racial issues that are thrown at them. Reading this book gave me a deeper understanding of the life immigrants face when they are undocumented and even when they are, they still do encounter a lot of hate. Although this was published in 2013, what lies between these pages remains relevant.

 

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5. Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela

As autobiographies go, Nelson Mandela’s “A Long Walk To Freedom” is an absolute must-read. Mr. Nelson Mandela shaped the history of South Africa and it is a story that demands to be read. Even if you don’t consider yourself a history or political buff, this book sheds light on Nelson Mandela’s life and how he was instrumental in the fight against apartheid. He also gives wise advice on how to life a full rich life.

 

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6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

As a big fan of historical fiction, specifically the Nazi Invasion, “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah perfectly captures how war changes people and leads them to do things they wouldn’t generally do. As storytelling and writing goes, this book is top notch. I found myself being moved emotionally and generally questioning and wondering what I would do if I was in the character’s situation. This is a great work of historical fiction and I strongly recommend giving this a read.

 

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7. The Bible

So many of the stories in the Bible have shaped my life. Whenever, I am struggling with a particular area be it finances, relationships, love,  work ethic, dealing with difficult people, etc- I can find a solution, or I am given insight in how other people dealt with it. The teachings in the Bible can still be applied to every area of your life.

 

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8. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

As memoirs go, “When Breath Becomes Air” will break your heart in ways you never thought possible and have you refocus your life and energy on who and what is really important. This memoir is written by and about Paul Kalanithi, a 36 years old completing his training as a neurosurgeon when we was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. A heart breaking read on how unpredictable life can be and how we must live in a very meaningful way.

 

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9. The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

In “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” we meet Anthony Ray Hinton who was wrongly arrested and charged with capital murder and sentenced to death. In the era of the New Jim Crow, Hinton was arrested in 1985 at just twenty-nine years old and would spend nearly thirty years on death row.

A necessary read on how Jim Crow is still very alive and how being poor actually puts you at so many disadvantages.

 

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10. Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling

The classic tale of friendship and good over evil but the spin of magic and the Wizarding World. It is not everyday we read a series with characters we all can relate to. In a world filled with so much, this series offers us the ability to escape to Hogwarts.

 

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11. Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

If you are anything like me, it means your finances are in shambles. It seems money slips through your hands and you can never catch a break and make a commitment to save. “The Richest Man In Bablyon” gives us very simplistic rules to follow that will lead to financial freedom and good money management. I know there are a lot of criticisms for this book because people feel it is too simplistic but there is beauty in the simple things. This book covers the very basic in managing money and most of us sometimes forget the basics, this book will be a great reminder.

 

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12. The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

In this book we are thoroughly reminded that “there are no random acts…we are all connected…you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind…”

In “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” we meet Eddie 50mins before he dies- yes, we basically start at the end with this book. After his death Eddie meets five people, each is connected to his life in some way, however, he doesn’t know this until it is explained to him. What I love about this book is how short and profound it is. We go through life thinking we aren’t connected or that we are alone and nothing could be further from the truth. We are all connected in a big way and this book drives this point home beautifully. It begs the question, what impact are you making on the lives of people around you?

 

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13. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay

This book is an anthology put together by Roxane Gay about rape and rape culture. In this day and age women and men are shunned into silence and are continually shamed when they report abuse. “Not That Bad” features over 10 writers who speak openly about rape culture, how it affected them and their family. This is a relevant and required reading by all, because most of us either perpetuate this culture or are victims of it.

 

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14. The 4 Hour Work Week

“Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.”

This is a book I wish I read when I was in my early twenties, I know for sure, things would have been different in my life. Regardless, as they quote above says, “someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.” A lot of us are waiting on this that may never happen to take the chance we have been dreaming of. This book is the giant kick in the ass you need. I makes you ponder on a deep level, “what would I do/what chance would I take if money wasn’t a problem and failure wasn’t an option?”

If you have been afraid of living your very best life, this book will help in motivating you.

 

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15. All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

In “All Grown Up” we meet 39-year-old Andrea who chooses and is unashamed (and rightly so) to be unmarried, without kids and still trying to figure it out. Andrea is works in advertising, does mediocre at her job, drinks a lot, still rents and generally does not have a firm grip on life as you would expect a 39 year old will have. She is generally rough around the edges, but at the core a great person who is struggling to keep it together.

I added this book to the list because I feel like we are constantly being told how our lives should look at a particular age, how many boxes we should have ticked by the time we are 30 or 40. This book dismantles that narrative and shows us that ‘adulting’ is hard AF and its great to meet someone–even if its just a literally character who is still trying to figure it out.

 

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16. We Were Eight Years in Power An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The morning I woke up to the news that Trump was President, I cried. To this date, I still believe we are all in this terrible nightmare that just will not end. I know this is a topic that’s been talked about and written about to death, but I think it is important that we keep revisiting why it happened and how we can do better when given the choice in the future. I consider this collection of essays required reading by everyone.

 

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17. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

I am not a mathematics or physics buff, but I do know about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and I am pretty sure you do as well. In “Einstein’s Dreams” we are re-introduced to the whole notion of time. We are forever being told about the scarce commodity—time—and how it is always against us and we can never get it back.

I am one of those persons who believe in time. I believe in reaching on time, being on time and respecting other people’s time. Time is the only thing we cannot get back or get more of, which means it is something we should value and respect. Imagine how shattered my world is after reading this book. Lightman’s writes stories showing the numerous ways we can look at time—as linear, as a circle, as disjointed, as three dimensional, endless, etc…Lightman opens our world to the numerous possibilities and make a case that time is measured how we see fit. This book really blew me away, it made me question how I look at time and how I currently live my life. While it is only 150 pages long, it was deeply profound and it made my brain hurt. This definitely should be one of the books you read before 30.

 

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18. The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu

The Book of Joy is a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu about how you find joy or more specifically how as an individual you can be joyful in this world. The book was done as commemorative piece for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. The two met in India for the celebration of their lives and to talk about Joy.

It take a lot of work to have joy and be joyful in a world that throws so much sorrow and despair our way. In this book we are given lessons and stories on how we can actively work on maintaining our joy. The book challenges us to ask these two questions: “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy if it cannot be remedied?”

Answering these two questions will solve a lot in our lives.

 

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19. Losing my Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

Richard Branson is arguably one of the most renowned entrepreneurs of our time. We are familiar with the work he has done in entertainment, travel and entrepreneurship; we may even be consumers of the brand. In “Losing My Virginity” Branson gives shows us his approach to life and business. There are so many fundamental lessons to be learned from this book, especially if you are thinking of starting your own business.

Today we are bombarded with brands, how to build your own brand, but this book could quite possibly be the “how to” guide on building a brand. Two things that are covered in this book are: how to brand and how to take risks.

Even if you are not planning on being an entrepreneur, there are so many other valuable lessons to be learned from this memoir.

 

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20. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight

One of the most recognized brands in the world is NIKE. In Shoe Dog, we get a firsthand look at how the creator, Phil Knight built his company from the ground up. I think this is a book everyone should read before they turn 30. A lot of the things I grapple with I see Knight did as well. I see a lot of myself in young Knight, how unsure he was about his place in life, how we knew he had a bigger calling and how he took the unbeaten track in life. Building a business is hard, and he is very honest about the struggle and the pressures to give in and sell.

People see NIKE and a lot, including myself would not believe the struggle and fight it took to make it the brand it is today. I almost could not believe the pure fight Knight went through to make sure that company succeeded. This is a must-read for anyone who is fighting the good fight and remaining authentic.

 

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21. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

“A snowflake never feels responsible for the avalanche” —Jonathan Bullock There is no denying that we live in the Social Media Age. The entire world is at our fingertips; most of us are Twitter Warriors, Instagram Curators and Facebook Ranters.

We often forget that there are human beings with feelings at the other end of our comments and shares. We also for some reason have this sense of security provided by the screens we hide behind. It is with this in mind that Ronson pulled together a case study of some persons who were publicly shamed. Remember that executive who boarded a flight to South Africa and tweeted that she hopes she doesn’t catch AIDS. When she landed she was greeted by the press, fired from her job and basically burned at the stakes. Ronson spoke to her and we get a firsthand look into how her life changed after that one incident.

There are so many other popular cases that were discussed in this book. I think for a generation that lives online, this book perfectly drives home the point that we need to be careful how we use each platform. Also, be kind to one another.

 

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22. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams and Reaching Your Destiny by Robin S. Sharma

As far as books go, this is a book a re-read yearly, because it is packed with practical ways in which you can live a more enriching life. The book is told in the form of a fable, in it, we meet Julian Mantle, a lawyer at the top of his game who suddenly falls ill. He journeys to Asia where he meets with Monk who gives a step-by-step approach on how to live a more fulfilling life.

I know, it all seems whimsical but I’ve read this book at least 5 times and putting into practice some of the approaches mentioned can drastically change your life for the better.

 

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23. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture is quite literally that—the last lecture by a Professor who is dying from Pancreatic Cancer. This book is emotionally charged, we are challenged to live our best lives and given various wisdom and words to live by from this Professor. Dying is hard, but Randy offers us a blueprint on how we can make an impact even on our numbered days.

I think this is a book everyone should read; especially those who would like wisdom on how to navigate hard times and things the world throws at us.

 

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24. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Bob Marley, we all know him, we’ve all heard of him, and we’ve all sang along to his hits. The island Jamaica is synonymous with Bob Marley, in this book we are thrown into the thick of Marley’s fame back in 1976, just before the attempted killing of the superstar.

I refer to this book as the “Game Of Thrones” of the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica. The story, while historical fiction, spans decades, we are introduced to Bob and we are shown Jamaican like we have never seen before from the FBI, to drugs, gun trade, politics and the darker side of Kingston.

This book is for anyone whose had a curiosity about Bob Marley, or Jamaica. This is Jamaica like you’ve never seen it before, not to mention the writing is impeccable and the book is thoroughly researched.

 

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25. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Before your thirties you will (should) meet and fall in love with someone and it will totally ruin you. You will experience heartache and heartbreak like you’ve never felt it before. You will be left wondering “what if?”. That experience will drain you emotionally and you will be left with a permanent desire for that person.

“The Light We Lost” perfectly captures this experience. In it we meet Lucy and Gabe who falls in love but life keeps pulling them apart. We get a heartbreaking account of their relationship.

I added this to the list, not to torture you emotionally but to remind you of that love you lost, or that person you think you would have never get over and its now a person that haven’t crossed your mind in forever. I also hope that this book will remind you that you can love again.

 

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26. Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids by Meghan Daum

Increasingly women and men are deciding that they do not want kids, most of the time they are met with, “wait till you get older”, “won’t you regret that decision?” and generally there isn’t a lot of support for people who decide to take this route in life.

Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed” is a collection of essays by sixteen writers on their decision not to have children. As someone who does not want kids, or never had any inclination to procreate, this collection cemented my decision and gave me an idea of what my life without kids may look like.

I think this is a book every woman should read before they’re 30 because quite frankly a lot of us are shamed into thinking we must have kids.

 

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27. David and Goliath Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

A lot of us face giants in life. Majority of us have some disadvantage that makes us an underdog. If you are like me, I always gravitate and cheer for the underdog, there is just something serendipitous of an underdog overcoming and winning against all odds.

In “David and Goliath” Malcolm Gladwell with his gift of storytelling tackles the subject of underdogs and how we can use our disadvantage to our advantage. A must read for anyone who struggles and constantly has to play with the rough cards they were dealt.

 

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28. Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is the unbelievable biography of Louis Zamperini who was a star athlete who got drafted during the war. His plane crashed into the ocean, him and three officers survived. They were at sea for over a month and a half then they were recused by the Japanese. They were taken to a POW camp and all sorts of abuses were meted out to them. Zamperini and his team were declared dead by the US Government after a year, but they were still in the POW camps.

This is a true survival story, a modern day “Job Story.” In reading this you think, “what else could possibly go wrong? How much can one man take?” At the heart of this book is a grand portrayal of the human spirit and how we can survive and live against all odds. This is definitely a book you pick up before 30 as it serves as a reminder to be grateful and courageous.

 

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29. Night by Elie Wiesel

As far as memoirs go, this one is an absolute must-read. In “Night” Elie Wiesel gives a shockingly personal account of his time in Concentration Camps. I have read a lot of reports and books from various Holocaust survivors but for some reason, this one has etched itself into my soul. I think it had to do with Wiesel’s outlook on life while I was in such a dark and difficult place.

A lot of times we go through hardships and struggles, we feel beaten down and defeated, in “Night” we are reminded that they can imprison the body, but not the mind.

 

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30. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

Honestly, this book gets me every time. It offers sound, solid, well thought out advice that you can use at any stage of your life.

While nothing “new” was really said, everything written resonated with me. Also, we can all agree if Oprah says she knows something for sure, we are in safe hands. I recommend reading this at the start of the year or when you are starting fresh in any area of your life.

 

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There you have it, 30 Books I think should be read before turning 30. If I didn’t include a book that you think should be included, comment and let me know why you think it should be on the list.

2 Comments

  1. Wow! Your reading game is so on pint. I have read like 2 of these but so many of them are on my list. I’m read The Girl Who Smiled Beads and she talks alot about Night by Elie Wiesel. I’ve added that to my tbr.

  2. What an awesome list! Thank you so so much! Just reading this list inspired me – I have quite a few of them on my goodreads lists (like Shoe Dog, A Brief History of 7 Killings, Breath Becomes Air..) and a few I have never heard of that I will be putting into my goodreads account NOW (What I Know For Sure, Night, Unbroken..)
    I am past 30 but never too late to start right?

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