In No Particular Order
Well, today is #WorldBookDay, and we simply could not let that moment pass without marking it in some way. So, what better way than to look at some of the books that have shaped literature? As a writer, I spend most of my time locked away in a dark room either escaping to a world I am creating or escaping to those other writers have created for me. There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a good book… that is of course until the book hangover kicks in!
When I turned 30 I realised that I had managed to pretty much check off all the things on my bucket list (I WILL do that skydive before I hit The Big 4-0), but I still believe that for my years, I have not read nearly enough books. I don’t think there will ever be a day I think I have read enough. This year I am even taking part in a Book Challenge (you can read about it here) as a way to encourage myself to broaden my bookshelf and re-discover my passion for the written word.
But let’s be honest, there are books that you just read for fun, and then there are books that will change your world forever. So with that in mind, I have compiled a list of books that I think everyone should have read by the time they hit 30.
Now, I realise that many will have already turned The Big 3-0. In which case, if there are any you haven’t read – get to it! You will not regret it. And I know I may be a little left of centre on the OCD scale, but it can’t just be me that likes the feeling of checking off a list of “To-Dos”!
Wild – By Cheryl Strayed
This amazing novel was of course made into a movie with the incredibly talented Reese Witherspoon, but let it be said that often the book is even better than the film. As much as I loved the views and filming of the movie, it will never compare to the images in my head when I read the book. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I encourage you to read the book first. It is an inspirational memoir of a woman who encompasses many of the traits we admire in Glass House Girls. Drive, determination and a sheer will to succeed. A must read if you haven’t already!
There are many women whom I believe encompass the traits of a Glass House Girl – and Tina Fey is one of them. Funny, articulate, driven and Bossy… One quote from the book stood out… “I’m Tina Fey and I am enormously successful and I am thankful for that, but at the same time I still struggle with being a working woman with a real life, because it is so weird that I am a media icon when I still really think of myself as an unpopular high school theatre dweeb.” There are many reasons to like this book, far too many to go into, but rest assured its accolade as an International Bestseller is highly deserved.
Yes, I am more than aware that this is a controversial choice, especially given that I profess to be a lover of literature and a writer… but if you are ever to put your literary snobbery and grammatical training aside for a moment and allow yourself a guilty pleasure or two, let this be one of them. Go on, dip your toe in the dark side before you hit the big 3 – 0! You won’t regret it.
Henry and June – Anaïs Nin
If Fifty Shades does not set your pulse racing, why not step back in time to 1986 when this work of fiction was a bestseller. Taken from the unpublished diaries and Anaïs herself, Nin embarks on a complicated affair with Henry whilst being totally enamoured by his wife June. A complicated novel about sexual awakening and self analysis. A must read!
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
This domestic chiller will leave you hating the main character almost as much as you hate anyone who interrupts you whist you are devouring Flynn’s work. Set aside some “me” time and enjoy the twisted mind of a sociopathic wife on a mission to destroy her husband. Again, another perfect example of the book often surpassing the movie!
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
If you haven’t heard of this book before now, I question which rock you have been hiding under. There are a million reasons why this novel became a bestseller, and honestly, I truly believe this is one you need to read yourself to understand why. Donna Tartt is an incredibly accomplished writer and this novel does not disappoint.
How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
If ever there was a book written that breaks down so precisely what it is to be a proper ‘woman’ – this is it. A funny yet honest book that speaks to women around the globe. If ever you wondered what the word ‘feminist’ truly means… you should pick up a copy of this book!
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Now I realise that many of you may have read this at school or college, and if so… go back and read it again. Sometimes you just have to admit that the classics are classic for a reason!
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Honestly, I could have named any and all of Shakespeare’s epic works in this list, but if I have to choose just one for you to read before you turn 30, then it has to be Hamlet.
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
…and not simply because we play host to our own Lady Lolita at The Glass House. The novel, written and published in the 1950’s was, and still is, notable for its controversial subject and has become one of the best known yet contentious examples of 20th century literature. You simply cannot claim to love classic literature if you have not read this book.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is a book I was first given by Miss Pollyanna when she was trying to teach me the ways of Law of Attraction and positive thinking. Along with her other recommendations in her Top 5 Books on Positivity, The Alchemist changed my views on destiny. It is one of those books you read that will stay with you forever, and yet, you will pick up time and time again, just to refresh your memory.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Honestly – need I say more? For God’s sake if you can’t be bothered to read the book, at least watch the movie! A classic is a classic for a reason, and let’s face it, Baz Luhrmann did well to hire Leonardo DiCaprio. I still say the book is better, but then I am a purist!
1984 – George Orwell
If you haven’t read this book, you really are missing out. But beware, if you are of the paranoid disposition, read with caution and a pinch of salt… otherwise, the references to Big Brother will have you looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life.
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
Again, this is likely to be one you have read at school, but if not, there is a reason they put this one on so many syllabuses.
Beloved – Toni Morrison
This hauntingly painful novel is filled with bitter poetry, tension and suspense. Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison does not disappoint.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Whether you agree or disagree with the release of her follow up novel, Go Set a Watchman, no-one can deny the true talent that Harper Lee showed in her debut novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. A book that has shaped the minds of many a novelist since.
Chocolat – Joanne Harris
Another example of the novel being so much better than the movie… and yet the movie is superb. Chocolat is much more than just a book… it’s an exploration of the conflict between indulgence and guilt. A must read… for every Glass House Girl around the world.
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
For all those who think this is a novella for children, or a mere fairy tale, you are highly mistaken. This book touches the hearts of readers of all ages. A must read for all – and one that should be passed down the generations.
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
“Life changes in an instant. An ordinary instant” – this striking memoir is an account of the year following the death of Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne. Honesty, passion and grief. Essential for all those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.
White Teeth – Zadie Smith
Many people find this book a difficult one to get into, but once you get going, this beautifully written Dickensian novel about modern Britain is like stepping into the mind of Zadie herself and seeing the world as she sees it. Detailed and beautifully written, it is well worth powering though the initial feelings of frustration.
Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
Now this is the second time Strayed has entered my top 30 – and not without merit. “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose.” The once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, was the person thousands turned to for advice. In her column Dear Sugar, Strayed offered advice on everything life can throw at you. This book is a compilation of her best columns as well as some of those never published. With humour and honesty, Strayed advised many and with this book I feel like she helped many more.
Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
This short but powerful book is likely to stay with you long after you close the pages. Who do you think will meet you at the gates of heaven? It might not necessarily be who you have in mind! This is a MUST read!
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
This dystopian novel is more than just a Young Adult novel in my opinion. The ideas it delves into are much deeper than your run-of-the-mill coming of age drama. Children being forced to kill, a heroine so obviously and deeply affected by violence, and a need and desire to change the world around her. Try and forget the movie if you have seen it first, and delve into the world that Collins creates. You will find yourself asking so many moral questions of yourself in the process.
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
Now this is a psychological thriller that will have you questioning the way you look at other peoples’ lives in a whole new way. I love to people watch at airports, train stations and even shopping centres. Who are these people and what are their lives like? Paula Hawkins takes that thought to a whole new level when her main character witnesses a murder from her train window… but is what she thinks she saw the entire story?
US – David Nicholls
Well, Nicholls has done it again. And did we ever doubt he would? After his highly successful novel, One Day was made into a movie starring Keira Knightly, most critics wondered if he would be able to step up to the plate with an equally successful novel. Yet, before it was even published, US, Nicholls’ fourth novel, had already been nominated for the Man Booker Prize. A nomination it seems that was more than deserving. Us is a fantastic tragi-comedy that takes an insightful look at life, love, heartbreak and complicated family dynamics. An essential read.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
The Help is just one more example of fantastic literature that made a successful leap to the big screen. I have to admit I did not know about the book before the film, but after watching the film I was intrigued to see if I would be as gripped by the well rounded characters in the novel as I had been during the film. I was not to be disappointed. Stockett transports you effortlessly back to the 1960’s and immerses you in the most colourful, vibrant life of African-American maids working in Jackson, Mississippi.
Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
A feel good film from a feel good book. The classic chick flick started its life in novel form, and sometimes I wonder if it should have stayed that way. Immersing yourself in the written world of Bridget Jones is almost better than seeing her life play out on screen. Helen Fielding tugs at the heart strings and makes you laugh from the belly with each and every turn of the page.
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Life of Pi won the Man Booker prize in 2002 – an accolade that was duly deserved. For those who haven’t read this book, I will not spoil it for you. Needless to say, you cannot read it without being left with a permanent reminder to go back to it again and again.
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
If you cried at the film, God help you with the novel! Get a pack of tissues at the ready, because this one is going to break your heart in two.
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
This heartbreaking novel written about the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant is a stunningly crafted piece set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. Family, love and friendship play major roles in this story set against a painfully told history of war-torn Afghanistan. If you want a powerful novel that will move you to tears and bring hope to your heart all at the same time, this is the one for you.
So there you go. My mammoth list of books you should read before you hit the big 3-0. But, which ones have I missed? Are there any books that you think changed your outlook on life. Which books would you recommend for your #BucketBookList? Don’t be shy… your recommendation may just change someone else’s world for the better.