Leadership

9 books to read before you're 30

A woman reads a book at her open air book store in Skopje April 24, 2014. Macedonians will cast their ballots on Sunday April 27 in the second round of the presidential vote, overshadowed by the general elections. Macedonian voters look likely to hand conserva

Librarians from the Readers Services department of the New York Public Library have shared their top books to read before 30. Image: REUTERS

Chris Weller
Ideas Reporter, Business Insider
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Aging is inevitable, but the quarter-life crisis — a deep, career-anxious worry that strikes sometime in your mid-20s — doesn't have to be.

Books can protect you.

Here are a handful of titles the librarians from the Readers Services department of the New York Public Library have shared to help people keep their sanity as they enter their fourth decade.

"1984" by George Orwell

The high school classic is well worth a re-read, the librarians say.

People who are either just entering or getting settled into their careers are likely to relate a little differently to "1984" than they might have at 16 or 17.

It's a story of "power and brutality," the librarians say, and it should resonate as power structures start to become more visible in a newly-employed person's life.

"Adulthood Is a Myth" by Sarah Andersen

It's a nice idea, that entering your 20s means somehow graduating into adulthood. But as every young-at-heart baby boomer or senior will tell you, adulthood never really arrives.

At some point you just start doing "adult" things.

Sarah Andersen's collection of comics, "Adulthood Is a Myth," cleverly illustrates the small but nagging growing pains that many of us feel as adult life creeps closer.

"Attachments" by Rainbow Rowell

"Attachments" is a great primer for entering the strange, sometimes unforgiving seas of the working world.

It's about two friends sending each other email at work, while an IT guy monitors their messages and ends up falling for one of the women.

"Rowell and her characters truly get what it means to be out of college, growing up, and in a 'real' job for the first time," the librarians say. "Plus, you'll get an understanding of what all those Gen-Xers were going through around the turn of the millennium."

"Beijing Bastard: Into the Wilds of a Changing China" by Val Wang

Aside from difficulties in scaling the career ladder, many quarter-life crises are spurred on by a flimsy sense of self.

"Beijing Bastard," Wang's memoir about finding her identity in New York after moving from China, is "a funny, fresh coming-of-age story" that is sure to connect with soul-searchers in their 20s, the librarians say.

"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

New York Times critic A.O. Scott put itbluntly: "Between the World and Me" is "essential, like water or air."

Winner of the National Book Award, Coates' novel reveals a perspective on race in America that challenges everyone to reckon with the country's brutal past — both recent and distant.

The book can help people just learning about their place in the world gain new insight.

"Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word" by Nadia Abushanab Higgins

"Feminism" wants to make it less uncomfortable to be a feminist.

The librarians say the book is essential for people moving into the wider world because so many communities are simply too diverse for regressive mindsets about equality.

"No one should come of age in 2017 without a basic understanding of intersectional feminism," they say.

"Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari

One of the first things people in their 20s learn (and often the hard way) is that dating in adulthood can be a disaster.

"Modern Romance" riffs on the perils of online dating, the etiquette that goes into texting, and provides sociological research to illuminate how we got here.

The librarians say it's "funny, timely, and full of facts and figures to help navigate the seas of love."

"The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing" by Mira Jacob

Growing up means accepting your parents as fractured, flawed people who make mistakes just like everyone else.

In "The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing," a woman must grapple with her family's hidden past along with discomfiting notions of mortality.

"Wrap your mind around the idea that you can use fiction — in this case, the relatable, often funny story of Amina, who's just turning 30 — to start seriously working through ideas about aging and death," the librarians say.

"Tiny Beautiful Things" by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, the once-anonymous advice columnist, has compiled pieces of wisdom into a book the librarians call "the best, most compassionate advice about being a fully realized, empathic person in the world."

At its heart, "Tiny Beautiful Things" is a reminder that life is fraught with uncertainty, and that what we call "quarter-life crises" might just be the first in a series of opportunities to ask for help.

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