If you told my 22-year-old self that she’d someday be researching the best books to read in your 30s, she probably would have made a little joke about crypts. Of course, 10 years later, I realize just how silly that is. In some ways, I feel younger now than I did at 25. Gathering a little life experience and perspective will do that.
That life experience has also led me back to craving books the way I did when I was a kid. Before bed, while traveling, and whenever I’m in need of a little rest on a quiet afternoon, I find myself reaching for books more and more. I know from talking to friends that I’m not alone in this. Maybe some of us just need a little time away to remember how magical it is to read a truly good story.
Now, back to those books to read in your 30s… I promise you won’t find anything about crypts ahead. I’ve broken this list out by the types of books I’ve found myself reaching for most (and my friends, too). There are life-shifting essay books (so many!), inspiring memoirs, eternally good fiction stories, and brand-new works that have become instant must-reads.
So grab a cozy blanket, pour a cup of tea (or wine), and settle in with a book that teaches, challenges, or entertains in insightful new ways. No matter which book you choose below, I can promise one thing: you’ll never be sorry you picked it up.
image above by Riley Blanks Reed
The 20 Best Books to Read in Your 30s
Memoirs and Essays
The key to a great memoir or essay book is feeling trust and a connection with the author. With that in mind, the following collections were penned by wise, compassionate, and witty women who are impossible not to fall for.
A Manual for Cleaning Women—Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin
Berlin’s slightly autobiographical collection of stories went largely unnoticed in the literary world until years after her passing. It’s hard to believe, given how much her insights into the lives of everyday women (from nurses and struggling mothers to upper-class Bay Area housewives) demand your attention.
I’m glad we’re done pretending that searching for a self-help book is something to be embarrassed about. Especially when it comes to discovering impactful books to read in your 30s, a pivotal decade for dining your worldview. The following works come from bright minds that shine a little light on the world—both internally and all around.
All About Love—New Visions by Bell Hooks
An absolute must-read for modern romantics ready to reassess the way they think about love and partnerships.
Plus, once you’re a Hooks initiate, you can follow the brilliant Instagram account @SavedByTheBellHooks.
Wading into the world of nonfiction can be daunting, but the following picks are more than worth your time—promise.
Julie and Julia—365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell
Did you ever expect to see Julie and Julia in a roundup with How to Kill a City? Probably not! But the tale of a woman grappling with identity as she enters her 30s is filled with relatable lessons for anyone who’s spent time in the decade.
Classics Worth Revisiting
Chances are, these books found their way onto your required reading list at some point. Now well into your adult life, a reread could unearth more meaning and nuance in these well-loved tomes.
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