post written by: Marc Chernoff

30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Their 30th Birthday

30 Books to Read by Before Turning 30The Web is grand.  With its fame for hosting informative, easy-to-skim textual snippets and collaborative written works, people are spending more and more time reading online.  Nevertheless, the Web cannot replace the authoritative transmissions from certain classic books that have delivered (or will deliver) profound ideas around the globe for generations.

The 30 books listed here are of unparalleled prose, packed with wisdom capable of igniting a new understanding of the world.  Everyone should read these books before their 30th birthday.

  1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – A powerful story about the importance of life experiences as they relate to approaching an understanding of reality and attaining enlightenment.
  2. 1984 by George Orwell – 1984 still holds chief significance nearly 60 years after it was written in 1949.  It is widely acclaimed for its haunting vision of an all-knowing government which uses pervasive, 24/7 surveillance tactics to manipulate all citizens of the populace.
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – The story surveys the controversial issues of race and economic class in the 1930’s Deep South via a court case of a black man charged with the rape and abuse of a young white girl.  It’s a moving tale that delivers a profound message about fighting for justice and against prejudice.
  4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – A nightmarish vision of insane youth culture that depicts heart wrenching insight into the life of a disturbed adolescent.  This novel will blow you away… leaving you breathless, livid, thrilled, and concerned.
  5. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – A short, powerful contemplation on death, ideology and the incredible brutality of war.
  6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – This masterpiece is so enormous even Tolstoy said it couldn’t be described as a standard novel.  The storyline takes place in Russian society during the Napoleonic Era, following the characters of Andrei, Pierre and Natasha… and the tragic and unanticipated way in which their lives interconnect.
  7. The Rights of Man by Tom Paine – Written during the era of the French Revolution, this book was one of the first to introduce the concept of human rights from the standpoint of democracy.
  8. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau – A famous quote from the book states that “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”  This accurately summarizes the book’s prime position on the importance of individual human rights within society.
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez – This novel does not have a plot in the conventional sense, but instead uses various narratives to portray a clear message about the general importance of remembering our cultural history.
  10. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin – Few books have had as significant an impact on the way society views the natural world and the genesis of humankind.
  11. The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton – A collection of thoughts, meditations and reflections that give insight into what life is like to live simply and purely, dedicated to a greater power than ourselves.
  12. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – Gladwell looks at how a small idea, or product concept, can spread like a virus and spark global sociological changes.  Specifically, he analyzes “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.”
  13. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham – Arguably one of the best children’s books ever written; this short novel will help you appreciate the simple pleasures in life.  It’s most notable for its playful mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie.
  14. The Art of War by Sun Tzu – One of the oldest books on military strategy in the world.  It’s easily the most successful written work on the mechanics of general strategy and business tactics.
  15. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – One of the greatest fictional stories ever told, and by far one of the most popular and influential written works in 20th-century literature.  Once you pick up the first book, you’ll read them all.
  16. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – This is a tale that lingers on the topic of attaining and maintaining a disciplined heart as it relates to one’s emotional and moral life.  Dickens states that we must learn to go against “the first mistaken impulse of the undisciplined heart.”
  17. Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot – Probably the wisest poetic prose of modern times.  It was written during World War II, and is still entirely relevant today… here’s an excerpt: “The dove descending breaks the air/With flame of incandescent terror/Of which the tongues declare/The only discharge from sin and error/The only hope, or the despair/Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre–/To be redeemed from fire by fire./Who then devised this torment?/Love/Love is the unfamiliar Name/Behind the hands that wave/The intolerable shirt of flame/Which human power cannot remove./We only live, only suspire/Consumed by either fire or fire.”
  18. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – This book coined the self-titled term “catch-22” that is widely used in modern-day dialogue.  As for the story, its message is clear: What’s commonly held to be good, may be bad… what is sensible, is nonsense.  Its one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century.  Read it.
  19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Set in the Jazz Age of the roaring 20’s, this book unravels a cautionary tale of the American dream.  Specifically, the reader learns that a few good friends are far more important that a zillion acquaintances, and the drive created from the desire to have something is more valuable than actually having it.
  20. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – This novel firmly stands as an icon for accurately representing the ups and downs of teen angst, defiance and rebellion.  If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of the unpredictable teenage mindset.
  21. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – A smooth-flowing, captivating novel of a young man living in poverty who criminally succumbs to the desire for money, and the hefty phychological impact this has on him and the people closest to him.
  22. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli – This book does a great job at describing situations of power and statesmanship.  From political and corporate power struggles to attaining advancement, influence and authority over others, Machiavelli’s observations apply.
  23. Walden by Henry David Thoreau – Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days writing this book in a secluded cabin near the banks of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.  This is a story about being truly free from the pressures of society.  The book can speak for itself:  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
  24. The Republic by Plato – A gripping and enduring work of philosophy on how life should be lived, justice should be served, and leaders should lead.  It also gives the reader a fundamental understanding of western political theory.
  25. Lolita – This is the kind of book that blows your mind wide open to conflicting feelings of life, love and corruption… and at times makes you deeply question your own perceptions of each.  The story is as devious as it is beautiful.
  26. Getting Things Done by David Allen – The quintessential guide to organizing your life and getting things done.  Nuff said.
  27. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – This is the granddaddy of all self-improvement books.  It is a comprehensive, easy to read guide for winning people over to your way of thinking in both business and personal relationships.
  28. Lord of the Flies by William Golding – A powerful and alarming look at the possibilities for savagery in a lawless environment, where compassionate human reasoning is replaced by anarchistic, animal instinct.
  29. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – Steinbeck’s deeply touching tale about the survival of displaced families desperately searching for work in a nation stuck by depression will never cease to be relevant.
  30. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov – This anticommunist masterpiece is a multifaceted novel about the clash between good and evil.  It dives head first into the topics of greed, corruption and deception as they relate to human nature.
  31. BONUS:  How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman – 900 pages of simple instructions on how to cook everything you could ever dream of eating.  Pretty much the greatest cookbook ever written.  Get through a few recipes each week, and you’ll be a master chef by the time you’re 30.
  32. BONUS:  Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner – Franz Wisner had it all… a great job and a beautiful fiancée.  Life was good.  But then his fiancée dumped him days before their wedding, and his boss basically fired him.  So he dragged his younger brother to Costa Rica for his already-scheduled honeymoon and they never turned back… around the world they went for two full years.  This is a fun, heartfelt adventure story about life, relationships, and self discovery.

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  • Great list, I have so many books to read right now it is pretty ridiculous

    I am enjoying them though ;)


  • Rats, I only have a year and a half to read 29 books.

  • What a comprehensive list of great books! I have several now to add to my nightstand (and I’m over 30!). Better late than never, though.
    My oldest son has a love for reading that I wish I had developed at his age. There is so much knowledge in written text.

  • Great reading list! I’ve read most of these but I added the others to my list. And I do need to get to War & Peace. It has been on my bookshelf for over a decade!
    2 other of my must reads: Eat Pray Love & Tales of a Female Nomad.

    Jenny :)

  • @All: Thanks for the additions and kind remarks. ;-)

  • I love lists like this, and this is a very well compiled one. The only novel I would add is Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon.” Her book is absolutely stunning.

  • Wow! I’m behind!
    I’ve read a lot of these because they were required in my High School, but there’s a big difference between “having” to read them and “wanting” to read them…

  • This is an excellent list, I’ve read more than half of them, and most of the others are on my list. Good job!

  • Great books! I’d add Jane Eyre, The Narnia Chronicles, and The Brothers Karamazov.

  • That’s a great list. I have read only a few from the above list.

  • I like the list, but what about Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged? If you want to understand the relationship between capitalism, government and charity, there is no better book.

  • I think you should include Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. 1984 and Brave New World are pretty similar, but the latter was written in the 20’s. it’s pretty interesting to see which things Aldous wrote came true so far, considering it takes place several hundred years ahead of us.

  • Darn! I’ve only read 9 books in your list. No worry though, I still have 8 years to finish your list. :)

  • In a list of thirty books, you recommend only one female writer? Enough said.

  • @Melissa: Most of these books just happen to be our favorite classics. I assure you, we never intended to leave female writers off the list. Angel didn’t even realize it. Sorry again. ;-)

  • Quite a good list, but I think you forgot a must: The Picture of Dorian gray, by Oscar Wilde.

  • good list
    should add a book named “the tomorrow file” I can’t remember the author but it was written in the 1930’s I think.

    I’ve read a hand full of the ones’ on this list and I’ve heard of almost all the others
    only a few to read in less than a year till I turn 30 :)

  • Great list, I would include a few more: On the Road by Kerouac as well as The Alchemist

  • One book I would say is an absolute necessity on the list…

    For Us, the Living, by Robert Heinlein

    Most eye-opening books that deal with future possibilities usually do so by showing you the worse case scenario. For Us, The Living, does things very differently. Instead of telling you what can go wrong, it tells us what can go right. Filled to the brim with revolutionary social, economical, ideological, and political ideas, For Us, the Living, is less a novel and more a manual on how to make a country a paradise.

  • This is a great list.
    Many of these are on my bookshelf.
    However, even if you aren’t a Christian and have no interest in God, I think that the Bible is a must-read for anyone. It is, after all, the best-selling book of all time. :) Definitely was one of the biggest influences on society as we know it.

  • …Awful lot of male writers there, dont you think?

    Maybe some Alice Walker or Sylvia Plath? Maybe?

  • Suprised that The Diceman hasn’t got a mention.
    Absolutely timeless and blew my mind when i read it

  • I don’t read much books but yup,Dorian Gray is one i have read and is missing from the list,in my opinion.


  • I think “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield should be added to that list.

  • I think this is a great list but I would have loved to see “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield added to the list.

  • I would add:

    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

    and remove 100 Years of Solitude.

  • Lolita is from Vladimir Nabokov besides “Pnin”, “Bend Sinister”.

  • Interesting list. I would add “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood. It’s a haunting foray into a possible future.

  • yeah, I would recommend BACKLASH by Susan Faludi to understand why you didn’t even think to include the thoughts of more than one woman.

  • Great list! I want to add Heart of Darkness to the list.

    hmm well maybe the list of 100 books everyone should read before 100? :)

  • I agree I would have included Brave New World instead of 1984, for same reasons listed.

  • Why is it that every pretentious person who pushes a reading list always has to bring up T.S. Eliot? Frankly, his poetry is boring and nowhere near the quality or profound nature required of being on a reading list. Requesting anyone read him is akin to saying one should wipe his bum with sandpaper, just to see how it feels.

    If you want profound poetry, read the less high brow “Howl” by the late Allen Ginsburg, or read “Leaves of Grass” by William Wordsworth. T.S. Eliot is a waste of time and of little importance, unless you want to lord over your reading prowess like a snob.

  • No mention of the book that created Western civilization itself?

  • Great list, but why before 30? I’ve read many, but all can be enjoyed and impact a person at any age!

  • Interesting reading list…

    My essentials are:

    Art of War…(for me…this would be an “anti-war” treatise…)
    1984…(Big Bro is my homeboy!)
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (a cautionary tale about replacing the “old order” with the “new”)

    Great Post…! You are on my GoogleReader! c”,

  • 100 years of solitude? war and peace? the republic?

    you must be kidding…are you a college professor?
    because the books that you recommended are college readings.

    100 years of solitude????the author can’t even think of new names for the characters! He keeps on repeating them again and again to the agony of the readers.

  • what about harry potter 1 or the da vinci code or patriot games?

    why do all the reading lists that i come across always include books more than a 50 years old? why not include new books for a change.

  • I already blew it. I’m 37. But a nice list… Do books on tape count?

  • Missing one, “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. There is no telling where I would be today if I had this book before I was 30 or even better before I was 20.

  • Hesse was a fine choice. He’s also a brilliant poet. I read a small volume of his poetry with translations on the right hand page and the original on the left. Although I don’t read German, I would hazard a guess that the original must be awesome simply because it translates so movingly and stunningly in emotional terms.

    Also, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran is unspeakably beautiful. He died in the fifties (I think) but his words and ideas will live forever.

    So, there are two amazing poetry books and I don’t even LIKE poetry normally.
    Also, for some of the commenters here, it IS acceptable to have read more than 30 books by the time you are thirty. `(;)

    Thanks for a swell list.

  • Noir: Leaves of Grass by William Wordsworth? I hope no one tells Walt Whitman.

    I would suggest Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It’ll forever change the way you interact with your built environment.

    Also, Elliot is an occasionally astonishingly great poet.

  • […] of Marc and Angel Hack Life suggests 30 books everyone should read by their 30th birthday. After looking through the list, I’ve concluded a more accurate title might be “30 books […]

  • I think I’ve got enough time to tackle this… And score! I’m reading The Fellowship of the Ring right now.

    I’m sure everyone has a handful of titles they would add, but I love hearing what you think is important.

    (By the way, my adds would probably be Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.)

  • I’ve read: #’s 3, 8, 9, 14, 19, 20, 21, 27 & 29

    “The Catcher in the Rye” was one of my favorites growing up :-P

    An as for Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends & Influence People”… It’s a MUST READ! One of the best books I’ve read. Someone gave it to me as a gift. Once I finished reading it, I gifted it to someone else with the instruction to carry on the trend :-P It’s a great book with excellent advice. I don’t doubt I’ll read it again…

  • i would add - sue grafton’s a,b,c series to the list.

    lawrence block burglar series

    the first 4 harry potter books

    frederick’s forsyth’s the dogs of war & the devil’s alternative

  • I read most of these during high school

  • Great list. I read many of the books in the list and I am about to read some others. Many of them are not so easy to read. Mostly, the ones that are not novels. For example, I started but never finished “The Prince”.

    1984 was a great book indeed, but from Orwell, I rather liked “The Animal Farm” : a very clever illustration on how power and corruption always ends up breaking appart authoritative regimes in spite of their honorable social objectives. I always tend to think more about that book when I read news on the paper than about 1984.

    I just turned 30 this year, and there’s a book I would recommend for anyone getting at this age, it’s “The World According To Garp” by James Irving. I always have a hard time trying to give an abstract of what the book is about. Any abstract would just kill it. It’s like “100 years of solitude” by Marquez, this books is so much more about the idea of preserving our cultural history. The beauty of this book lies indeed more in its narration and in the surreal events depicted in it than in the plot itself. But, the way I interpreted the plot was that life doesn’t end with your own physical end, there’s something in your family legacy that creates a link among the members of it, you unconciously inherit the memory of the past and the history of your ancestors, they are somehow still present and keep living through you.

  • Interesting list. Have read more than half, would add the remainder to my “to-read” list. thanks

    I would also have
    1) Good Earth - Pearl S Buck
    2) Fountainhead - Ayn Rand
    3) A Story About a Real Man - Boris Polevoi

  • “Once you pick up the first book, you’ll read them all.” Can you be serious? The Hobbit was good, The Lord of the Rings was boring and I couldn’t get past 50 pages of Two Towers.

    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand MUST be put on that list, replace the LOTR trilogy with it.

  • Thanks to everyone for the additions. As for the comments about only having one woman author… in retrospect, I agree. But believe it or not, my wife helped me create this list. Neither one of us realized it until the very end. These books just so happen to be some of our favorites (most are classics). Feel free to add more to the list. ;-)

  • Nice list of books! :) but it would be great if you would give a wikipedia link rather than an amazon link :)

  • You forgot Three cups of tea!! One of the best books I have ever read. What about Blink? Or Good to Great?

  • Wow I’ve read most of those and did so in my early 20’s. With the exception of Tolkein books I read those somewhere around 16 or 17. Woot!

    Getting Things Tone is the least favorite on that list.

    There is actually an original GTD written in the 70’s by another author.

  • There’s an inherent problem with a list of this type. No matter how many you say - 30, 50, 100 - there will always be books that belong on the list and were left off. One that stands out immediately was On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Reads like a jazz concern and did almost as much to shape a culture as Elvis or the Beatles did. The Bell Jar was another as well as Slaughterhouse 5 and Stranger in a Strange Land.

  • i must disagree with 2 books/series on your list. the first being Lord of the Rings (and the subsequent novels). Tolkien, although amazing as a story writer, is a horrible, horrible story teller. i read all of one, all except for three pages of two, and finally by three i threw the damn thing at my door. Also, Wind in the Willows? No. no. no.

    In place of these you should have…

    1) Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    2) Watership Down by Richard Adams.

  • Also, Scar Tissue, by Anthony Keideis is wonderful and should be on this list.

  • What about Animal Farm? or Farenheit 451? or In Cold Blood….i mean Truman Capote!!! Perhaps even Brave New World?

  • I got about 60% of them read. I’m 32, so that means that means life’s over for me, but you young ones… Go and read this list, stay ahead of the curve and life will be more fun and prosperous.

  • Sweet list. I’ve got 12 of them waiting for me (thank you, online library reserve and distribution list). Have to agree, Atlas shrugged belongs on the list. It should be a law that no one should vote or have a job until they have read it.

  • Awful lot of US writers, no?

  • this is absolutely awesome list. how many you guys have read?

  • […] 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Their 30th Birthday.  What a great list of literary classics.  From a financial perspective, I would add to that list Your Money or Your Life, which is one I wish I read before my 20th birthday! […]

  • i vote for celestine prophecy.

  • Funny thing is, 18 of those books were on my REQUIRED reading list during High School - 40 years ago! (Yes, 40 years ago) :) So obviously I’ve read those 18, plus several others. 6 to go :) Thanks for the suggestions.

    I would add: The Foxfire Book, Foxfire 2, Foxfire 3, etc.series of books, with intro by Eliot Wigginton from the late 60’s and the 70’s.

  • wtf!!!?!? No Atlas Shrugged!?!?

  • I’m now almost 31 and I’ve only read 4 on that list. So sad. I better get reading. Thanks for the list. I would love to add the Sci-fi classic, Ender’s Game, to the list! My favorite book of all time.

  • Here’s another book that should be on that list:

    The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx, the amazing fully true story of Sixx while he was deepest in his addictions to cocaine, heroin, and alcohol.

    Not sure what it should replace, maybe Clockwork Orange, but I have not yet read that.

  • Interesting list, although I also consider myself relatively well-read and have only read 6 of your picks. (I own, read & reread literally 1,000s of books.)

    I disliked For Whom the Bell Tolls intensely, but then I’ve never read any Hemingway I liked.

    I made it through either The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings many years ago but was never the least interested in continuing with the others. On the other hand, I adore the Narnia Chronicles and have already read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe aloud chapter by chapter to my 5 year old.

    I also think the Bible, Jane Eyre and Stranger in a Strange Land belong on the list (eclectic, no?) but For Us, The Living is merely an incredibly interesting peek into RAH’s mind and the values he believed in and held to. If you are a Heinlein fan (I read my first Heinlein novel, Red Planet, at age 7 and was hooked) you will see the initial concept of many of his famous characters which he fleshed out in later books or, in the case of Nehemiah Scudder, a very little more than appears in The Past Through Tomorrow series, particularly in If This Goes On. But Stranger is still the quintessential Heinlein novel.

    I had to laugh at the idea of The DaVinci Code or a murder mystery (other than perhaps The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) being a candidate. The DaVinci Code was an interesting read, but it’s not likely to become a classic a century from now.

    Perhaps I should post about the books that have most influenced my life….

  • What about A Handmaid’s Tale? Frightening for women.

  • […] 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Their 30th Birthday […]

  • Wonderful list! I’ve read many of them but it seems I have a lot of catching up to do as well (I’m a tad past thirty to be kind). Thanks!

  • I’m 19 and have read 7 so far, i also started the master and margarita but didnt finish it. still, plenty of time tho.

  • Good list. An extra suggestion: the Tibetan book of living and dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. This book illustrates how quality of life improves by actually getting used to the idea of dying, instead of continually running away from it. Good preparation for the 4th decade of life.

  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (going to pick up The Fountainhead from the library this weekend) and anything by Alice Walker and Toni Morrison (two of my favorite authors).

  • I have 4 months to read 26 books. I’m going to be busy. Great post.

  • Oh-oh

    I’m 30+18 and I’ve never read any of those books.

    That doesn’t look good.

  • […] post about 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Their 30th Birthday made me wonder if there were many "things you should do before you’re 30" lists. […]

  • Great! I am really happy. I am just 22 years old, eight more years and only 5 more titles left to read. Just kidding. O’Henry’s “Last Leaf”; Erih Maria Remarks ‘Three FriendS’ and Antuan de Sant Egzuper’s “Little Prince”. :)))))))))) read them too, believe me

  • and also “the old man and sea” it’s just great. Also read everything written by Vaja Pshavela - that really teaches you how to live properly. :)))))))))))

  • Great list of books, I must say that I had to read quite a few of these in High School English classes. Other books will be added on to my list of books to read. I just turned 30, does that count? ;)

  • I was going to say you missed On The Road by Jack Kerouac but I think it needs to be read before your 20’s. This decade of my life would have been completely different if it weren’t for it’s representation.

  • @Shevy: You’re out of your mind. The bible is full of hate, discrimination, racism and murder. The best thing anyone can do with a bible is use the pages as rolling papers in a pinch. Or you could use it to wipe your ass if you run out of toilet paper.

  • I’m currently reading 100 Years… To Kill.. is one of may favorites.

    Great list you have here! ;p

  • Great list! Really! I’ve read several and most are already on my “to read” list. Still, I’m sad that Jane Austen has thus far not been on the list nor was she requested by previous commentors. She’s amazing!

  • Heller’s other great works “Something Happened” and “Good as Gold” are also less well known masterpieces…

  • It would be a bit difficult to read about 28 books in thirteen days…

  • Malcolm Gladwell? Are you kidding me? It totally destroyed the credibility of the list for me.

  • […] So there are lots of things you apparently need to have done before you reach that point. Including 30 books you should read before you turn 30. Get out your fruit-scented Smiggle hilighters and start tickin’ ‘em off, […]

  • Good list, maybe didn’t really agree with some. But I will definately be keeping it in mind the next time I’m looking for a good read.

    I would probably add A Time To Kill by John Grisham.

    It’s not as life changing or impacting as some of the others people have been suggesting, but I personally loved it. May be fairly similar to To Kill A Mockingbird, but updated and compelling.

    There are so many good books out there that I’ve read that aren’t on this list…

  • […] 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Their 30th Birthday […]

  • I don’t like the word ’should’ and myself and many of my friends hardly read now, because in our youth we had it shoved down our throats at school by teachers saying: ‘You have to read this, you have to read that!!’
    Let kids read what they like, rather than what someone else thinks is right for them. Ditto for adults. I’ve read about half the books on this list [there’s some great ones here] but I got just as much out of reading Dennis The menace and Mad magazine!

  • So what do I do if I’m well over 30? Am I banned?

  • I searched the list and agreed with Jessica:

    August 11th, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    This is a great list.
    Many of these are on my bookshelf.
    However, even if you aren’t a Christian and have no interest in God, I think that the Bible is a must-read for anyone. It is, after all, the best-selling book of all time. :) Definitely was one of the biggest influences on society as we know it.

  • Great list…I’d add some more contemporary reads into this list like Generation X by Douglas Coupland, and Rorschach’s Ribs, by Marcus Eder, though…

  • In my opinion, it’s a greate list, but I’d like to recommend one more book to read: Carl Sagan - The contact :)

  • I suggest: “The Dumbest Generation; How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, or Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30″ by Mark Bauerlein (2008).

  • I think most of those books are better off on a good book list to read in general… if you’re making a list of things people should read before they are 30 you should include books that are a bit more profound. A lot of the books on that list are about social issues and western thinking (ie Walden).
    People tend to be most interested in that AFTER they are 30. As it is a more valuable time for that sort of though.
    Kurt Vonnegut should be read before 30 because of the social satire.
    Something about reality not being fixated is great for those under 30 as well, maybe some Carlos Casanada or any other litature, really, that involves other cultures or plans of reality.
    Some David Sadaris would be great on the list as well, it helps one to appreciate life.
    Also quite important to read before 30 would be something about eastern religion, preferably about taoism (the inner chapters). This is especially so if one grew up in western culture. It teaches one that not all thought is alike. Something on Buddhism would also work.
    There are other books as well, but basically what is fundamentally wrong with your list is that most of the books are very similar. What is important to learn before your 30 is a variety of different ideas/cultures/opinions in order to make one a more well rounded person that can have a deep understanding of ones culture and other cultures around them.
    I’m also surprised no one mentioned james joyce is not on the list… (though not necessarily something to read before 30)

  • where do you draw the line? it is a brave thing you have done here, you must have expected a lot of abuse for it.

    you still have a couple of years to go before you are 30, so can i suggest everything jack kerouac, william s burroughs, franz kafka, charles bukowski, john fante, knut hamsun, aldous huxley, roald dahl, kahlil gibran and His Holiness the Dalai Lama ever wrote.

    there you go, a list of ten authors to read before you are 30.

    oh, and the velveteen rabbit.

    do you get paid for writing this? can i get a job?

  • I remember reading the Catcher in the Rye when I was 10. My teacher lent me the book, talking about how highschool kids read it, and I would benefit from it a lot. Five years later I don’t remember a thing from it. I might read it again, to see if I can actually get some of those benefits.

  • No Bible?? Please…for the believer and non-believer, it’s the most important book in world history and language.

    Don’t believe me?

    Here’s a challenge: find a book among your 30 listed that does not contain quotes, if not entire sub-plots, taken directly from the Old & New Testaments.

  • Well, I have 10 years to read those books. Already read some of them in high school.

  • I agree that the bible should be on this list. Everyone should read it; especially anyone claims to disagree with it. How can you argue against it if you’ve never read it?

  • Solid list, maybe a bit academic. Maybe write it in terms of authors instead of books such that multiple works by Ayn Rand, Betty Friedan, Virginia Woolf, Naomi Wolf, Thomas Pain, Shakespeare, Socrates, Leonardo DaVinci, Benjamin Franklin and others are covered, though that won’t work for The Constitution, which I recommend everyone read — maybe a history/government textbook is best so you can also read The Declaration of Independence and The Articles of Confederation. Maybe divide the list into modern, historical, ancient…

    I’d also recommend “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. I’m working my way through it now, and it brings a whole new perspective to interacting with the world and claiming control over and responsibility for your own life. Dale Carnegie is also a good choice.

  • […] 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Their 30th Birthday: Those looking for influential and life-changing reads should visit this site for suggestions on new books. […]

  • This is a great list! I’ve read a lot of what’s on here, but there are some that I’ve not heard of so will definitely be adding them to my ever growing list. A new one that I would add is Living Life As If Thinking Matters by R. L. Wysong. I’ve just finished it and it’s an amazing read and a great reminder that we can solve all our problems if we only think about them instead of buying into other peoples’ beliefs.

  • Yup, I agree: The Bible should be on the list.

  • […] Marc and Angel Hack Life […]

  • The Bible should most definitely NOT be on the list, unless you put every other religion’s Holy Book on there too. Otherwise it’s just Christians asking for preferential treatment, again. (Think Canada’s Catholic school system.)

  • I think you left off The Bible. It only seems fair to include it, considering how influential it is to millions of people, and also considering that you have a book by Charles Darwin on the list.

  • Great list. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass ought to be added on the same grounds as the Wind in the Willows. I’d say that the Lord of the Rings is should be removed, simply because of the fact that it takes so long to get remotely interesting that by the time I finished The Fellowship, I gave up. Like Water For Chocolate is one that ought to be here if for no other reason than that Laura Esquivel knows how to write a sentence better than most authors could ever aspire to.

  • ‘why i am not a christian’
    bertrand russell

  • great list.

  • I’ve read 6 and I’m 20… another 10 years.. I think I can accomplish that… it’ll give me something to do

  • Life of Pi.

  • I’m actually 30 right now and I have 15 more to read. I remember reading Siddhartha in high school, and it didn’t really click then but I re-read it about 3 years out of high school and it totally changed my outlook on life (for the better). Also, The Great Gatsby is another one I re-read every couple of years.

  • Great list, I’ve actually read a few of these back in high school.

  • Great list - but you are missing one important book - the Bible, greatest selling and most controversial book of all time. The only book that can really change your life.

  • I think you’re taking it a little far with The Origin of the Species. True, its changed the way many look at the world, but so has The Bible, The Koran, The Communist Manifesto, The Talmud, and I could go on.

  • Thanks for the great list, this is the first year I’ve really taken an interest in the simple act of reading books and I plan on finishing this list by 2010. Love the articles and the site!

  • I’m 16 and I’ve read 21 of these books. I disagree with your claims of brilliance on the part of several, most notably Rousseau. After all, all it took was a few sentences from a genius to refute practically everything the man ever wrote. He speaks from a position of naivety surpassed only by Nietzsche.

  • Well, I’m certainly surprised that people are still commenting on this thread a year after publication, which is the only reason I am.

    First, I hope your comment of “short” about “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was facetious. Love the book, though.

    Second, Amanda J: wow. I was you once, and I’ve probably read more philosophy so I can say with due reverence that Nietzsche himself says a number of things easily refuted in a few sentences, but then again, you’re only 16. As you get older and read more (which, by the sound of it, you certainly will), you’ll realize that just about any philosopher with the possible exception of Wittgenstein, says a number of things that are easily refutable in a few sentences.

    Had to say it.

  • why is “the grapes of wraith” always considered such a classic? I get that it is so full of symbolism but quite frankly it is a dull read. at one point he spends TWO BLOODY PAGES talking about a turtle crossing the road. I do not give a flying rats rear end if the turtle has some deep spiritual symbolic meaning…by the time I read the second page I wanted to leap into the wasteland of this horrible novel just to stomp on the turtle and crush it out of my memory forever…the irony is I -like- animals.

  • Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand. Her books are controversial and influential. Might be good to expose yourself to them even if you don’t agree with them.

  • Ditto, Johnny G.

  • @Noir

    I know it’s an old comment, but….
    Don’t knock T.S. Eliot just because you don’t like him and don’t recommend a set of poetry if you don’t even know the author.
    Walt Wordsworth? Are you kidding me?

    “Leaves of Grass” was written by Walt WHITMAN which I’m sure most educated people know.

  • What about the Alchemist?? Paulo Coelho?

  • I think East of Eden is even better than Grapes of Wrath.

  • Nice list. I agree about adding more female authors though.

    - Erika

  • I’d add “The Power of Now” to the list.

  • I’m 19 and read 5 on the list…I think I’m doing good…you should add Brave New World By Huxley, Autumn:The Human Condition, And at least one Stephen King book….Oh yeah and All of Kurt Vonnegut…

  • I would like to add “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel.

    Very very creative and imaginative.

  • A modern master is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

    Shot straight into my Top Five book list :)

  • I’d like to add “Flow. The psychology of optimal experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Educated and still readable, often recognizable and still with that nice AHA.

    And about the bible: Fine when your mother reads you a children’s version as just another story. As a thinking (adult) its totally far out fictional, weird, unnecessarily repetitive, extremely violent, racist and non-timeless. My mother put an end to the futile weirdness when I wanted an explanation about the origins of God himself.

  • Great list, I still have 15 left to read! I would also include “Things Fall Apart”. It’s a classic african novel and the message is just as powerful now as it was when it was written.

  • Can I add Lord of the Flies by William Golding? One of the best books I have ever read and illustrates perfectly through the eyes of children, how tribal & savage habits are ingrained in us all forever. A simply fantastic book.

  • Only read one of all the ones listed here…
    So damn, better start soon…

  • since everyone is throwing in some, thought I would add ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ to the list. Great read and a classic for self improvement junkies like me.

  • […] came across this blog post the other day and it inspired me to write about some recent books that I have read. I recommend them […]

  • can’t believe no ‘of mice and men’ by John Steinbeck!

  • Damn, I’ve only read 8 of these. But to be fair, I’ve read all of the ones on my list of 30 before 30.

  • To get over caring what other people think about you and live a principle-driven life: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

  • I have some years left looks like it takes some time to read them all.

  • My addition:

    Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger

  • I have to reiterate

    “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

    my favorite book.

  • All of these books look terrific (though I’ve only read 8 of them).

    But you left off The Brothers Karamazov and Atlas Shrugged. Which are the two best books I’ve ever read.

    Ulysses by James Joyce should have probably made it on as well.

  • It was surprising that given the classic self-improvement titles listed, “The Best Salesman in the World” from Og Maldino was not included. Great list, though.

  • I think I’ve read maybe 5-6 of the books on this list and that was when I was in junior high. I couldn’t even tell you what half of them were even about. I think I’ll revisit The Great Gatsby

  • […] random blog I stumbled upon this morning: “Marc and Angel Hack Life” lists 30 books everyone should read. The blog gives the author and plot of each book. The titles enlarged are ones I have read, the […]

  • great list. unfortunately I turned 30 this year. but considering that I feel 25, I still might have some time to go through the 26 I didn’t read…?!!!

  • I am so glad that I am 21 :) 9 whole years I have to read around 25 of the 30 books!

    The world of books is amazing, isn’t it..

    Have bookmarked the page.

  • I’ve actually read a few of them and will continue to read ‘em all before I’m 30. haha…

    Anyway, thanks for the recommendations.

  • The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula LeGuin.
    It’s on every other list of the great books of the 20th Century.

  • Add “Om, The Secret of Ahbor Valley” by Talbot Mundy. Read it and read it over and over! Such a joy.

    And for sheer depth of the English language: “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham. He definitely deserves his Pulitzer for it.

  • Hmm. I think I’d rather have Brave New World up there instead of 1984.

  • Women have to choose whether they want relevance (real credit) or recognition (browser impressions).

    I would have thrown Anthem by Ayn Rand into the pot.

    Here’s an idea, ladies… Write a book. Even better how about imitating the style or content of one of your favorite authors. I hear most authors do that anyhow even as try not to.

    I don’t care about the gender of who got on the list. That’s being truly unbiased. We’re living in an age where fumbling towards a visible eternal niche won’t cut it. We need women, teens, old fogies, and men to write some real whoppers right now, because politicians, political parties, nation builders, and armchair generals have lost their minds.

    So how about it ladies? Have something to say? Write it and don’t look back. Surely celebrities aren’t the only ones capable of generating print on dead tree.

  • Brave New World is vague and wishy washy enough for some tastes (especially instead of 1984 which is much blunt about the message).

    See Aldous Huxley’s bro Julian was in the thick of it imagining that horror as a possible solution.

    On the other hand 1984 is a confession by the man who ran the “memory hole” at the BBC, who joined the Communist “Brotherhood”, and discovered both sides were corrupt.

    One is a David Lynch style drunken romp through scientific dictatorship. The other dispenses with such illusions (of apologetics for monumental mistakes) and blows the machine (made of actual crimes) to smithereens.

    I say include both, but for crying out loud don’t show your snobbery by picking the comfortable one.

  • A great list of books to read. I can’t believe that I have not read but one of them. Now I have a new list.

  • Great list for someone who will be 30 in around 14 months!
    I would recommend ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and ‘Life of Pi’. Although I understand your stress seems to be on classsics…

  • For real insight and a total mind-bender… see the predictions of 1984’s, Georger Orwell’s teacher, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World:

  • Yeah, the women writers are clearly under-represented on this list. I would certainly add The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Beloved, by Toni Morrison, Possession, by A.S. Byatt, A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf, The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Gates to Women’s Country, by Sheri Tepper, and eat, pray, love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.
    And because I find they are just overly self indulgent male drivel…(my opinion as a man) I would remove The Art of War, 100 Years of Solitude, The Prince, Walden, A Clockwork Orange, The Social Contract, Lolita and the Lord of the Flies. I know nothing about “How to Cook Everything,” but have carried my 2 book Joy of Cooking everywhere I have moved in the last 20 years and it is my go to cookbook for everything.

  • Thank you very much for this great list of classics!

    I highly recommend “Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership” by Joseph Jaworski and “The Art of Loving” by Fromm.
    Absolute must reads before 30, although am sure are enjoyable and insightful at any age!

  • I’ve read most of these books and the proposed “must read” list was excellent for me personally. HOWEVER- As a teacher, I hope I have the expertise to strongly disagree that “everyone” should read these books before their 30th birthday.

    Various readers are impacted in numerous ways by books.. Factors such as where they grew up, the type of family they had, their religion, their race etc. all contribute to how books will influence them. It is far too ambitious and arrogant a project to identify what “everyone” should read. There are just too many people that would be unable to benefit from this specific list. A few examples:

    BOOKS SELECTED ARE TOO ACADEMIC- Considerable intelligence is required to understand the concepts being communicated in most of these books which a good 40% of average readers just simply don’t have.

    SELECTION IS EXTREMELY DATED- Catcher in the Rye, or Lord of the Flies (I’m only naming a few) are indeed excellent for their ability to remain contemporary… As wonderful as they are though, most of the books on this list express ideas that no longer fit (or soon won’t) in today’s society.

    SELECTION IS A TAD MATURE- Julie said it well.. a number of these books are more likely to be enjoyed and absorbed by those older than 30…

    By the way… (and I’m sure many of you don’t give a hoot)…. BUT DK- I loved… loved…loved “The Life of Pi.” I don’t know why…but I just did… I cried when the tiger walked away at the end!!

    And WHAT is my problem? Why do I hate Margaret Atwood… I think her books are boring, stupid and so unrealistic…

  • […] 50 Things Everyone Should Know How To Do.  And there’s always another amazing list of 30 books to read while you’re young.  I’m most inspired by their posts on love and relationships, though.  I truly admire the […]

  • 3 more to add:

    Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.
    A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X

  • Too Loud A Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
    The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

  • Well, there are some other books that have been overlooked in the list, and they’re equally important (I guess):
    - The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
    (A great book about relationships and the unbearable depth of human psychology that has been embedded in one of the saddest sweetest novels European Literature ever gave birth to)
    - The Road, Cormac McCarthy
    (Frightening, compelling, wild and amazing. This post-Apocalyptic tale of survival and love will touch even a stone’s heart)
    - A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
    (Simply life changing)

  • It seems that these books have in common (at least for the most part) themes of war and injustice. These can be productive to contemplate, but may or may not appeal to someone. If not, simply reading a book is a very honorable activity no matter what.

  • you can’t put the ludicrous Sidartha without at least also its opposite, Atlas Shrugged

  • Interesting list. I’m 40 and read most of those books in high school and college. There are about 6 that I haven’t but will now. Thanks for the list, Frank Hayden.

  • Gravity’s Rainbow and other novels by Thomas Pynchon should be added to the list.

  • It would be great to read ALL of these books at some point or another. Luckily, I have my whole life to do it.

    Another goal on the “to do” list for me!! How will I ever find the time…

  • Well, 12 out of 30… Guess I could have done better… Hopefully will have these 30 done by end of the next 30 period :)

  • All lists are subjective. There is no definitive list of “musts” unless you consider “One thing you must do to live”…breath. This is simply a list of books the author of the blog believes made a significant impact in his/her life before the age of 30-nothing more and nothing less. To get worked up and emotional about books that were included or not seems like a tremendous waste of time and energy. If you don’t like the list, start your own blog and write your own list. If people would look at things more from a logical perspective rather than an emotional one, I imagine there would be far less strife in the world. To those that simply recommended other books, thank you. I agree that the 30 books on this list do not comprise my “30 books everyone should read before their 30th birthday” but it is a good list of books that should certainly be considered for reading. In fact, every book mentioned on this post should be considered for reading. I find it interesting that people continually let their egos get in the way of being objective. Maybe I don’t like the color blue but I am not going to criticize Crayola for putting a blue crayon in the box.

  • thank god i have 15 more years to go.. ;)

  • Can I be the first one to say the list is great as it is?

    I like these people who come through advocating Gravity’s Rainbow and Ulysses. Honestly, for the average person below thirty? I can hear them now, proclaiming Finnegans Wake to be their favorite ever. It’s literary elitism in a nutshell.

    Either way, let’s be happy no one’s asked why twilight isn’t listed

  • I agree with many of the books on the list but I wish this list included more female writers…

  • I would think that a couple of how to books with practical applications to help people get by would have been included with possibly a spiritual book.

    Ben Koshkin

  • I just added this site for rss/email its great. 1 suggestion unless its there and I just missed it. A printer friendly version for list type blogs. It would make tips easier to put to use. For this and the ‘things to know how to do” it would really come in handy!

  • ‘The Tipping Point’? are you serious?
    I’d substitute that with Gaddis’ ‘The Recognitions’
    forget the pop-sci crap from Gladwell - except as an airport purchase

  • It’s an interesting list, but don’t you think those “must do/read/watch” things depend a lot on a region where a person was born/is living? Many things grow from our background. Many things will be difficult to understand and to relate to for those who belong to a different culture. Others are hard to translate because of the unique language patterns, and not all of us can read in as many foreign languages as we’d want to. So, I believe, the title should be “30 Books Everyone Should Pay Attention To”. Otherwise, I liked the list, and will probably read a couple of books from it which I didn’t manage to read yet.

  • Moby Dick, Oliver Twist, Heart is a Lonely Hunter?

  • Great list! However, I think that The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a book that everyone should read. A book so eloquently written from Death’s point of view - how can you resist?

  • 32 here, but at least I did read 10 of them. Some very nice suggestions indeed. Off to Amazon to place an order :)

  • I was forced to read some of these, two or three in the list, in high school.

    I have about 11 years to read the rest!

    idk, but also something I would add to the list would be Atlas Shrugged…

  • I think The Fountainhead is a much better and more accessible read than Atlas Shrugged. I mean, Atlas literally has a 50 page diatribe that drags on forever.

    I think The Fountainhead is much more succinct and to be honest if you’ve read one Rand work you’ve read them all. I would add Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy and The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey to this list as it’s one of my favorites.

  • great list! i’m working on this list myself! i guess since everyone is adding a few they think should be on here, i’d like to add The Stand by Stephen King and The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey. fascinating reads.

  • Well, we certainly have secular, atheistic humanism covered here. Several have mentioned the Bible, to which I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I would recommend reading it several times through before you’re 30 — you’ll gain more wisdom from that one book than you will from all of these (and many, many others) combined.

    That being said, I fully support reading extra-biblical material as well. One commenter (”wade”) suggested “Why I am Not a Christian” by Bertrand Russell. That sounds like a good suggestion to me as well. Then follow that with “The Real Face of Atheism” by Ravi Zacharias.

    Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” was mentioned several times. I would follow that with “Theonomy in Christian Ethics” by Dr. Greg L Bahnsen.

    Additional books for those who are interested in solid biblical teaching:

    — “Always Ready”, Dr. Greg L Bahnsen
    — “Too Busy NOT to Pray”, Bill Hybels
    — “Thinking Straight in a Crooked World”, Gary DeMar
    — “He Shall Have Dominion”, Dr. Kenneth Gentry
    — “The King James Only Controversy”, James White
    — “Refuting Compromise”, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati
    — “Institutes of the Christian Religion”, John Calvin
    — “Augustine’s Confessions”, St. Augustine of Hippo
    — “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, John Bunyan
    — “America’s Christian History”, Gary DeMar
    — “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis
    — “Sir William Blackstone & The Common Law”, Dr. Robert D Stacey

    If patiently contemplated (and guided by the Holy Spirit), the confusion inherent in the humanistic books in the original list will be eradicated by the wisdom imparted by those within this list.

    Realize that I don’t necessarily think the original list is “bad.” Many of those books give great insight into man’s longing for meaning, purpose and understanding in this life. Many, if not all of them, are written by extremely talented authors.

    However, always keep in mind that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) Sound teaching and learning comes from sound instruction. Looking to fools for understanding will lead you down the path of foolishness. Unholy books should be read with the proper perspective in mind at all times.

    Finally, one person mentioned that adding the Bible would bias the list toward Christianity. Though I would have no problem with that bias, I would say, fine…add others to the list as well. Put the Koran on here. Put the vedas on here. Add the Tripitaka. I’m sure there are several others that could be added. Do so, and read them. Then do internal critiques of them to see whether they are coherent and logically consistent. I highly doubt this could be done in detail before age 30, but you could certainly get a start.

    Sadly, much of our culture has relegated books to the wasteland of dusty bookshelves and replaced them with video games, TV, movies and anything else we can do to ignore them. Hopefully this will change some day.

  • Indeshaw Adenaw
    July 31st, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Great list, thanks for putting it together. I’ve read about ten books from the list and they were all awesome. I’ll add the rest to my list.

  • The mark of a great blog post is the quality of the discourse it generates. Well done.

    Invisible Man, Native Son, and Mere Christianity are books that have changed my life.

    Thanks for the list, and I will be adding several of the commenters’ suggestions to my reading list as well!

  • what about mitch albom’s five people you meet in heaven? i loved that book. perhaps it’s not in the top 30 best books but i really loved it. and tuesdays with morrie

  • Every book list without “Tao Te Ching” is incomplete. This is the most important book of all.

  • Wow, what a great list! But too bad there are more books i missed reading. Oh my! How I wish I have the chance to read Siddhartha.

  • Yes to Siddhartha!! One of my favorite books of all time and profoundly changed who I am and the way I think. Made me appreciate the simple things in life much more clearly. A great list of other reads I’d pretty much agree.

    You’re missing Don Miguel Ruiz’s books :)

  • Nice compilation of male writers …

  • Stephen King’s “different seasons” featuring 4 different brilliantly themed stories or “novellas” and which includes the much talked-about( the movie ofcourse) one like “Rita hayworth and the shawshank redemption” about persistent hope and courage even in something like ‘hard-as-a rock’ prison life, and even though i haven’t read it, the book(heard a lot abt it) he published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, “Rage” (available as a collection named ‘Bachman Books’), a psychic examination into a disturbed, exploited adolescent’s mind which makes him to go on a shooting rampage, should have a place too in that elite list, IMHO.

  • The bible?

  • So, it’s on my Day Zero List to read all of the books on this list. It will prob be on my next Day Zero List to read all of the comments on this post and pick out 30 new books to read based on these recommendations.

    :) Good work sparking thought and argument though!

  • I would recommend “Watership Down” by Richard Adams.

  • A book to add to the essentials list: “One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding.” It is an essential life lesson on communication, how two people (a college student and a prostitute) in the same situation and “relationship” with each other see it from their own viewpoint and interpretation. After reading this book you will understand why people have such difficulty (if not impossibility) of understanding what the other thinks or wants.

  • Bravo mate. Bravo. What a list.

  • Great list, though I would not call ‘Lolita’ beautiful. I am not saying that it is not a great read but perhaps a different word beside beautiful would describe the moral of the story.

  • Looks it is a great list. I have read maybe at the most 1-2 books from this list. Almost getting through with Siddhartha. I think The Alchemist should be on this list also.

  • How about “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath? Or “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte? For that matter, what about anything by the Bronte sisters… We’ve got “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf and “Delta of Venus” by Anais Nin.

  • I’ve read 14 of these. All good choices, but there are so many more you could add. A few notable exclusions (in my mind) I would add in are Dante’s Divine Comedy, Hugo’s Les Miserables, and Cervante’s Don Quixote.

  • You’re missing On the Road. Considering Jack took that trip in his mid to late 20’s, it definitely fits here.

    “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a must read. Always read through it every couple months or so. This book does not contain any secrets, it’s everything you know already (i.e. give a genuine smile and genuine compliments, be polite, “be lavish in your praise and hearty in your approbation”). So, for the times when you do slip, keep this book close by as a constant reminder

  • WOW… I’m at an utter loss of words… I’m 14 and the last three books i read were Lord of The Flies, A Clockwork Orange (my favorite book nothing anybody has ever read comes close except maybe…) and The Catcher in The Rye… I was about to start reading The Great Gatsby too. I believe Ulysses by James Joyce deserves honorable meantions, it’s only known as one of the greatest books ever writtwn after all. Also, I think this list is missing something truly horrific, Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen King hell if I know, but their works are recent fun to read and much better than supposes modern day classics like Harry Potter.

  • Well, I’m 20 and I’ve read all of the 30 books, but I have a huge list of books to read that is on my bucket list. The 30 books that are on this list is amazing!

  • wow! great list!
    i would add ayn rand’s the fountainhead.
    i have 12 years left to finish the list! :)

  • Thanks for an awesome list. Btw I am 22, so I want to finish reading these books as soon as possible. I will add Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt - stunning memoir :)

  • Going to be 25 years old soon but I have read only one of these books. Thanks for the list. I will surely cover most of them before 30. Just picked one up at the library.

  • Honestly, a great list. But I’d love it if there were a few more female writers in the bunch.

  • Great list for books to consider reading. I appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into creating this list.

    As for the people who needed “more books”, “different books”, “more female writers”, etc., why not make your own list?

  • The Education of Henry Adams : an Autobiography

    In 1999 Modern Library, in their much noted survey, listed the Education as the best nonfiction book, written in English, of the twentieth century.

    I had encountered it’s difficulties and succumbed to its magic long before that appraisal was published, indeed long before I was 30.

    The enjoyment of making The Education’s’ acquaintance has stayed with me through succeeding years with the greatest of satisfaction. It could possibly be one the most treasurable of all reading experiences.

  • No book list would be complete without both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Life changing!

  • I’ve read more than I’d have thought. Josh - a bunch of these are movies! ‘Spose seeing them doesn’t count. “Autobiography of Malcolm X” had an impact on me in the 60’s - Lately, “The New Jim Crow” Michelle Alexander, 2010.

  • This list is a great starting point for young readers. I would include “Night” by Elie Wiesel and The Diary of Anne Frank. These books are essential for understanding what man is capable of doing to his fellow man as well as a testament to human survival and compassion.

  • Some additions I’ll suggest to add diversity to your list:

    Sembene Ousmane — “God’s Bits of Wood”
    Thrity Umrigar — “The Space between Us”
    Toni Morrison — “Beloved”
    Walter Rodney — “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”
    Misha Glenny — “The Balkans”
    Duong Thu Huong — “No Man’s Land”

  • I ABSOLUTELY AGREE!!! The tipping point and the republic are the most amazing books!!!

  • This is first time I am coming across this kind of inspiring website and gave me lot of joy after reading all the lovely comments. This particular article is a great feast for book lovers. I would like to add a great book: “A monk who sold his Ferrari” by Robin Sharma.

  • I turn 30 on Dec 31st! I have A LOT of reading to do! Ha ha! Excellent list! I look forward to reading some of the books I haven’t yet read.

  • Good list… Here’s a few books by women that would make a good addition:

    Silent Spring (Rachel Carson)
    Mindfulness (Karen Langer)
    Centering (M. C. Richards)
    Start Where You Are (Pema Chodron)
    Loving KIndness (Sharon Salzberg)
    One Hundred Names for Love
    (Diane Ackerman)
    Kitchen Table Wisdom (Rachel Remen)
    Wake Up and Live (Dorothea Brande)

  • Several suggested Ayn Rand. I disagree. A more hard and cold depiction of humanity you could not find than anything by her. A list of books to suggest is more appropriate than saying “should”. I’m 54 years old and a bookworm. Many of these I’ve read, many I’ve heard of and what they’re about, and some I’ve never heard of. Reading “War and Peace” felt like drudgery. And how about Charles Dickens? Still interesting, though, and a good basic list.

  • How about “Unbroken” by Lauren Hillenbrand? I also agree that “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak is a must read.

  • I’m really surprised nobody had mentioned it yet on this thread from what I see, but an incredible book is “The 5 people you meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom. It’s a great read and really leaves you thinking about life’s purpose and the people that come in and out of our lives.

  • I still have 13 years left xD. I just became interested in literature recently, great stuff.

  • I think that this list looks great. I would recommend the Poisonwood Bible as well as it completely changed my outlook on life. I think the most important part of this list is simply reading books that you think might help you become a better, more well-rounded person

  • Great list, but “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill is a book everyone should read before his 30s, too.

  • Honey Moon With My Brother does seem to be a very intriguing and heart felt story. I am definitely looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing a wonderful list.

  • To Kill A Mockingbird? How about Invisible Man by Ellison instead.

  • Why do some people have to be so judgmental. I’m certain that the list wasn’t picked based on gender. Nor do I believe they are insinuating that these are the ONLY 30 books one should read prior to 30. This is a blog and they are choosing a catchy title to share their opinion on 30 must reads prior to 30. Geesh, I tell ya!! I appreciate your list and although at 33 I am ashamed to admit that I have only read two, I am always looking for a good book so I plan on working off this list for a while. Thank you for sharing!!

  • I am glad that I read 15 out of the 30 before I reached the age of 30. If I can get the other 30 in by the time I am 60 I will be happy. I think this is a great list and I am glad that you put it together.

  • Great list! Let’s not forget that every moment you become a new person and that even if you’ve read some of these books before you can always read them with new eyes and ears for subsequent readings. You never get it all on the first go!

    My suggestions to this list would be:

    1) Ishmael, Daniel Quinn
    2) Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
    3) Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche
    4) The Foundation, Isaac Asimov
    5) Brave New World or Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley

  • The Journeys of Socrates(Peaceful Warrior saga) by Dan Millman.- a novel that embeds itself into your psyche taking you through fear and terror to empowerment and stillness. Very very readable.

  • This website is awesome! I love all your posts! Another great post. Great books! :) Keep it comin’!

  • Great list of books! I’m surprised I’ve read a few of them since I don’t read that much. Definitely going to pick up 1984 now. I think LOTR should be higher up and some like Clock Work Orange should go further down. But that’s just my opinion.

  • Excellent list. I’d better get cracking if I’m even going to make it into double figures. Plenty of summer time reading if the sun ever starts shining here.

  • Great list! Not perfect, but the real problem is there are just more than 30 greats.

    Only truly missing book is Trouble in Cherry Blossomland; its a timeless classic (that I accidentally found on Amazon) and I can’t find anywhere else.

  • great list and just noticed that i have not ready any of the above books. i got some serious reading to do.

  • I’m so glad to see the novel “The Great Gatsby” on this list. I read it in my AP English course in high school and it completely changed my world. At first, it’s hard to find all the truly unique features of this book. However, if you slowly connect all the symbols of this book you will find it’s beyond what you can imagine. I’m hands-down, completely obsessed with this novel. I have all the movies, and multiple copies of the book. I cannot wait for the new movie coming out this Christmas.

    The other books on this list are good choices, however, I have lots of reading to do myself. Luckily, I’m only 19. :)

  • How can you forget the Count of Monte Cristo?

  • the Harry Potter series!!!

    (good assortment of books though)

  • I really like this list. I read a few of the books. I will add more to my list. Actually, I think I’ll start with Tipping Point. Also, I’m curious. Are you ranking these books because I didn’t wouldn’t put Siddhartha over How to Win Friends? Anyway, I really like this list. I saw a few that I’ve already read and really enjoy but also some that interested me.

  • I keep reading that people should read so many of these titles while in high school…I totally disagree. So much is lost on high school English students! Give them time to grow and when they are a little older, these books WILL become treasures! Reading should be enjoyable, a gift, a place to explore and unwind. I have gone back to my AP reading lists and revisited so many of these titles. I enjoy (and can relate and understand) them so much more AFTER 30!

  • An amazing plethora of knowledge. I rue that lot of them I am yet to read. But at the same time I thank GOD that I have read books like “One Hundred Years of Solitude” & “Crime & Punishment”. They are the real jewels a human being should possess.

  • Dear Marc,

    Well, this seems to be an old post. And, I must confess that I haven’t read these books except one by Dale Carnegie. But, I would like you to add one more book to this coveted list.The book is-”THE POWER OF NOW” by “ECKHART TOLLE”.


  • Hey there! I’m seventeen and have only read about four of these books, but cannot seem to get properly into War and Peace which is 1500 pages long in teeney tiny writing. What I would add, though, is this epic book called ‘Man’s search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl. It’s unbelievable. The title is a little inaccurate, but that doesn’t deduct from the fact this book really gives you an insight into the real experience of Victor’s years in Auschwitz and the psychology behind human beings when they are treated in such a way. All I can say to truly advertise it though, is this book really gives you something.

  • I stumbled across a phenomenal book this year on a bookshelf belonging to a friend that I mine regularly. An amazing multi generational story of Africa, adventure, mans capacity for violence, and the trajectory of our human family. It is called “The Zanzibar Chest” by a guy named Aidan Hartley. It is non fiction, but has most fiction beat to a bloody pulp in every way possible. I recommend it to anyone and everyone. It will leave you breathless and amazed.

  • Dune
    Madam Bovary
    Another Country
    Any William Wilding
    The Lovesong of Alfred J Prufrock (T. S, Eliot Poem -
    try again!)
    The Bone People
    In Watermelon Sugar (Brautigan)

    and 1001 Books to read before you Die!

  • A great list and some great comments. Unfortunately I’m 56 so a bit late. I was though surprised as I’ve actually read about 15 or so and the ones I have read I probably did read before I was thirty. Has made me think I need to be doing more reading and a good list to start me off.

    Many thanks for your other lists and posts which keep me thinking and questioning so a big THANKS for allowing me to join your community and share your wisdom and grace.

    Many thanks to all
    Bless you

  • Hi Marc and Angel a great list and I was surprised that I’d read about a dozen and actually had read them before I was thirty. This made me realise I need to do more reading and vary it a little more than I do.
    Some great comments and additions to the list too. I would agree with Stranger In A Strange Land and The Prophet but there are so many good books out there.
    I would like to thank you for allowing me to be part of this community and sharing in your grace and wisdom and that of your readers too.
    So a big THANKS.
    Bless you all.

  • On the top of the list, the book ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand should be put up. It’s the most powerful book you will ever read.

  • I love how lists like this spark debate. While I would add a few, too, like Austin, Bronte and Shakespeare (plays also count, right?) it makes me very happy to see #32 on the list. This book is on my shelf and will remain there alongside other favorites that have already been named.

  • Great list but I would add Animal Farm, a short little parable.


  • Why specifically by age 30?

    Of the books on your list that I’ve read (a little under half of them), the only one where age at reading seems to be a factor is The Great Gatsby — which I re-read last year, and resonated with me much more at age 25 than it had the first time around at age 15.

    I suspect it might lose some of that poignancy as I get older — Fitzgerald wrote it in his 20s, and Nick is just about to turn 30 in the book, and the issues that he has Nick contemplate felt very relevant to me at this point in my life, this transitional phase between “youth” and “real adulthood”.

    But the others? What would, say, Catch-22 lose by being read at age 45?

  • I have 15 years more left to read all of these book and I want to read at least 70% of the list . Literally I have one of the book in the list read at this time: How to Win Friends

  • These are all great reads!! I would also HIGHLY recommend not only “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, but ANY of his books. They are beautifully written in a though provoking way while still telling a story. They are all full of life truths! I really like the fact that each book has a theme tied to it. Such as “The Alchemist” is based around wisdom. They are also very short and can really be read at almost any age!

  • Also another great book is “Believe and Achieve” by Napoleon Hill. It’s a great read about hard work and determination and to make your own life!!

  • The Watchmen’s gotta be a must-read, no? Or does that not count as a book?

  • Fantastic list.
    I’d add The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.
    The World Is Flat 3.0 is an essential update on globalization, its opportunities for individual empowerment, its achievements at lifting millions out of poverty.

  • JanetzJourney72
    July 2nd, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Thank You so much for all the time you spend encouraging, and giving thoughtful, helpful information….What a blessing you two are! About all the rude, immature comments on here….Weeell that’s all they are, rude and IMMATURE. Good list of reads will pick one I haven’t read with an open mind! :-) Remember that when people comment rudely is that their heart and mind hasn’t been disciplined to respect others opinions and a self respect for ones self. If we do not respect ourselves how could we possibly respect others…just saying…:-)

  • I read 9 of the books on the list (e.g. 1984, Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, The Tipping Point) before turning 30 but missed out on some of these titles. Glad to see that you encouraged some titles from other countries and languages like “War and Peace.”

    If you were to write an update to this list, I would suggest adding Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” I found it even better than “The Tipping Point.”

  • I realize everyone who reads this list will have personal favorites… guess I’ll add 5 of mine to your list.
    Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury)
    All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque)
    Heart of Darkness (Conrad)
    Diary of Ann Frank
    The Stranger (Camus)

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