Today I’m going to share 30 books with you that will rock your world if you read them in your 20s. But don’t fret, if you read these in a lifetime, you will enjoy a rich, literary existence that few can match.

30 Books to Read Before You Turn 30

 Ready, set, here you go:

  1. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
  2. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  4. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
  5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  6. Blindness by Jose Saramago
  7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  8. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
  9. Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath
  10. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  11. Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
  12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  13. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  14. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  15. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  16. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  17. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  18. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  19. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  20. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
  21. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  22. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  23. Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  24. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  25. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  26. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  27. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  28. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  29. The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama
  30. Paradise Lost by John Milton

The editions I suggest are here in the Amazon store.

Today is my 30th birthday, and your present to me is to list any books you think I’m missing in the comments.

I’m looking forward to the next decade full of books! Happy reading!Check out an epic book list to conquer before your 30th birthday.

35 Responses

  1. Ah, The Road…and that damned, confounded House of Leaves book. What a mindF?! I read that for a period of time I stopped drinking and it probably led me back. But how bizarre. I like your tastes and wow, all this before 30! Superb.

    1. Seriously. Did you hear Danielewski has a new book coming out in May? Here is the link: in case you need a reason to keep off the wagon. And deep down I think most of these should be before 40, but I met someone who read House of Leaves as a teen and loved it, so I decided to include it. Plus a lot of my former students read this blog and this is a decent list to aspire to if you find it in your early 20s.

  2. BTW, read Cormac McCarthy’s first last year, the Orchard Keeper, which was exceptionally exceptional and odd. You might like that if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet. Best, – Bill

  3. I will check it out. Would it be a good read for a ladies book club? I’m trying to decide on our next pursuit and I loved The Road but haven’t read any of his other stuff.

    1. Cat’s Cradle is great to start with. I’d also highly recommend Breakfast of Champions. He’s very unique, and I think all of his work is great to read if you want to improve your writing.

    2. Vonnegut’s “Mother Night” is phenomenal. One of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. It’s a deft examination into whether what we are can be separated from what we do. “Bluebeard” is another favourite of mine.

  4. Aaah!!! You’re much too late! And I’ve only read half of them!! I’ll try and catch up!
    Best wishes

  5. Excited to see that I’ve already read quite a few of these! I’d also probably want to add Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood and I’m still avoiding Infinite Jest, though I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually. 🙂

  6. Well so far I’ve managed 15 of those. But what about great stuff like One Flew over the Cuckoos nest, The Magus, or Midnights Children? Women in Love, Stranger in a Strange Land, Midwich Cuckoos, The Wasp Factory, The L-Shaped Room, For Whom the Bell Tolls, …………….

  7. I, too, am a fan of screwtape letters. I would add The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault, another sleeper extraordinaire.

  8. Here are two books that changed my life: “Animal Liberation” by Peter Singer and “the Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William Irvine. Regarding literature, I am a Bronte scholar, so I would insist on “Wuthering Heights” and, to fully appreciate that book and its author, I would add my book, “The Poetic World of Emily Bronte.”

  9. Nice list. You might want to give “The World Beyond Your Head” by Matthew Crawford a go. It is the most thought-provoking book I’ve read in years. Don’t overlook Wallace Stegner’s fiction. Best regards.

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