12 Classic Books To Read Before You Hit 30

photo: Free People


You’ve exhausted Shakespeare and Jane Austen, so put down those old books they used to make you read in school, and it’s time tick some books of your bucket list. The building blocks of literature are the classics like The Great Gatsby and Lolita, so if you haven’t yet read them, these 12 classics promise to open your mind and broaden your horizons. Ready to get stuck in?


1. Jeffrey Eugenides – The Virgin Suicides


You need to read this. This book is told from the point of view of the boys of the neighborhood, who watch the five beautiful Lison sisters. The boys start to piece together the mystery surrounding the family that ultimately ends with each girl’s death. It’s a modern classic and one that you need to read. Buy it here.


2. Bernhard Schlink – The Reader


A story placed in postwar Germany, it’s a mesmerizing novel that is full of love and secrets. Known for its eroticism and ability to make the reader fall in love with it, the book spins a beautiful tale of love and its complications. Buy it here.


3. Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees

This story is set in South Carolina in 1964 and follows Lily Owens, whose life was changed when her mother was killed. Her “stand-in mother” Rosaleen is black, and when she insults the three deepest racists in town, Lily decides they need to get away. They escape to the town that holds secrets about her mother’s past and are taken in by an eccentric trio of beekeepers. Flying in the face of oppression, Lily’s story is one of love, healing, and honey! Buy it here.


4. Saroo Brierley – Lion: A Long Way Home

Saroo was lost on a train in India at the age of five, he survived for two weeks on the streets before being whisked to an orphanage and adopted by a couple in Australia. But he couldn’t stop wondering about home, so when he used Google Earth to find out where he was from, he made more than just the headlines. This story is inspiring and very real. Buy it here.


5. Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club

If you haven’t read this book, read it now. Chuck Palahniuk satirizes the world around him perfectly, the narrator leaves his job when he meets Tyler Durden, an enigmatic young man who holds secret boxing matches in the basements of bars. Men fight as long as they have to, and we all know what the first rule of Fight Club is, right? If you haven’t caught the movie, the twist will get you! Buy it here.


6. Tracy Chevalier – The Girl With A Pearl Earring

This book has been translated into almost 40 languages, and made into an oscar winning movie! It follows sixteen-year-old Griet, Following sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life takes an unexpected turn and she finds herself sat before a genius artist. It fictionalizes the famous painting and creates a story about how Griet came to be wearing that famous pearl. Buy it here.


7. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

This classic story is one we all know, if you didn’t read it in school you should read it now. It’s a transformative, transporting, exquisite book. Filled with detail and scandal and drama and sorrow. Essentially, it’s the story of one man’s love, and what he will do to get it. It’s also about the lives we lead and the stories we tell about ourselves. Buy it here.


8. Arthur Golden – Memoirs of a Geisha

This book tells the heartbreaking and intriguing story of Chiyo. She and her sister are taken when they are just children, with Chiyo going into training to become a Geisha and her sister being sold into prostitution. Chiyo’s desperate attempts to find her sister end up threatening her future chances of becoming a Geisha, and after giving up, she meets a man and falls in love. The only way to meet him, though, would be to become a Geisha, and so despite failing already, she begs to be let back into the secretive and exquisite world she left behind. Buy it here.


9. Thomas Hardy – Tess Of The D’urbervilles


This book follows Thomas Hardy’s general themes of sadness, loss, and unhappy endings. Poor Tess. Thomas used the story of Tess to criticize Victorian sensibilities, as a woman, Tess goes through many hardships and at the time this was a scandalous book. It shows how cruel the world can be, but it’s a must-read. Buy it here.


10. Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita

Nabokov shows us the power of the written word by writing this controversial novel. It will make you uncomfortable, but it’s always on every list of books to read before you die. You need to read this. Buy it here.


11. Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho

Have you seen the film? It’s really good, but the book is even better. It might get a bit graphic, but again, it’s a great critique of society and at the end, you’ll be doubting what’s real and what’s not. Buy it here.


12. Hunter S. Thompson – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

This book is all about The American Dream. Two unlikely friends take a wild trip to Las Vegas, it’s drug fuelled and crazy, but it’s also hard to draw the line between what’s real and what’s just made up. It’s a fun, fast-paced read and was even made into a movie with Johnny Depp, so if you fancy it, give it a read. Buy it here.


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  • Victoria Goodman

    I’ve got a few of these lurking around somewhere upstairs but I need to get them out and read them! I’m definitely adding this to my reading list! x

    Victoria | VictoriaaHelenn

    • Lisa Collins

      Summer reading list? You could read them whilst sat by a pool or on a beach in a gorgeous climate!

      • Victoria Goodman

        That sounds like a perfect idea!!

  • Sherry

    I need to get caught up! I’m already in my 40s and although I’ve read some, there are many I have not. I did always want to read Gatsby so I should get on that! Out of this list I think my favorite is Memoirs of a Geisha, but I’m currently reading Lion and it may surpass that one.

    • Lisa Collins

      Age is just a number Sherry, read away! What is your all time favourite novel?

      • Sherry

        It’s hard to pick just one, but I think that my all time fave (for now) is “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. He is such a brilliant storyteller.

  • Hannah

    Nice choices! Just need to get them on my reading list now!

    • Lisa Collins

      Tell us how you get on with them Hannah, what is your favourite book?


    I’ve read a few of them including memoirs of a geisha, but I read it before I had real respect and understanding for great literature, so I’ll give it another go!


    • Lisa Collins

      That happened with me with a lot of literature like pride and prejudice, Tess of the D’urbervilles etc. So I just made it my prerogative to sit myself down and read them! Summer is a great time to just chill out with a book in the sun

  • Makarena

    Great list! I think I’ll start with Suicide Virgins, I’ve watched the movie but the book must be better.


    • Lisa Collins

      I didn’t know there was a movie, will definitely have to do a movie night to watch it !

      • Makarena

        Yes you should! It features Kirsten Dunst :)

  • Gemma Roberts

    Great selection!


  • Sukayna Went

    Definitly I’ll add Suicide Virgins and The Readers on my reading list.


  • Savannah Giersthove

    Thanks for this list! I will definitely be adding these to my to-read list x http://www.justsavxnnah.com

  • Megan Wesley

    Great list, really want to try The Reader!

  • Meghan Silva

    These really gave me so many new suggestions, I’m over 30 sooooo there’s that haha.

    Meg | The Blog
    Instagram: MeghanSSilva
    Snapchat: MeghanSSilva1

  • Aoife Marie

    I’ve been looking for some good reads, thanks for the suggestions!

  • Marketa Frank

    I’ve read The Great Gatsby only hehe! Love that story <3

  • Sarah

    I always struggle to know what to look for, for a new book so this is great :) Suicide Virgins is definitely on my list!

  • Pretty Low Maintenance

    I’d add “A Fine Balance” and “100 Years of Solitude” to this list!
    Sonia | http://www.prettylowmaintenance.com

  • mediamarmalade

    I love Gatsby but i’ve only ever watched the film, i really should read it :)

    Mel x


  • MihaBalan

    I read the memories of a geisha long time ago and saw the movie also, amazing!