I just said goodbye to my 30s myself. And there’s no denying that this chapter of your life can be one of the most fulfilling and most important you’ll ever encounter.
If your 20s is about discovering yourself, your 30s are about using what you have discovered to build the life you want.
And with some hard work and a bit of luck, your 30s can be the time when you set yourself up for great things in the rest of your life.
But in this crucial decade, it never hurts to get a little guidance. One of the best ways to learn from the mistakes as well as the successes of others is to read.
Here are some books that can be of great value to read in your 30s to help you create a more fulfilling life.
1) The five love languages by Gary Chapman
Every so often, a writer has an idea so powerful that it becomes part of our everyday language.
Even if you haven’t read the book, you may well have heard of Gary Chapman’s idea of the Five Love Languages that people use to communicate with one another.
Chapman defines the five love languages like this:
- words of affirmation
- quality time
- physical touch
- acts of service
- receiving gifts
Understanding how your partners express affection can help you better understand how they feel about you. At the same time, understanding your own love language can make you much more able to appreciate the ways in which you may or may not be communicating your own desires and needs.
You may have spent your 30s in a stable and committed relationship. Or you may reach the end of this pivotal decade single and still looking for the right connection.
But either way, understanding how people communicate love and affection to one another is the key to a healthy relationship.
2) Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Before this true story was made into a movie, it was a book by Cheryl Strayed.
At the age of 26, Strayed decided to hike the 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mohave Desert up to Washington State.
Traveling alone and with no previous hiking experience, Strayed encounters physical danger. Along the way, she also recounts some of the pivotal events in her life that led her to taking on this amazing feat, including the early death of her mother and her own heroin abuse.
The story is fundamentally about understanding yourself better through testing your limits, and it’s something everyone should do while they are still young enough to make mistakes.
That’s what makes this such an inspiring book to read in your 30s.
3) The four hour work week by Tim Ferriss
This book has become a classic of self-development since it was first published in 2007.
Ferriss worked 14-hour days at his nutritional supplement company before writing the book. Deciding to take a three-week trip to travel through Europe and Asia, he developed various methods for minimizing his work and maximizing his income.
Ferriss calls his process “lifestyle design”, and he argues that the North American model of working hard for decades in the hope of enjoying a comfortable retirement is fundamentally broken.
As someone who has broken free of the rat race and found a lifestyle that allows me to make money anywhere, I am living proof that Ferriss’ ideas can fundamentally change your life.
You don’t have to live the life everyone else does, and this book will show you how to create the life that you want.
4) Atomic habits by James Clear
You can have all the big ideas in the world, but if you don’t know how to put them into action, you’ll never achieve the success you want.
James Clear points out in his book Atomic Habits that one of the most important things you can do to improve your life is to work on your daily habits.
The book offers practical advice that can help you focus on cultivating the habits you want, along with success stories that will show you the power of regular habits in shaping a fulfilling life.
5) Daring greatly by Brené Brown
Brene Brown has become famous as a writer, podcast, and public speaker. The author of no fewer than six books to reach the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list, Brown is an expert in vulnerability and leadership.
In Daring Greatly, Brown explores how the courage to be vulnerable with others can have profound effects on both our professional and personal lives.
The thing is, most of us try to hide our vulnerabilities. We may feel ashamed of our weaknesses or feel that they are holding us back.
This mindset-shifting book will help you to understand that often, our biggest vulnerabilities are also our greatest strengths.
6) 1984 by George Orwell
Sometimes, fiction can tell the truth in a way more factual books could never hope to.
That’s certainly true of 1984, one of the most important books of the 20th century and a masterpiece of political writing.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the book’s prescience and power that it is so often misinterpreted by readers, both when it was first published in 1949 and today, when it continues to be widely read.
Orwell’s description of life in a dystopian dictatorship is a scathing analysis of the totalitarian movements of the 20th century. But it’s also a warning of what can happen in a society when we surrender our essential freedom in the name of comfort and security.
No wonder this book is considered essential reading in schools and universities around the world.
And even if you’ve read it before, it’s worth reading again as an adult to understand Orwell’s nuanced points about freedom and fulfillment fully.
7) The wisdom of insecurity by Alan Watts
Writer and self-proclaimed ‘spiritual entertainer’ Alan Watts did as much as anyone to bring the ancient wisdom of Zen Buddhism to the West in the 20th century. Watts himself is sometimes seen as a controversial figure due to his eccentric personal life.
However, whatever you think of the man himself, this book contains deep wisdom that still speaks to us today, decades after it was written.
Watts points out that change is the one constant in life, and therefore we all live in a state of insecurity. But trying to hold onto what is doomed not to last forever can only make us more insecure, more unhappy, and more afraid.
The Wisdom of Insecurity dives deep into Zen Buddhism and human psychology to create a powerful method for learning to love life even as it constantly changes all around you.
Without exaggeration, I can say it is one of the most profoundly impactful books I have ever read.
So many books, so little time
I tried to keep this list short. After all, if you’re anything like me, your list of books to read grows far faster than you can possibly keep up.
The thing is, different books hit differently at different stages of your life.
Having just left my 30s behind, I can stand behind the books on this list and say that they can have a profound impact and help you build the life you want as you head into the next chapter of your life.