Turning 30 is a milestone. Thirty years of life—that’s roughly 10,950 days or 262,800 hours on Earth, much of it spent occupying our time with entertainment. But if we cast aside all the awesome Netflix shows and Hollywood movies out there, we can all likely agree that a book remains one of the best means of stepping into an adventure. So, regardless of whether your thirtieth birthday is near or far, now is the best time to think about and go through our list of top 15 books to read before you’re thirty.
How did we come up with this list? Internationally acclaimed children’s writer Roald Dahl said, “If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” If that’s true, then the best measure of a book’s worth is enrichment—enrichment of self, enrichment of perspective, etc. So with that in mind, these 15 books should be considered “required reading”. And some of them are, depending upon the school!
To pique your interest in books listed below, we’ve presented a summary of the plots and explained why you need to read them in four sentences or less. So here we go!
Children’s Stories That Are Really Meant for Adults
by Margery Williams Bianco
A stuffed toy rabbit is given to a young boy, and the rabbit soon learns that its existence as something “real” depends on the love the boy gives it. One part Pinocchio and one part “Toy Story”, the Velveteen Rabbit almost ventures into the realm of tear-jerker, but all’s well that end’s well.
by J.M. Barrie
Peter, the boy who never grows up, lives in Neverland with the Lost Boys. One night, he meets the Darling children, and they go on adventures that involve a belligerent Captain Hook, nasty mermaids, and a lovely Indian princess. His story is one for all ages, which is why it’s one of the top books to read.
by C.S. Lewis
This is the big adventure of four children and their life-changing encounter with a noble, majestic lion and a white witch in a land inside a wardrobe. The first of seven books in the “Chronicles of Narnia,” this is definitely one of the top books to read no matter what your age-especially if you like talking animals!
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A young prince from a very small planet meets a pilot, a fox, and a snake. There is a beautiful rose and a drawing of a hat that looks like a boa that ate a whole elephant. You get bonus points for reading this one in its original French, but reading it in English works, too.
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A young orphaned girl from India with a sour attitude comes to live with her uncle in England. There she meets her sickly cousin, a servant’s brother, an elderly gardener and a little robin. Soon she discovers that there’s more to her world than what meets the eye.
Family, Lost Loves and Love Torn Apart by War
by Louisa May Alcott
During the Civil War, four sisters in Massachusetts go on domestic adventures of a typical New England family and live up to the principles taught to them by their parents. Family, love and a relentless pursuit of ideals fill up the pages, but if that sounds too lofty for you, then just imagine this book as a soap opera from the 1860s.
by Emily Brontë
A story that involves unrequited love, an eerie howling in the moors, a tempestuous affair, and a poignant tragedy. Sadly, even though one of the main characters is named “Heathcliff”, there are no egocentric cats who favor lasagna. Regardless, this book, among this list of top 15 books to read before you’re 30, is a must-read for both men and women.
by Jane Austen
It’s the early 19th Century in rural England. Two characters meet; the guy is proud, and the girl is prejudiced. Oh, the drama! (And you’ve maybe watched one too many of the film adaptations of this story.) Nevertheless, the novel is meant to be read and is indeed one of the top books to read of all time.
by Margaret Mitchell
The North and the South are at war with each other during the American Civil War. And amidst the winds of upheaval sweeping the South, everything that Scarlett O’Hara is used to is changing. To survive, the Southern belle takes one step after another for a cause she sees worth dying for.
by Amy Tan
The book unfurls the complicated relationships and the interweaving stories of four Chinese-immigrant mothers and their four Chinese-American daughters raised on American soil—depicting the arduous route one takes when reconciling two cultures and her unconventional upbringing in a world that often has exacting standards. Note: If you don’t read this one, you run the risk of disappointing your mother.
Worldviews and Humanity’s Frailty
by Leo Tolstoy
Though a classic, this book follows the typical Tolstoy philosophy of “Why write about something when you can write about everything?” That said, it’s worth digging into this story set in the 19th Century Russia just for the insight alone. There’s love, there’s scandal, there’s borscht—what more could you want?
by George Orwell
Barnyard animals gather, kick out their human masters, and form their own society. The talking animals are less cute here than in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. But this is a political fable that serves as a loose metaphor for the Bolshevik Revolution and the betrayal of Joseph Stalin’s cause, so what do you expect? Without question, it is one of the top books to read for all generations.
by Ayn Rand
The book tells of the story a strong-willed young woman named Kira Argounova, and two young men, Leo and Andrei, and their fight for individualism and against collectivism. The novel is a true romantic tragedy set in the backdrop of Soviet totalitarianism.
by C.S. Lewis
Wormwood, a young, low-ranking devil in Hell, receives letters from his uncle Screwtape instructing him on how best to subvert God’s Word and corrupt man. This classic and popular satire is sure to make you think twice about the war between good and evil.
by Ernest Hemingway
A short book that tells of an old man’s quest to catch a giant marlin. Worth noting: sharks view big fish lashed to the side of a boat as a floating buffet.
Top Books to Read Are Always Worth Your Time
It was a challenge—and a bit painful!—to trim down our list and just present to you 15 books to read before you’re 30-years old. Nevertheless, we’ve got to start somewhere. As sensational master horror author Stephen King says, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” And we all need a little magic in our lives. So grab one of these books and dive into a world outside your own—and don’t stop until you get to the last page.