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Things to do before 30: read these books

The Independent Wednesday, February 3rd 2016 04:01 PM
Your 20s can be a testing time for anyone, and we can do with a bit of guidance along the way Getty

Your 20s are a time for figuring out who you are and what you want from life.

While the only way to learn is to survive the inevitable cycle of successes and failures, it is always useful to have some guidance along the way.

To help you out, we've selected some of our favorite books that likely never made your high-school or college reading lists.

It's an eclectic selection that focuses on topics like understanding your identity, shaping your worldview, and laying the foundation for a fulfilling career.

Here's what we think you should read before you turn 30.

'Meditations' by Marcus Aurelius

As you become an adult, you realize that there will never be a time in your life where everything is just as you hoped it would be.

"Meditations" is a collection of personal writings on maintaining mental toughness from the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who ruled from 161 to 180 and became remembered as one of the great "philosopher kings."

As Gregory Hays notes in the introduction to his translation, Aurelius wrote his musings on resilience and leadership in a "dark and stressful period" in the last decade of his life.
The emperor's version of Stoic philosophy has remained relevant for 1,800 years because it offers timeless advice for gaining control of one's emotions and progressing past all obstacles in one's path.

"“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”

'The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays' by Albert Camus

We all have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and we start to question that reason after entering the real world.

As "The Stranger" author Albert Camus sees it, all people find themselves in an irrational world struggling to find meaning for their lives where there is none.

His main message, however, is that just as the legend of Sisyphus tells of a god who was eternally punished by having to push a rock up a hill, only to have it fall down each time he reached the peak, we should embrace the drive for meaning and lead happy, fulfilling lives with a clear-eyed view of the world.

“There is scarcely any passion without struggle.”

'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Regardless of your personal philosophy, there will be times when the world pushes against you and you wonder why it's worth trying to better yourself and help others.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel is not only a gripping story, but it's an argument against the nihilism that was popular among Russian intellectual circles in his time.

"Crime and Punishment" is the tale of a 23-year-old man named Raskolnikov who, acting on a nagging urge, murders two old women and then struggles with processing the act.

Dostoyevsky argues that rationalism taken to its extreme ignores the powerful bonds that connect humanity and give us responsibility over each other.

'Anna Karenina' by Leo Tolstoy

American novelist William Faulkner, as well as Time magazine, called this Leo Tolstoy novel "the best ever written."

As the main plotline of a doomed affair between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky unfolds, Tolstoy explores the strife present in nearly every aspect of human existence, like love, family, social class, and happiness.

We recommend the excellent English translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”


'The Little Prince' by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As many a psychologist would tell you, being a mentally healthy person requires integrating your childhood into your adulthood.

There is probably no greater expression of childhood wonder and sorrow than "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Drawing on the author's experiences as an aviator in Africa, the book follows a young prince as he visits increasingly surreal planets.

"Of all the books written in French over the past century, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 'Le Petit Prince' is surely the best loved in the most tongues," writes New Yorker critic Adam Gopnik.

“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.”

 

'The Essential Rumi' by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Alive in 13th-century Persia, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi wrote poetry that reveals the most profound of human emotions: awe, grief, longing.

With a new translation from American poet Coleman Barks, "The Essential Rumi" is a vital introduction to the philosopher-saint.

“Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”

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