Once upon a time, I read like nobody’s business. I’d forget to eat on Saturdays because I was too busy reading all day. I’d get headaches from not eating! Aside from picking raspberries, my favorite way to spend my time was wandering through the library, searching for the next book I’d delve into.
And then I became an English major.
Suddenly, I was reading the same amount, but they were no longer books of my choosing. A few of the books were amazing (anyone who hasn’t read Kafka’s The Trial needs to read it ASAP!), but a lot of the reading didn’t particularly interest me. Upon graduating from college (back in 2010), I decided to take a break from reading. And aside from a few great books that I’ve read, I’ve never consistently resumed my passion for reading.
So, time for a change! I’ll be turning the lovely age of 30 in 20 months. So, a goal: read a book a month till I turn 30. I wanted to create the list now, because whenever I go the library these days, I end up with a book I’m only slightly interested in. I’m thinking I’ll do a small post after I finish each book. I just started reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I’ll need to fly through this book, because December is already partly finished. Loving it already.
So, other than #1 on this list is the first book I’m reading, I will be reading these books in no particular order. I chose some books that I’ve intended on reading for years, some totally random books that had interesting reviews, and a good portion are books I’ve never heard of, but ended up on a variety of lists recommended to be read before turning 30 (it’s amazing how many of those lists are out there!).
And now, a list of books I’ll be reading over the next 20 months, along with basic descriptions that I took from Amazon (the descriptions are mainly to remind and help me choose the next book to tackle):
1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under — maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies.
2. The Catastrophist by Lawrence Douglas
Meet Daniel Wellington: art historian, academic star, devoted husband, and total basket case. Although Daniel has known nothing but success, he’s convinced the future promises nothing but disaster. When his wife, known simply as R., presents him with a tiny, size-XXS Yale sweatshirt, Daniel is seized by the impulse to bolt; the specter of imminent fatherhood sends him into a full-blown existential crisis. Soon this well-intentioned young professor finds himself plotting bigamy, lying about his past, imagining his pregnant wife in the arms of an androgynous grad student, and explaining to the dean his obscene e-mail to the lead in a student production of Miss Julie.
3. Animal Farm by George Orwell
As ferociously fresh as it was more than a half century ago, this remarkable allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published. As readers witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals, they begin to recognize the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organization—and in the most charismatic leaders, the souls of the cruelest oppressors.
4. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life — the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.
5. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
The great Dorothy L. Sayers is considered by many to be the premier detective novelist of the Golden Age, and her dashing sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, one of mystery fiction’s most enduring and endearing protagonists. Gaudy Night takes Harriet and her paramour, Lord Peter, to Oxford University, Harriet’s alma mater, for a reunion, only to find themselves the targets of a nightmare of harassment and mysterious, murderous threats.
6. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
In common with much of his other writing, this work by the eminent English novelist and essayist E. M. Forster (1879–1970) displays an unusually perceptive view of British society in the early 20th century. Written in 1908, A Room with a View is a social comedy set in Florence, Italy, and Surrey, England. Its heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, struggling against straitlaced Victorian attitudes of arrogance, narrow-mindedness and snobbery, falls in love-while on holiday in Italy-with the socially unsuitable George Emerson.
7. Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
Published two weeks after Vladimir Nabokov’s seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of his greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist. It tells a love story troubled by incest, but it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue.
8. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakaur
Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy.
9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
We live as we dream–alone…. HEART OF DARKNESS is a short novel written by Joseph Conrad, presented as a frame narrative, about Charles Marlow s job as an ivory transporter down the Congo River in Central Africa. This river is described to be … a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. In the course of his commercial-agent work in Africa, the seaman Marlow becomes obsessed by Mr. Kurtz, an ivory-procurement agent, a man of established notoriety among the natives and the European colonials. The story is a thematic exploration of the savagery-versus-civilization relationship, and of the colonialism and the racism that make imperialism possible.
10. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Marriage can be a real killer. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
11. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron
In 1933, the delightfully eccentric travel writer Robert Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Teheran to Oxiana, near the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Throughout, he kept a thoroughly captivating record of his encounters, discoveries, and frequent misadventures.
12. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
Arabian Sands is Wilfred Thesiger’s record of his extraordinary journey through the parched “Empty Quarter” of Arabia. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Thesiger was repulsed by the softness and rigidity of Western life-”the machines, the calling cards, the meticulously aligned streets.” In the spirit of T. E. Lawrence, he set out to explore the deserts of Arabia, traveling among peoples who had never seen a European and considered it their duty to kill Christian infidels. His now-classic account is invaluable to understanding the modern Middle East.
13. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A vicious fifteen-year-old “droog” is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to “redeem” him—the novel asks, “At what cost?”
14. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
15. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Deeply moving study of the tyrannical and rigid requirements of New York high society in the late 19th century and the effect of those strictures on the lives of three people. Vividly characterized drama of affection thwarted by a man’s sense of honor, family, and societal pressures. A long-time favorite with readers and critics alike.
16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
17. Personal Days by Ed Park
In an unnamed New York-based company, the employees are getting restless as everything around them unravels. There’s Pru, the former grad student turned spreadsheet drone; Laars, the hysteric whose work anxiety stalks him in his tooth-grinding dreams; and Jack II, who distributes unwanted backrubs–aka “jackrubs”–to his co-workers.
On a Sunday, one of them is called at home. And the Firings begin.
Rich with Orwellian doublespeak, filled with sabotage and romance, this astonishing literary debut is at once a comic delight and a narrative tour de force. It’s a novel for anyone who has ever worked in an office and wondered: “Where does the time go? Where does the life go? And whose banana is in the fridge?”
18. – 20. Divergent series by Veronica Roth
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.