9 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Turn 30

9 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Turn 30

About to turn 30? Don’t worry, books can help. And if you’re looking for something new to read anyway, here’s a bunch of suggestions from the Reader Services department of the New York Public Library designed to help people keep their sanity as they enter their fourth decade.

‘1984’ by George Orwell

The high school classic is well worth a re-read, the librarians say.

People who are either just entering or getting settled into their careers are likely to relate a little differently to ‘1984’ than they might have at 16 or 17.

It’s a story of ‘power and brutality,’ the librarians say, and it should resonate as power structures start to become more visible in a newly-employed person’s life.

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‘Adulthood Is a Myth’ by Sarah Andersen

It’s a nice idea, that entering your 20s means somehow graduating into adulthood. But as every young-at-heart baby boomer or senior will tell you, adulthood never really arrives.

At some point you just start doing ‘adult’ things.

Sarah Andersen’s collection of comics, ‘Adulthood Is a Myth,’ cleverly illustrates the small but nagging growing pains that many of us feel as adult life creeps closer.

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‘Attachments’ by Rainbow Rowell

‘Attachments’ is a great primer for entering the strange, sometimes unforgiving seas of the working world.

It’s about two friends sending each other email at work, while an IT guy monitors their messages and ends up falling for one of the women.

‘Rowell and her characters truly get what it means to be out of college, growing up, and in a ‘real’ job for the first time,’ the librarians say. ‘Plus, you’ll get an understanding of what all those Gen-Xers were going through around the turn of the millennium.’

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‘Beijing Bastard: Into the Wilds of a Changing China’ by Val Wang

Aside from difficulties in scaling the career ladder, many quarter-life crises are spurred on by a flimsy sense of self.

‘Beijing Bastard,’ Wang’s memoir about finding her identity in New York after moving from China, is ‘a funny, fresh coming-of-age story’ that is sure to connect with soul-searchers in their 20s, the librarians say.

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‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates

New York Times critic A.O. Scott put it bluntly: ‘Between the World and Me’ is ‘essential, like water or air.’

Winner of the National Book Award, Coates’ novel reveals a perspective on race in America that challenges everyone to reckon with the country’s brutal past — both recent and distant.

The book can help people just learning about their place in the world gain new insight.

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‘Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word’ by Nadia Abushanab Higgins

‘Feminism’ wants to make it less uncomfortable to be a feminist.

The librarians say the book is essential for people moving into the wider world because so many communities are simply too diverse for regressive mindsets about equality.

‘No one should come of age in 2017 without a basic understanding of intersectional feminism,’ they say.

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‘Modern Romance’ by Aziz Ansari

One of the first things people in their 20s learn (and often the hard way) is that dating in adulthood can be a disaster.

‘Modern Romance’ riffs on the perils of online dating, the etiquette that goes into texting, and provides sociological research to illuminate how we got here.

The librarians say it’s ‘funny, timely, and full of facts and figures to help navigate the seas of love.’

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‘The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing’ by Mira Jacob

Growing up means accepting your parents as fractured, flawed people who make mistakes just like everyone else.

In ‘The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing,’ a woman must grapple with her family’s hidden past along with discomfiting notions of mortality.

‘Wrap your mind around the idea that you can use fiction — in this case, the relatable, often funny story of Amina, who’s just turning 30 — to start seriously working through ideas about ageing and death,’ the librarians say.

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‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, the once-anonymous advice columnist, has compiled pieces of wisdom into a book the librarians call ‘the best, most compassionate advice about being a fully realised, empathic person in the world.’

At its heart, ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ is a reminder that life is fraught with uncertainty, and that what we call ‘quarter-life crises’ might just be the first in a series of opportunities to ask for help.

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This article first appeared on Business Insider.


  • If I may suggestion one, “The Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”.

    The overall theme in the book is “Don’t Panic”.

  • Given that ‘getting older’ in no way means ‘getting smarter’ or ‘getting wiser’, this list could have used a title or two on the topic of navigating the rampant bullshit that permeates life in the 21st century. A Ben Goldacre book here, a Joseph Stiglitz book there, a bit of Noam Chomsky on the side, to help understand the forces – the REAL forces – that make the world turn and maintain (or worsen?) the fairly abysmal status quo. Not quite sure why non-fiction writing gets such short shrift from so many quarters, given that it is far more powerful in teaching people about the world than novels.

    • I am not sure it is more “powerful”. Stories are more relatable, easier to digest, has plot beats that are easier to remember and which create a stronger emotional attachment.

      Non-fiction is important because there’s heaps of nuance that cannot be conveyed in a story, but I argue that it is meant mostly for the “converted”, he who already understands and likely agrees with many of the basic ideological tenets being communicated and is hungry for a more concentrated flavour. However stories are the ones with the greater capacity to initially intrigue, move and eventually “convert” an uninitiated person. There’s a reason why religion is an unstoppable force throughout history, while philosophies come and go.

  • The last thing we need are more absurd comparisons between [any political party I hate] and 1984.

  • No one needs to read about intersectional feminism. It only seeks to divide by race and gender. It is post-modernism tripe.

    Instead, read Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. A persuasive book that convinces you of the need for investing in space travel.

    • Also, the Nobel prize winning Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn so you can have an understanding of why post-modernism & class dividing isn’t a good idea.

  • I would suggest “The subtle art of not giving a fuck”

    Really good book, would highly recommend it for anyone in their 20-30s.

  • May I suggest ‘A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu’ by Marcel Proust? But preferably read this after you have turned 30 (or even 40).

  • Hmm essential reading before you’re thirty. ..

    A brief history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson gives you an easy to understand history of scientific progress

    The Longest Decade by George Megalogenis great recent political history of Australia showing how two polar opposites Keating and Howard were actually steering the country in the same direction

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