10 books to read before you’re 30
Some people make a bucket list of things to do before they hit the milestone age of 30. We’ve got some books you can add to it! Take a look at some of the literary classics – old and new – that you must indulge in before you say hello to your newest decade.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
One of the best-loved novels of the 20th Century, appearing on countless school curriculums across the world, To Kill a Mockingbird is the pinnacle of essential reading. Set in the town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s, the story is rife with racism, difference and harsh lessons. The Bildungsroman focuses on Scout, who lives with her brother Jem and father Atticus as her mother sadly passed away. A well-respected lawyer, Atticus takes on the case of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white girl, Mayella Ewell. Despite the evidence overwhelmingly showing the accusation is simply untrue, Robinson is convicted which shakes the faith of both Atticus and his son. Jem, Scout and their friend Dill become infatuated with their reclusive neighbour Boo Radley, immersed in town rumours about him and consider ways to coax him out of his house.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Díaz
The title of the novel is a bit of a giveaway, and before we can immerse ourselves into this great piece of literature, we’re met with the damning realisation that our protagonist won’t last very long. Oscar de León is the focus of Junot Díaz’s novel – Oscar is an overweight, Dominican kid growing up in New Jersey. He’s typically seen as a ‘nerd’ as he’s interested in comic books and science fiction; because of this he’s constantly concerned that he won’t be successful with women. He makes attempts to end his own life but are unsuccessful; when he finally gets the girl, this is what kills him. Although the novel was only published in 2007, it quickly became one of those novels you simply have to read.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Set in the decedent era of the 1920s, The Great Gatsby shows us just how far some people will go for love, wealth and status. Pitting the nouveau riche against those who inherited their fortune, Jay Gatsby vies for Daisy Buchanan’s love – he buys a house across the bay from her and throws lavish parties in the hope that she’ll come. A self-made man, Gatsby aggravates Daisy’s husband Tom, despite the fact he’s unfaithful to his wife with Myrtle Wilson. Gatsby’s neighbour Nick Carraway is intrigued by Gatsby and his escapades; Nick finds himself in the mix with this new bunch although he doesn’t quite fit in. Gatsby’s house may be full every weekend, but when he’s dead and gone, many of those who claimed to love him don’t show up – except, of course, for Nick.
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye is typically a novel to read when you’re still a teenager. We’ll give you some leeway but it has to be read before 30! Salinger’s protagonist Holden Caulfield struggles to adjust to just about everything; he flunks out of a number of schools and is caught in a tough spot between childhood and adulthood. He’s desperate to be accepted as a grown up (and attempts to act as one) yet it still very much a child. The novel takes place when he returns to New York for Christmas – he chases girls, drinks and spends some precious times with his beloved little sister Phoebe. There’s a sad backstory as to why Holden struggles and if you’ve ever had any difficulty fitting in, your heart will go to him.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Angelou’s autobiographical work derives its name from a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The caged bird symbolises a chained slave; a recurring theme in Angelou’s work. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings begins when Maya is sent to live with her grandmother at the age of three, along with her older brother. It chronicles racism and childhood trauma; after the man who attacks Maya is murdered, she becomes mute as she fears her voice has the power to kill. She overcomes this with the help of her teacher who opens her up to a world of literature. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has held significant importance for more than 40 years, as Maya is seen as being symbolic character for every black girl growing up in America.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things is jam-packed with brilliant essays and poignant advice to carry with you into your third decade. Stemming from Strayed’s column in The Rumpus, and following her major success with her memoir Wild, this series of essays gives advice to a whole range of people from all walks of life. An agony aunt for the modern age, Stayed draws on her own personal experiences in order to dish out advice. There’s plenty of wisdom you may just need that you can hold on to; there’s plenty of heartache strewn through those pages too. Strayed uses some tough love but she’ll give you a better perspective than the holier-than-thou advice pages you’ve seen before.
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
If you’ve ever watched the TV show Big Brother, you’ll know this novel was the basis of the experiment. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian novel, set during perpetual war in what was once Great Britain. The population aren’t allowed to think for themselves or else they’ll be convicted of ‘thoughtcrimes’. The regime in which they live is ruled by cult figure Big Brother (who is always watching), and there is an extensive effort to rewrite history to align with the ideas of the Party. Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth helping to rewrite records and alter photographs but when he starts to think for himself, he’s tortured into aligning with the Party’s ideals. It might just terrify you but the thought provoking novel has stood the test of time for a reason.
The Myth of Sisyphus – Albert Camus
Albert Camus is best known for novel L’Étranger (The Stranger), but his work Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus) is the philosophical work you need to read before you part ways with your 20s. It looks into the ideology of the absurd and existentialism. The absurd can be cut throat; it tells us that our constant search for meaning in our lives is futile. We work towards a better tomorrow yet tomorrow brings us closer to death. So, do we just accept that life has no meaning and continue on? The Myth of Sisyphus, the final chapter, looks at the legend from Greek mythology who is condemned to a meaningless task of pushing a rock up a mountain and once it reaches the top, will roll back down for the task to begin again. This makes Sisyphus the ideal absurd hero as he’s struggling for eternity without any hope or success.
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky’s 1866 novel focuses on the internal turmoil of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student who formulates a plan to murder a pawnbroker for her money. After he kills her, he’s taken aback by what he’s done and doesn’t steal all of her riches – what he takes is a very small amount. He’s able to flee the scene but becomes nervous about being found out. What he did take from the woman he murdered, he gave away; he gives money to the destitute widow of Marmeladov when he is struck by a carriage. His actions start to give him away and he becomes a suspect in the crime. He mulls over keeping quiet and confessing – he eventually confesses and is sentenced to exile in Siberia for eight years.
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983, which made Walker the first black woman to win the award. The story focuses on Celie, who is abused by her father and falls pregnant twice, with both children taken from her. She is married off at 14 to a man called Mister, leaving behind her beloved little sister Nettie. Life with her husband isn’t comfortable either; when Nettie flees her father to stay with Celie, Mister makes advances on her. Nettie has to leave and promises to write, but Celie never receives any letters from her sister. Celie finds comfort in her husband’s mistress Shug, who helps her to find her own voice and become a strong woman in spite of her suffering.
We hope we’ve opened your minds to some new workings you might not have been familiar with before now! Plunge head first into some thought provoking pieces; you can grab these titles over at musicMagpie Store. With FREE delivery, why wouldn’t you?