With the arrival of social media came an entirely new way for people to share stories and ideas. It’s fast. It’s convenient. It makes the world feel like a much smaller place. And, without meaning to, it gives us fewer reasons to read.
Before social media filled up all our free time seven days a week, there were these magical collections of characters and ideas called books. Stories came to life inside readers’ heads as they lost themselves in the lives of people they didn’t know, yet felt they had known their entire lives.
All the bookworms out there know something those who haven’t picked up a book since they last found themselves in a classroom might not. Books still exist. There are still stories out there that deserve your attention. Believe it or not, there are still stories being written that have the power to change our lives.
To get you started on your new reading journey, we have chosen five books everyone should read at least once before they turn 30. Each is unique in that it highlights issues we’re still facing today, from the points of views of characters we can relate to.
They each take us back or forward in time to show us pieces of history or wisdom we can apply to our own lives once we’re finished reading them. Each holds a string of ideas within them just waiting to be unraveled.
If you’re someone out there who hasn’t read a book since college, you’re way past due for a good old-fashioned reading session. New ideas are out there: it’s up to you to find them. Set aside some time over the next few years (or months, if you’re feeling ambitious) to work through these important, eye-opening pieces of fiction and nonfiction.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Carol Rifka Brunt)
Love your strangers. Love your family. Love yourself.
In this story of family, love and grief, June must come to terms with her uncle’s death with the help of an unlikely friend: his romantic partner, Toby.
Set in the 1980s, the story explores the early era of AIDS and homosexuality in America through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl. The book highlights prejudices members of the LGBTQA community still face today, and reminds readers that love comes in many forms. To love another is a human right, no matter who you are as a person.
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
Sometimes, to change the way things are, you need to break the rules.
Those who are attracted to modern dystopian fiction will find this book intriguing from the start and thought-provoking the deeper they dive in.
Offred is forced to serve the nation’s new political powerhouse after the President and his congress, leaving her with only memories of the life she lived before it all disappeared. The book dives into issues of religion and gender and gives readers a glimpse into a future plagued by oppression.
The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
We all have voices, and every single one of them matters.
The search for a more recently published account of issues of race in the South in the early 1960s ends with Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel.
The book follows Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny as they wade through the conflicts that spring up between the white residents of their Mississippi town and the ‘help,’ the black residents employed to take care of their homes and raise their children. As often happens in stories, three characters who appear to have nothing in common with one another come together to promote change among their fellow townspeople.
Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
Who you are is forever imprinted on your soul.
Unlike our previous three titles, this novel takes readers away from modern, familiar first-world issues and to a place where tribal culture and European ‘civilization’ fail to cooperate.
All three parts of the story revolve around the character of Okonkwo, a Nigerian village leader whose aversion to weakness result in exile. The stories display the struggle between the god-fearing villagers and the missionaries who arrive in their homeland to teach them about Christianity.
The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
One small idea can spark a shockwave of thought.
Have you ever wondered why, overnight, a trend seems to descend upon a culture out of nowhere? Why some ideas never come to form, while others cause revolutions of change all because one person jotted down a thought on a sticky note?
This nonfiction work explores the way some ideas spread like uncontrollable epidemics of disease. It shows readers real-life examples of the phenomenon revolutionizing the way we look at, adopt and sell things: how products, fandoms and even fashion trends rise to popularity so suddenly—almost as if, out of nowhere, they simply tipped.
The reason reading is so often associated with intelligence and success is its tendency to make us more aware, subtly and gradually, of our surroundings. The more we explore issues we are less familiar or uncomfortable with or even those we disapprove of, the more tolerant we become of the various cultures and beliefs that compose our world.
To be well-read is to have seen issues of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion and ideology through the eyes of those who have experienced them firsthand. We all come from different backgrounds, believe in different gods and construct our values from our own experiences. By reading the same books, suddenly, we are all connected. We all come to a much deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
After you read through these collections of sentences and ideas, get together with others who have done the same and discuss your thoughts. Share your opinions and ideas, and even your own stories with those who might only have one thing in common with you: one single story.
Reading doesn’t just inspire aspiring novelists to write their own books. It inspires all of us to see the world through different lenses, change the way we behave and live better, more fulfilling lives.