30 Books to Read Before Turning 30

I recently entered the last year of my twenties and, like most on the cusp of thirty, I’m freaking out just a tiny bit. I’m more or less resigned to the fact that I will be thirty in a year’s time, whether I’m ready to be or not, and that the importance of your “twenties” is a social construct and that time is a flat circle and all that… SURE. But turning thirty still provides a convenient benchmark to take an ill-advised look at what your life has amounted to thus far and descend into a destructive cycle of comparison and stock-taking.

I’ve decided to focus my attention first on some of the perceived shortcomings of my reading life. I’ve made a list of thirty books to read by the time I turn thirty. Except now I’ve got less than a year to accomplish this. Won’t that be fun?! There were so, so many books that I wanted to include on this list (anyone who follows me on Goodreads knows this) and the list itself has some shortcomings of its own, particularly in the diversity department. I tried to console myself by reminding myself that this list was what to read by thirty, not before I die. It only helped a little and instead got me thinking about my own mortality, which can quickly sour any afternoon. There are a huge amount of classics that I want to knock off my list, so you’ll see a lot of those, but “the classics” aren’t necessarily known for their diversity. Some things on this list are more personal choices, but I also wanted to make most choices broad enough for other readers that may be looking to do something similar. Basically, you’ll be seeing a lot of books that are often ranked among the best novels of all time. A few of these books I’ve read excerpts of in my studies or began and left unfinished, but I have not read any of them all the way through. Let’s just jump right into the list then, shall we?


30 Books to Read Before Turning 30:
  1. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
  2. 1984, by George Orwell
  3. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  4. This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  6. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
  7. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  9. The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri
  10. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
  11. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  12. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  13. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
  14. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
  15. As I lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  16. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  17. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
  18. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  19. Ulysses, by James Joyce
  20. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  21. A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
  22. The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov
  23. The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton
  24. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
  25. Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin
  26. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
  27. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
  28. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  29. The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
  30. Persuasion, by Jane Austen


These are in no certain order and I have only the sketch of a plan as to what order I’ll be reading them in. I expect most will come down to what I’m in the mood for at the time. What I do know is I’ve got quite a bit of reading to get to if I plan to finish this list in addition to reading my other planned reads.

So, maybe if I fill my schedule with reading all these books I’ll have less time to dwell on past mistakes and what could have been, as thirty approaches. Speaking of, if you’re approaching thirty and aren’t sure how to have an emotional crisis yet, it’s not too late to learn. It can be intimidating, but luckily I’ve created this handy guide to get you started: How to Have an Emotional Crisis in 10 Easy Steps

All joking aside, if you want to join me for this project, you’re more than welcome! You can use my list, someone else’s or create your own. It doesn’t have to be because you’re turning thirty, of course. You could choose any age or year, or even leave it open ended. It doesn’t even have to be at a moment of crisis dictated by society! If this project sounds like fun to you, by all means join in!

Want to join me on this journey? Let me know what you’ve already read from this list! What books would you change for your own list?




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2 thoughts on “30 Books to Read Before Turning 30”

  1. I’ll be 30 next May! I love this idea, some great books on there & some I’m not familiar with. I may join you!

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