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7 Classic Science Fiction Books Worth Revisiting
Science Fiction stories delve into all things futuristic, technological, extraterrestrial — you catch our drift. Pivotal authors in the space include Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, N. K. Jemisin, and countless others.
In celebration of both Asimov, his peers, and the entire genre, we’ve put together a collection of sci-fi books that are always worth rereading (or reading for the first time if you’re just getting into these magical worlds of tomorrow). From fun and fascinating intergalactic travels to dystopian futures that will leave you with much to think about, these sci-fi tales are fundamental to the genre.
Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov
The Foundation series began as a few short stories published in the magazine Astounding Stories of Super-Science back in the 1940s and ultimately became an entire series of seven epic books. The tale is set in the distant future where a man named Hari Seldon has invented “psychohistory,” a mathematical means of predicting the future.
Unfortunately, its predictions aren’t very flattering: They foretell a time when humanity will more or less revert back to the Dark Ages. These predictions get Seldon and his crew exiled to a distant planet known as “the Foundation,” where they attempt to shorten the period of decline to come. Apple TV+ also turned the series into a TV show and released the first season in 2021.
Dune – Frank Herbert
As fans of the 2021 Dune film may know, the story is based on the 1960s book by Frank Herbert and its sequels. Dune eventually became a bit like a literary version of Star Wars, as Herbert wrote six novels in the Dune series before he passed away. Later, his son Brian and author Kevin J. Anderson teamed up to produce numerous sequels and spinoffs based on the Dune -iverse.
The saga is set in a future where noble families rule different planets under a sort of intergalactic feudal system. In the first of the six foundational novels, readers are introduced to the heir of one such distinguished group, a boy named Paul Atreides whose family is charged with ruling a planet called Arrakis. When his family is betrayed, Paul embarks on a journey that blends everything from adventure to mysticism in one of the most epic sci-fi tales of all time.
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin
While some earlier sci-fi classics tend to reflect women in the light of the times in which they were written, The Left Hand of Darkness is a whole other experience altogether. The 1969 novel follows the adventures of Genly Ai, an envoy who is sent to a stray world called Winter in an attempt to bring it back into the intergalactic fold.
However, to stand a chance, he must overcome his own preconceptions when he’s confronted with a culture that exists entirely without gender prejudice. As Ai soon discovers, some of the creatures on Winter express multiple genders, while others don’t identify with any at all. If you’re a reader who loves to go deep, this one makes for a fascinating read.
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
While the actual 1984 may have come and gone, the dystopian novel that shares its name remains a pivotal work of science fiction. The Atlantic notes that “No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell’s 1984 ,” and this assessment is indeed a fair one. Published in 1949, the story follows Winston Smith, who lives under a totalitarian government in which “the Party” controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives.
“Big Brother,” an invisible yet omnipresent leader, is always surveilling the populace to ensure that no one commits so much as a thoughtcrime, which involves no more than thinking of rebelling against the Party. When Smith dares to think for himself, he sets off on a haunting journey that transports readers to a world that’s all too easy to imagine actually existing. While this isn’t necessarily an easy read, it’s an important one that will stay with you for years.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
Though you may not think you’ve heard of this one, it may be a bit more familiar than you think — it’s the inspiration behind Ridley Scott’s film, Blade Runner (1982). First published in 1968, the novel takes place in a dystopian 2021 where entire species have been eliminated by a global war. In an effort to replace live animals, which are highly prized, series of incredibly realistic androids have been developed, some of which are even fashioned after human beings.
However, when the government becomes wary of these AI humans and their disturbing capabilities, it eventually bans them from Earth. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard is sent to “retire” any rogue androids that remain, which doesn’t prove to be an easy task.
Kindred – Octavia E. Butler
Kindred has become a foundational work of sci-fi and African-American literature alike. The story follows a modern young Black woman named Dana who is suddenly deposited back in time to the pre-Civil War South. Through a series of trips between that era and her own time, Dana is forced to contend with the horrors of slavery, racism and sexism while completing a series of tasks.
Though each journey becomes more dangerous, Dana realizes that her own family’s future depends on their successful completion. First published in 1979, the novel remains relevant today with its skillful blend of romance, sci-fi, feminism, equality and adventure.
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time is a classic story of good vs. evil presented through an adventurous sci-fi lens. The tale follows a high school student named Meg Murray, her friend Calvin O’Keefe and her younger brother Charles Wallace. When the three are introduced to tesseracts (or wrinkles in time) by an unearthly visitor, they set off on a journey through time and space to rescue Meg’s missing scientist father.
Along the way, she learns a series of timeless life lessons about everything from the power of individuality to the resiliency of love. Appropriate for both young and adult readers alike, this one is a fun and fascinating tale that seems impossible to outgrow.
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12 Best Books For Women In Their 30s
By: Author Megan Bidmead
Posted on Published: 17th November 2022 - Last updated: 14th July 2023
Categories Book Lists , Books
Looking for the best books for women in their 30s? Look no further than these best-selling books for women!
Being a woman in your thirties can be frantic, busy, and full of work opportunities; it can also be a prime time for a slump, for feeling dissatisfied with life, or for being lost and directionless.
I firmly believe in the power of a good book to lift your mood and give you a sense of purpose. The books for women on this list are inspiring, instructional, or entertaining (and sometimes, all of those at once).
From essay collections from older women keen to impart their wisdom to younger generations, to fiction starring busy millennial women, there are some incredible books for young women on this list to get stuck into.
If you’re stuck in a reading slump, look no further. These books for women in their thirties may be just the thing you’re looking for.
Amazing book deals you don’t want to miss Wordery: Free worldwide delivery on every order Audible: Get 30 days free when you sign up to Audible Kindle: Save up to 80% on Kindle book deals Prime Reading: Unlimited access to a rotating catalogue of e-books
How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Modern life is incredibly busy and stressful. Women in their thirties are expected to deal with a lot: demanding jobs with no switching off, families, friendships, travel, and sometimes ageing parents.
It’s difficult not to feel burnt out, especially if you are passionate about your career. How To Do Nothing provides some clarity if you feel you have to be attached to your phone at all times.
Time and attention are precious resources, and it’s hard to feel constantly divided. What I like about this book is that it doesn’t just suggest switching off your phone and taking up meditation.
Instead, it gives powerful ideas and philosophies on how to navigate modern life and foster a more meaningful connection with your local community and the earth itself.
A must-read for burnt-out professionals.
Buy How to Do Nothing: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is a challenging read. It follows Kim Jiyoung, living in Seoul, grappling with her mental health and her introduction to motherhood.
Constrained by a life chosen for her, Jiyoung starts to show some troubling symptoms, and her family starts to worry about her.
READ MORE: 9 Popular Korean Books to Read
It has an unsettling vibe throughout and is interspersed with facts about women’s rights in Korea. Part novel, part education, and part battle cry for women, this book was powerful enough to launch a movement, and it is relatable for any woman who has felt trapped or suffocated by societal expectations.
Buy Kim Jiyoung: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right by Pandora Sykes
This is a collection of sharp, funny, and powerful essays that will leave you feeling inspired and ‘seen’. Sykes has a way of articulating what many millennial women are thinking, and she brings voice to experiences that are almost universal among our generation.
Topics include social media, self-optimization, ‘personal branding’, motherhood, the mental load, and the general feeling of being pulled in a million different directions.
Of course, Sykes doesn’t speak for every type of woman – there are many women that go unrepresented in this book – but she has some interesting and thoughtful insights into modern life that will make you feel less alone.
Buy How Do We Know We’re Doing it Right: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Alderman’s popular book The Power is as revered as it is controversial. I understand people’s reticence when it comes to the idea of manifesting, but The Power has some incredibly insightful things to say about unlocking your own potential.
Covering every aspect of life (career, happiness, health, money, relationships), this book allows you to see your own life in a new light and might just be the ‘kick up the bum’ you need if you’re stuck in a rut.
READ MORE: Feminist Dystopia Books Like The Handmaid’s Tale
So often in life, we see ourselves as fixed beings. We forget our potential for growth and our power to change our situation for the better.
The Power gives words to that feeling of helplessness and offers a potential solution. If you want to rediscover the wonder of unexplored potential, this is the book for you.
Buy The Power: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
Mistakes I Made At Work by Jessica Bacal
This is a collection of essays written by women working in different fields, edited by Jessica Bacal.
From musicians to professors to authors to high-flying managers, the common theme is this: everybody makes mistakes at work sometimes, and it’s completely possible to recover, and even thrive, in the wake of those mistakes.
If you’re recently recovering from a work-related blunder or you just want to be prepared for the future, Mistakes I Made At Work is a great choice.
It makes you feel less alone. Everybody messes up from time to time, and this book is a good reminder of that.
Buy Mistakes I Made At Work: Amazon | Blackwells
Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
Bad Behavior ruffled some feathers when it first arrived on the scene back in 1988, and it continues to be provocative to this day. It’s a collection of stories about longing and rebellion, and it’s definitely one for adults only.
It’s erotically charged and beautifully written. The stories are more like character observations than plot-driven short stories, but they’re evocative, the kind of writing that lingers in your mind after you’ve finished it.
The through-line connecting each story is the deep desire to find a human connection.
While the world was completely different when these stories were written, that theme resonates strongly in modern life.
Buy Bad Behavior: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
The Midnight Library , released during the height of Covid in 2020, is a beautiful story about what-ifs. If you’ve ever looked back on your life and wondered what would happen if you had chosen a different path, this book will resonate strongly with you.
READ MORE: 33 Best Modern Books of All Time
Nora is at a crisis point; she no longer wants to live, and things are looking bleak. Suspended between life and death, she is transported to a library and is given the chance to step into her life had she made different choices.
It’s a beautiful, mysterious story, and the ending is overwhelming. One to read with a box of tissues when you need a good cry.
Buy The Midnight Library: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
A best-seller from Alderton, author of Everything I Know About Love , Ghosts follows Nina, a successful food writer caught in the reality of being in her 30s.
It’s funny and on-point, with some sharp observations on modern life. It does, perhaps, lack the warmth of her first book, but for a lot of women, it rings true.
There are some hilarious moments in this book, along with explorations into friendship, family, romance, and a demanding career. If you liked Bridget Jones’s Diary , you might well love this one, too.
READ MORE: Ghosts by Dolly Alderton Review
Buy Ghosts: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
Big Friendship by Aminatou Sou and Ann Friedman
Friendships are vital in your teens and twenties, but it gets trickier to maintain those relationships when you get to your thirties.
Careers, relocation, and families make it harder to find time for each other, and friendships need investment just like every other relationship.
Big Friendship tells the story of Sou and Friedman’s 10-year friendship, and how they have maintained it despite living far apart.
They’ve dealt with many highs and lows over the years, and they recount these with wisdom, grace, and a sense of humour. There’s a lot to learn here, and it’s worth a read if your friendships need some work.
Buy Big Friendship: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
This is an absolute must-read. Ephron was a fountain of wisdom and humour, and she had the rare gift of making people feel understood, exactly where they are, with no judgment, just love.
She covers a huge range of topics in I Feel Bad About My Neck , including sex, parents, children, love, dieting, dating … the list goes on. She’s been through it all, and she has some wisdom to impart. It’s the perfect gift for a friend, and it works for women of all ages, not just women in their thirties.
Buy I Feel Bad About My Neck: Amazon | Blackwells | Wordery
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex is a must-read, although it’s not necessarily an easy one. First published in 1949, it caused a stir at the time, especially by the church.
However, de Beauvoir had some sharp and insightful thoughts on many aspects of being a woman, reaching back in history to examine women’s roles in society. It’s a deep read, packed with interesting, hidden facts about femininity and motherhood.
It’s a dense read and may feel like a challenge at times. It’s also a vital text for women of all ages to understand who they are, and where they came from.
READ MORE: French Classics to Read
Buy The Second Sex: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Invisible Women will make you furious. It’s an absolute must-read. Criado Perez draws on data from government policies, medical research, technology, and the media to remind us that this is, in fact, a man’s world.
From small things (why are our phones too big for our hands?) to big issues (the misunderstanding of women’s medical issues by doctors), there are plenty of reasons to raise the alarm. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to pass on to just about everyone you know.
I’d recommend this book to any woman in her thirties. Buy it for yourself, grab a copy for a friend, or recommend it to your book club. Gender bias is something we all need to be talking about.
I hope this has helped if you’re looking for some of the best books for women in their 30s! Whether you’re shopping for yourself or you need a gift, all of these books should resonate and inspire.
Buy Invisible Women: Amazon | Audible | Blackwells | Wordery
If you liked this post, check out these: Feminist Dystopia Books Life Changing Books to Read Best Modern Books of All Time Best Memoirs of All Time Best Self-Discovery Books
Megan is a freelance writer based in Somerset, England. When she’s not writing about books, video games, and pop culture, she’s running around after her two kids and trying to squeeze in the occasional walk in the countryside.
Amy @ A Novel Start
Sunday 20th of November 2022
ooo I have that Midnight Library on my list, I downloaded it on Kindle this week. Thank you for the suggestions too, I'll be taking a peek at some of these x
15 best books for women in their 30s to read (fiction + non-fiction)
I only share books I know and love. If you buy through my links, I may earn a commission (learn more).
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor…” The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
During my twenties, I read so many incredible books. As I started this website in my late teens, I also recommended hundreds of books here on Tolstoy Therapy.
After turning thirty this year, my reading stack isn’t all that different than before. But the books that stay with me and leave a mark are slightly different.
Among other things, I’ve been thinking about – and reading about – how to slow down and enjoy the little things, whether or not to have kids, and how to continue pivoting my work to focus more on this blog.
I’ve also been reading more books with main characters in their thirties – and increasingly realising, huh, I guess I’m an adult like them now .
I’ll emphasise now that the best books to read in your 30s are the books you enjoy reading.
But to help you along your way – and to complement my collection of the best books for women to read in their 20s – read on for my top picks of comforting, inspiring, and life-changing books for your 30s .
Including positive coming-of-age stories, memoirs of changing direction in life, and philosophical guides to living well, I hope you enjoy the recommendations.
The best books for women to read in their 30s (fiction + non-fiction)
Happiness for beginners by katherine center.
Read Happiness for Beginners for… a heart-warming and nourishing read about the solace of wild places, the power of getting lost, and how to get back up after things fall apart.
Newly divorced at thirty-two, Helen Carpenter needs a fresh start. And she hopes that her brother’s suggestion of a wilderness survival course in the backwoods of Wyoming is just that.
Instead, it’s a disaster – but it turns out that sometimes disaster can be exactly what you need to find your strength, courage, and way forwards.
If you love the book, you can also enjoy the wonderfully escapist Netflix movie adaptation of Happiness for Beginners soon (it’s due for release on July 27).
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Read Girl, Woman, Other for… a Booker Prize-winning must-read about the lives of multiple black British characters, including some in their 30s, and their longings, loves, and losses.
In this richly textured novel, the voices of twelve central characters intermingle to tell a story of identity, differences, and connection.
Amma is an acclaimed playwright; her old friend Shirley is a teacher in a funding-deprived school; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a thriving investment banker; Carole’s mother works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness.
These are just some of the voices in Bernardine Evaristo’s wonderful book, showing a side of Britain that’s often hidden and perspectives that are frequently overlooked.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Read The Midnight Library for… one of the best books to read if you feel lost , directionless, or overwhelmed. The main character is a 35-year-old woman, so it’s a great choice if you want to read about characters in their 30s.
In this bestseller and BookTok favourite that’s perfect for anyone with existential questions, Nora finds herself transported to a library at the stroke of midnight on her last day on earth.
There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out the other lives she might have lived . Which leaves her with one big question: what is the best way to live?
Lean Out: A Meditation on the Madness of Modern Life by Tara Henley
Read Lean Out for… one woman’s meditation on the madness of modern life – and an exploration of the alternatives.
If you’re yearning for an escape from the 9-5 grind , try reading Lean Out . In this memoir, Tara Henley, a Canadian journalist, shares the story of her burnout and time off from the frantic newsroom to experience different ways of living.
Follow Tara’s story as she explores the worlds of self-sufficiency, homesteading, and FIRE (financial independence, retire early) as options for a slower, simpler way of life.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Read Circe for… one of the very best mythological retellings of the last few years and a spellbindingly beautiful story of love, loss, and reinvention.
Not only is Circe one of my all-time favourite books about strong women , but I also think it’s a perfect book for women in their 30s to read.
This is Madeline Miller’s magnificently defiant reimagining of the daughter of Helios and the ocean nymph Perse, known in myth as perhaps the most dangerous woman a man could come across.
How to Survive the Modern World by The School of Life
Read How to Survive the Modern World for… a reassuring and insightful guide to making sense of and finding calm in unsteady times, described as a hopeful guide to living well in the 21st century.
The School of Life publishes some of the best books about self-knowledge and growth, offering a perfect destination if you’re stuck in a rut, struggling with big questions, or not sure what to do with life.
How to Survive the Modern World is an excellent literary antidote to despair and agitation , tackling our relationship to the news, our careers, and our identities – as well as our suspicion of quiet, solitude, and introspection.
I’d also recommend their crash course in being a human (in book form), The School of Life: An Emotional Education .
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Read Prodigal Summer for… one of my all-time favourite books about changing direction, finding your own way after loss, and remembering the power of community.
Prodigal Summer is one of my most treasured books, about a single summer by the Appalachian Mountains . As new life and the sensuality of nature blossom, we’re swept into three different yet interconnected lives.
Deanna is a local girl turned biologist turned forest ranger, living reclusively in a cabin in the woods. Lusa is a city girl turned entomologist turned farmer’s wife. And Garnett is a grumpy old man, fed up with his eccentric neighbour Nannie Rawley.
Each time I re-read this book, especially when I’m feeling burnt out and in need of an escape, I remember how much I love all of these characters.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
Read Evvie Drake Starts Over for… a fun and light romance book about fresh start s, described by Taylor Jenkins Reid as “a quirky, sweet, and splendid story of a woman coming into her own.”
In this romantic comedy , it’s been a year since Evvie Drake’s husband died, but she still can’t leave the house.
Meanwhile, sports star Dean Tenney is now a former sports star who can’t understand why he’s lost his ability to throw a ball better than anyone else. When Dean moves into the apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the pair grow closer together and realise that facing the past is their way forward.
The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work by Simone Stolzoff
Read The Good Enough Job for… a compelling challenge to the myths that keep us chained to our jobs, working long hours, and putting work ahead of life.
What would it take to reframe work as a part of life , rather than the centre of existence? What could we gain if we strive for a “good enough” job? That’s what Simone Stolzoff asks in this new non-fiction book for 2023.
In its pages, he looks closely at Wall Street bankers, overwhelmed teachers, Michelin star chefs, and others to expose what we lose when we expect work to be more than a job – and to show how things can be different.
Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Read Rooted for… a wonderfully wise book to remind you of the beauty and connectedness of life, described by Robin Wall Kimmerer describes as “a path to the place where science and spirit meet”.
If you loved reading Braiding Sweetgrass – or you adore the natural world – this gorgeous book blends cutting-edge science with a truth that poets, artists, mystics, and earth-based cultures have proclaimed over millennia: that life is radically interconnected .
With personal reflections about her own life close to nature, Lyanda Lynn Haupt invokes the concept of rootedness : a way of being in concert with the wilderness – and wildness – that sustains humans and all of life.
Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.
Read Come as You Are for… one of the most life-changing books for women to read in their thirties (or twenties, or any other decade in adulthood).
Why is this book worth reading? Because it talks about all the things we should know – but often don’t – about sex.
This bestseller by Emily Nagoski is a fantastic read for women – and their partners – to understand the inner workings of their brain and body .
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Read The Signature of All Things for… a stunning book about one woman’s life, love, and self-discovery as a botanist, a big chunk of which takes place when the main character is over 30.
The novel follows Alma Whittaker, the daughter of a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade.
After Alma inherits her father’s money as well as his mind, she becomes a botanist of considerable gifts . The story that follows, woven beautifully by Elizabeth Gilbert, travels both the globe and the atlas of human emotion.
The Baby Decision: How to Make The Most Important Choice of Your Life by Merle Bombardieri
Read The Baby Decision for… a book that’s full of insightful questions and exercises to help you decide if you want kids.
If you’re a woman in your thirties, you might be sure of your stance on babies . Maybe you’re firmly against the idea, perhaps you’re planning on it, or you might already have kids.
But if you’re not sure? You’re definitely not the only one (this book was very necessary for me). Written by psychotherapist and coach Merle Bombardieri, The Baby Decision is one of the best books to help you decide if you want children .
It’s wonderfully impartial, doesn’t criticise being childfree, and is one of the most popular book recommendations on the r/fencesitter community on Reddit.
The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert
Read The Sun is a Compass for… a wonderfully adventurous, inspiring, and wise book about the beauty of nature and the power of following your courage and curiosity.
If you love life-changing memoirs like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild , try reading The Sun is a Compass .
This is Caroline Van Hemert’s memoir of the 4000-mile, human-powered journey she undertook with her partner, Pat, when she was unsure whether to stay in academia or pursue other callings.
It’s a beautifully written and inspiring book – and one of the rare reads to really speak to my love for adventure , boldness, and the world’s wild places. It’s also perfect to read when you’re feeling lost and directionless in life.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Read Atomic Habits for… one of the most inspiring books you can read about changing your habits and your life.
If you’re anything like me, now that you’re in your thirties you probably have a much better idea of who you are compared to in your twenties. You might also have more thoughts on where you want to go .
But how to get there? With the right habits – and the thoughts and systems that ensure these happen consistently. Atomic Habits is so popular for a reason: it’s a fantastic book to transform your life through daily habits .
For more of the best book recommendations for women in their 30s , you might also like…
- 10 books to read when you’re feeling lost and directionless in life
- 15 life-changing books that will stay with you forever
- 14 of the best self-improvement books for 2023 to change your life
Lucy Fuggle is a professional writer, reader, and creator of Tolstoy Therapy. Drawing on her love for books and a degree in English Literature, she started Tolstoy Therapy in 2012 and has shared the most feel-good, cozy, and beautiful books for over a decade. After working as a content specialist with leading companies for nearly 10 years, she now focuses on her own websites and books ( Mountain Song , Your Life in Bloom , and Simple Business ). She grew up in England and now lives in Denmark with her husband.
30 Books Every Woman Should Read in Her 30s
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No offense to your 20s , but your 30s are pretty rad. You’re older, wiser and more sure of who you are and where your life is going. From non-cheesy self-help books to novels with deeply relatable protagonists, here are the 30 best books to read in your 30s.
16 of the Best Book Series for Adults, No Matter What Genre You’re Into
1. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
In Ghosts , British podcaster and author Dolly Alderton has written a millennial-driven story that’s actually deeply relatable, instead of insulting. Nina is a 32-year-old food writer living in north London. All but one of her closest friends are either married with children, married and planning to have children soon or in committed relationships. When she downloads a Tinder-esque dating app and meets ruggedly handsome Max, the two hit it off immediately and begin an intense relationship in which Max tells Nina that he loves and sees a future with her. But suddenly, in a turn that many a millennial will relate to, Max ghosts Nina out of nowhere. From here, Alderton examines the act of ghosting and the impact that being ghosted has on your psyche.
2. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed’s popular advice column (and subsequent podcast ) Dear Sugar is officially retired, but her sweet words live on in Tiny Beautiful Things , a collection her best, most heartfelt wisdom. Strayed’s patient, sympathetic guidance is like a hug from your best friend. (Well, if your BFF were extremely smart and absolutely incredible with words.)
3. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
Lamott ( Hallelujah Anyway ) was 35 and single when she had her son in 1989. From finding out that baby is a boy to finding out that her support system, her best friend, Pam, had cancer, she chronicles—with candor and self-deprecating humor—her first year as a mom and the friends, neighbors and strangers who helped her survive those challenging 12 months.
4. 30 Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani
Thirtieth birthdays are supposed to be about parties and cake and loved ones. Nina's thirtieth birthday has…none of those things. She’s hit rock bottom: Recently broken up with her fiancé, she’s forced to move back into her childhood home to live with her depressed older brother and their uptight, traditional Indian mother. Her career isn't going in the direction she wants, and all her friends are too busy being successful to hang out with her. Then, she discovers a book called How to Fix Your Shitty Life by Loving Yourself and assumes it’s fate. With nothing else to lose, Nina makes a life-changing decision to embark on a self-love journey, promising herself that, by her next birthday, she's going to find thirty things she loves about herself.
5. Happy for You by Claire Stanford
Four years into writing her still-unfinished philosophy dissertation, and anticipating a marriage proposal from her long-term boyfriend, Evelyn is wrestling with big questions about life: How can she do meaningful work in the world? Is she ready for marriage and motherhood? Swallowing her doubts, Evelyn makes a leap, leaving academia for a job as a researcher at a popular internet company, where her team is tasked with developing an app that will help users quantify and augment their happiness. As a biracial person, an Asian American and someone who doesn't know how to perform social media's vision of womanhood, she struggles to belong. But as her misgivings mount, Evelyn embarks on a journey in her 30s toward an authentic happiness all her own.
6. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Inspired by a true story, this haunting novel follows a woman named Sethe and her daughter after they escape from slavery and run to Ohio. As we find out about Sethe’s deceased daughter, Beloved, we discover exactly how fiercely Sethe has had to fight to protect her children. Maternal love with a powerful message of perseverance—from one of America’s best writers. Though you probably read it in high school, pick it up again in your 30s for a clearer perspective.
7. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
Simply put, this book will make you cackle. In this collection of essays, one of the funniest writers of our time covers how her difficult childhood led to a problem in making "adult" budgets, a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father's ashes, how to navigate late 30s friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms and more.
8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
This daring novel about a woman trapped in a marriage essentially ended Chopin’s career and was the last thing she published before her death in 1904. Still, it has become a landmark work for its frank commentary on the psychology of infidelity and honest depictions of female sexual desire. Though it certainly won’t shock you the way it shocked readers in the early 20th century, you’ll definitely appreciate Chopin’s willingness to cover territory previously uncharted…especially by a woman. * Faux gasp *
9. One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
Carol wasn’t just Katy's mother; she was her best friend and first phone call. Now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. Even worse, the trip the two had planned to Positano is quickly approaching. Katy has been waiting years to go with her mom, and now she’s faced with embarking on the adventure alone. But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy feels her mother's spirit, and in turn feels herself coming back to life. And then Carol appears as she did at 32. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her.
10. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane is a math whiz who's crushing it at her job. Her love life? Not so much. She's 30 years old and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. She decides her best bet for practicing is to hire an escort, Michael. Before long, Stella comes to crave all of the things he's making her feel. Equal parts sexy and sweet, The Kiss Quotient proves that all the data in the world can't help you make sense of what your heart wants.
11. Autumn: A Novel by Ali Smith
Widely regarded as the first "post-Brexit novel," Autumn centers on the friendship between a centenarian and a 30-something in the U.K. in the aftermath of the E.U. membership referendum. It's a creative meditation on aging, art, love and affection.
12. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This bestseller tells the story of Alix Chamberlain, a mid-30s white woman, and Emira Tucker, her black babysitter, who gets racially profiled at a grocery store while watching Alix’s daughter one night. As the story unfolds, questions around race, white privilege and tokenism emerge as the two women grapple with their identities and their relationship to one another. A must-read for anyone in that “new motherhood” phase.
13. Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family & Creating a New Independence by Dr. Amy Blackstone
To have or not to have children: That’s the question millennials and boomers can’t seem to agree on. Consider this: In 1980, the average age of a first time mother was 22.7; Today it is 26 . By the time they reached age 38, 69 percent of boomers lived with a spouse and at least one child, but only 55 percent of millennials do. According to the Pew Research Center , “Previous research has shown that women are waiting longer to give birth, with many becoming first-time mothers in their 40s.” Millennials will likely be particularly interested then, in the work of sociology professor and researcher Dr. Amy Blackstone. Her fascinating 2019 book is an investigation into the history and current growing movement of adults choosing to forgo parenthood, including what it means for our society, economy, perceived gender roles, and legacies, and how understanding and supporting all types of families can lead to positive outcomes for parents, non-parents and children alike.
14. My Dark Vanessa: A Novel by Kate Elizabeth Russell
When 30-something Vanessa discovers that her high school English teacher has been publicly accused of sexual assault by a former student, she’s horrified: She, too, had a sexual relationship with the teacher when she was a teenager. But she’s sure it wasn’t abuse—it was love. Alternating between Vanessa’s past and her present, Russell covers memory, trauma and a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield.
15. The Year of the Horses: A Memoir by Courtney Maum
Novelist Maum ( I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You ) was 37 when she got back on a horse after 30 years. Now, after suffering from years of depression, she figures her childhood passion of horseback riding could be a way to recover the joy and fearlessness she once felt as a young girl. As documented in her first memoir, as she finds her way, she becomes reacquainted with herself not only as a rider but as a mother, wife, daughter, writer and woman.
16. Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen
In January 2019, culture writer and former academic Anne Helen Petersen wrote a hugely viral piece for BuzzFeed about millennial burnout, which Peterson argues has been “born out of distrust in the institutions that have failed us, the unrealistic expectations of the modern workplace and a sharp uptick in anxiety and hopelessness exacerbated by the constant pressure to ‘perform’ our lives online.” Using a combination of sociohistorical framework, original interviews and detailed analysis, Can’t Even examines how millennials have arrived at this point—and where we go from here.
17. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The first installation in Ferrante’s enthralling Neapolitan Quartet, My Brilliant Friend begins to document the decades-long friendship between two girls, Lila and Lenu, in post-war Naples. It takes an oft-discussed topic—growing up—and injects it with such immense minutiae that you get totally sucked into their world. Though Lila and Lenu don't reach their 30s until later in the series, starting with My Brilliant Friend is essential. Plus, though not entirely relatable, Ferrante’s vivid descriptions of friendship will have you reaching for your phone to call your oldest pal.
18. This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
Alice is about to turn 40, and her life isn't terrible. She likes her job, she's happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence and she adores her lifelong best friend. But something is missing—namely, her father, the single parent who raised her, who’s now ailing and out of reach. When Alice wakes up the next morning somehow back in 1996, it isn't her 16-year-old body that is the biggest shock, it's her dad: the charming, 49-year-old version of her father with whom she is reunited. Armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, she’s forced to wonder whether there’s anything she should do differently this time around. If you’ve loved any of Straub’s other novels ( The Vacationers, All Adults Here ), this is a no-brainer.
19. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
When 38-year-old New Yorker journalist Ariel Levy took an assignment in Mongolia, she was married, pregnant and happy. A month later, she was none of those things. She turned her heartbreaking ordeal into an award-winning New Yorker piece, and then into this poignant memoir about picking up the pieces of a broken life.
20. Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry
Part of a three-book series counselling millennials on how to make the best financial decisions, Broke Millennial is catered to those 20 to 30-something-year-olds who are constantly cash-strapped and can’t figure out how to make their money work for them. Broke Millennials also outlines how to deal with IRL awkward scenarios—i.e. what to do when you can’t afford to split a fancy dinner bill evenly—that many millennials face.
21. All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Andrea is 39 years old, single and child-free. She has a great job in advertising, cool friends and a close family. So what’s the problem? It’s not that she wants the whole husband and kids thing, she just doesn’t want to feel like an outcast for not having them. Above all, she’s real: This is a no-frills protagonist you’ll feel you’ve known forever.
22. This Is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World—and Me by Marisa Meltzer
Raise your hand if you’re a millennial whose mother’s precarious relationship with food and her own self-image trickled into your own psyche. This book is for you. Writer Meltzer ( The Cut , The New Yorker , The New York Times ) went on her first diet at 5 years old. Nearly 40 years later, she came across an obituary for Jean Nidetch, the housewife who founded Weight Watchers in 1963. Here, she goes compare Nidetch’s path towards becoming a weight-loss maven with her own journey through Weight Watchers, along the way examining each woman’s decades-long efforts to lose weight and keep it off.
23. Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
This story, set in and around the family taxidermy shop, begins with a suicide. But it’s not all a downer: The book follows 30-something Jessa, her mother and her brother as they reconnect after tragedy in ways that are sometimes funny, sometimes sad and often surprising. (Seriously, it includes NSFW taxidermy art.)
24. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
The latest book from bestselling author, mom and speaker Doyle is equal parts intimate memoir and wake-up call. It’s the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. Doyle writes about navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and learning to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries and unleash our truest, wildest selves. Great introspection for anyone entering (or leaving) their most exciting decade to date.
25. Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Set in modern-day Nigeria, this unforgettable novel is the story of a young couple tested by their inability to conceive a child. It’s a no-holds-barred look at the fragility of married love, the nature of grief and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood.
26. Looking for Miss America by Margot Mifflin
From its start in 1921 to its current incarnation as a scholarship competition, the Miss America pageant has been shaped by war, evangelism, the rise of reality TV and by contestants who confounded expectations, including Vanessa Williams, the event’s first black winner, who received death threats and was protected by sharpshooters in her hometown parade. This history of the pageant is a fascinating look at how Miss America has struggled to stay relevant in the 21 st century, and is sure to appeal to anyone who looks back skeptically at the superficiality of their 20s.
27. Twice a Quinceañera by Yamile Saied Méndez
Happily ever after is proving elusive for Nadia, who, a month short of her wedding day and 30th birthday, finds herself standing up to her cheating fiancé for the first time. Frustratingly, that same courage doesn't translate to breaking the news to her Argentinian family. That is, until she finds an article about a Latina woman celebrating herself with a second quinceañera, or Sweet 15. With a wedding venue already paid for and family from all over the world with plane tickets, Nadia decides she'll celebrate her treintañera, her double quinces, in an attempt to become her own biggest fan and hopefully realize her dreams of a second chance at love.
28. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Eva is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer in her 30s. Ditto for Shane, a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone's surprise, shows up in New York, where Eva lives. When the two meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that 15 years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but will it be forever this time?
29. Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir by Erika L. Sánchez
Growing up as the daughter of Mexican immigrants in Chicago in the 90s, Erika Sánchez was a self-described pariah, misfit and disappointment. Twenty-five years later, she's an award-winning novelist, poet and essayist. In this memoir-in-essays, she writes about everything from sex to white feminism to debilitating depression. At turns raunchy, insightful and brutally honest, Crying in the Bathroom feels like talking to your best—and funniest—friend.
30. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Some women in their 30s are happily married with two-and-a-half children and a house with a white picket fence. Other women are Bridget Jones. Fielding's delightful 1996 novel introduced the world to an endearingly messy protagonist—and served as a reminder that it's OK not to have it all figured out yet.
How to Read More (When You Have No Time to Read More)
More stories you'll love.
32 Books Every Woman Should Read In Their 30s
From memoirs to novels to essay collections, these books will help you navigate your third decade.
Your 30s: It’s a decade filled with new life experiences, and there’s nothing like literature to help you make sense of it. These 32 books, both fiction and non-fiction, can help to expand your ideas of what it means to be in your third decade.
These books include memoirs , contemporary fiction, essay collections and more. There are stories about families and immigration, stories about love lost and found, and stories about friendship, work and selfhood. In these books, readers are sure to find both highly relatable perspectives and entirely different world views— all of which will deepen your experience of moving through your 30s.
The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison Strayer
The Years covers decades of the French memoirist’s life — from 1941 to 2006 — which makes it an absorbing, enlightening study of how an individual changes, stays the same, and becomes themselves. Ernaux strings together sharp, extremely memorable fragments, composing one mesmerizing narrative about a life taking shape.
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicenio
Part memoir, part investigation into the contemporary American immigration system, Karla Cornejo Villavicenio’s The Undocumented Americans covers topics including DREAMERs, labor, environmental justice, and activism, offering striking insights and sharp analysis.
A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Dunham
In his memoir, Cyrus Dunham searches for a name as he asks questions about trans identity, objectification, self-branding, and pursuit of meaning. He writes with lyrical, clear-eyed prose and displays a particularly keen eye for character descriptions.
What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon
This collection of essays is a necessary work of activism about bodies. As Gordon puts it: “I did not come to body positivity for self-esteem. I came to it for social justice.” Throughout the book, she analyzes how anti-fat cultural biases inform systematic oppression — an oppression that affects all people, regardless of their body type.
Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Goodbye, Vitamin is a novel about a woman in her 30th year, whose life hasn’t turned out quite the way she imagined. The book starts with Ruth returning home to take care of her father, who’s newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and follows as Ruth figures out how to care for the person who’s cared for her It’s by turns funny, painful, and heart-wrenching.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado’s formally inventive memoir leverages the wisdom and insight she gained in her 30s to tell the story of an abusive relationship she experienced in her 20s. It’s a book full of tender discernment and clear-eyed analysis.
Days of Afrekete by Asali Solomon
In this modern take on Mrs. Dalloway , Liselle Belmont’s husband has just lost an election for state legislature, but Liselle still needs to host a dinner party for his big supporters — an event that offers her the chance to dive down memory lane and reminisce about her big college love, Selena Octave. It’s a book about the passage of time, and how the business we left unfinished in our youth continues to haunt us.
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron’s hilarious, touching, and very honest book of essays discusses every strange and specific aspect of aging, from going through menopause and emptying the nest, to hair dyeing grays and (as the title suggests) dealing with a wrinkly neck. Unsurprisingly, the writer behind When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and Bewitched gets to the heart of older womanhood.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Fey’s memoir has long been considered a modern classic. There’s a reason why her book continues to get the “must-read” label over a decade after publication: Her essays and advice about crying (or not) at work, female friendships, career, love, and breastfeeding are universal, and she delivers her life story with humor, vigor, and openness.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
This National Book Award winner is one of the most important books of the last century. It’s a tale about an unnamed Black man struggling to find a place in the world, and its themes of feeling lost, finding direction, and trying to carve out a place in the world are all common 30-something anxieties.
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen
What do Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, and Hillary Clinton have in common? On the surface, the answer might be not much, but culture writing extraordinaire Anne Helen Petersen makes the argument that they’re all part of a cabal of women who’ve succeeded despite — and also perhaps because of — their unruliness.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Newly minted astronomy PhD graduate Grace Porter is on the cusp of 30 and couldn’t feel more lost: She’s unemployed, dealing with increasing anxiety, handling microaggressions in her field, and juggling a difficult relationship with her dad. So, she does what any bewildered Millennial would: She marries a stranger in Vegas. But when she wakes up in the morning and realizes that wedding the mysterious Yuki Yamamoto hasn’t solved any of her problems, Grace goes on a journey of self-discovery filled with ups, downs, and plenty of astrological ruminations.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Didion is one of the best writers of her (or any) generation. She mixes the personal and the political , the intimate and the sensational, and the results are always stunning. Her 1968 essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem is no different. These stories on her upbringing in California and her coming-of-age during a time of so much social upheaval are timeless, like all of her work.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Beauvoir’s 1949 manifesto about women’s role in society was way ahead of its time, to put it mildly. Feminism was on some women’s (and a few men’s) minds, but the movement was definitely not where it is today. Still, The Second Sex is a powerful look at sexuality, identity, and independence — all topics that are top of mind for every generation.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
One would think a therapist would have it all together, but when shrink Lori Gottlieb’s long-term boyfriend dumps her with no warning, the ordeal launches her into a period of self-discovery with the help of her new therapist, Wendell. Interwoven with chapters detailing her dealings with several of her own patients, Gottlieb’s book reminds us that maybe we all should, in fact, talk to someone.
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Fajardo-Anstine’s 2019 book Sabrina & Corina may be short at just 224 pages, but it packs a punch as she traces the struggles and joys of Latinas and Indigenous women in the American West. Her stories blend together sisterhood, generational trauma, the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, the stress that builds when coming of age, and so much more.
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Despite the irony of reading a book called How to Do Nothing , author, artist, and educator Jenny Odell has a point: We live in a society full of technology, constant distractions, and nonstop #content and have completely forgotten how to just be . Are Millennials too far gone to be saved from themselves and their smartphones? Odell has endless thoughts on the subject.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Any work by Roxane Gay is considered a must-read at this point, but Gay’s essays in her beloved book Bad Feminist cover everything from the color pink to Sweet Valley High. She’s funny, sharp, and relatable, and the questions the book raises provide more than enough fodder for what feminism looks like as the times change.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s earlier novel Maybe in Another Life , 29-year-old Hannah returns to Los Angeles after many years away and heads to a bar to celebrate her move with a few friends. At the end of the evening, she’s at a crossroads: She can either call it a night and head home, or she stay out with her former flame Ethan. Told in chapters that alternate between the two timelines that emerge, Jenkins Reid asks the question of how one seemingly insignificant choice creates a ripple effect of repercussions.
Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Why does our society prioritize every other kind of relationship above friendship, despite the fact that it’s a foundational part of so many people’s lives? Writers, podcasters, and cultural commentators Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman sought to find out . Using the trajectory of their own Big Friendship as the backdrop and armed with plenty of research, the duo explore what it means to be a friend — and also when to know if it’s time to walk away.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
Recently widowed Evvie Drake has lived her life mostly on pause since the death of her husband a year prior, never talking about her grief or the difficult marriage she endured behind its shiny veneer. But after former professional baseball player Dean Tenney comes to town and moves into Evvie’s spare apartment , the two strike up an odd friendship, and Evvie’s finally forced to confront her past. Can these two work through their issues to come together, or will they strike out?
Mistakes I Made at Work by Jessica Bacal
In Mistakes I Made at Work , Jessica Bacal interviews 25 successful women about their biggest screw-ups . Cheryl Strayed, Kim Gordon, and Jezebel founding editor Anna Holmes all reveal their most embarrassing and ridiculous professional moments, reminding all of us that we’re not alone and that there’s more to life than what happens at the office.
Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior has become a classic over the years, and her stories of desire, longing, and obsession are terrifying and beautiful at the same time. Erotic, thought-provoking, and raw, they’re a great naughty read. Plus, its meaning changes through the decades, making it a fantastic reread.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Dannie Kohan is an attorney who’s checked every box. She’s got her dream job, the perfect boyfriend, and the ultimate New York City apartment. But one night Dannie goes to sleep and wakes up five years into the future — and realizes nothing about that world resembles her present life. After spending an hour in this strange new universe before returning to her old life, Dannie becomes hellbent on changing her fate. But how much control does she really have over destiny?
How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams
After 30-something college professor Naya finds out that her job is in jeopardy and her abusive ex might have something to do with it, she decides to step outside of her comfort zone one night to unwind and meets a charming, handsome stranger named Jake in the process. Soon she finds herself on the cusp of something serious with Jake, but she wonders if she’s really ready to step outside of her comfort zone and try something new.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel may be centered of a 50-year-old man, but it’s as relevant as ever to 30-somethings. Floundering writer Arthur Less receives a wedding invitation from his former boyfriend of nine years, so he does something entirely sensical: He flees on a worldwide excursion to avoid the nuptials. Despite his best efforts, he soon discovers during a globe-traversing trip to Mexico, Morocco, India, and beyond that he can’t quite run away from his feelings — or his ex.
You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac
After dealing with a sick parenting and receiving devastating personal news, 30-something Jess decides to spend the summer with her 10-year-old son William and his father, her former boyfriend Adam, at a French chateau he owns. But as the two exes begin slowing unpacking their past in the present, Jess realizes she needs to make more than a few important decisions about her future.
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
Actress Gabrielle Union passionately breaks down her own coming-of-age story in her memoir We’re Going to Need More Wine , where she tackles everything from petty high school drama to becoming an outspoken activist for racial equality, feminism, and an end to sexual violence. One thing’s for sure: This wasn’t the path Union saw herself taking.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Bookstore employee Nina Hill’s life is neat and tidy as can be: She writes in her planner every day, goes to work, and partakes in regular games of trivia. One day, however, she learns that she has a family she never knew existed, and her trivia enemy begins suddenly flirting with her. Virtually overnight, Nina has to decide if she wants to stay within the confines of her perfectly planned but predictable life or take a leap of faith.
We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib
No member of the LGBTQ+ community has a linear coming out story, and Samra Habib’s is especially winding. After immigrating to Canada with her family as Pakistani refugees, Habib overcomes xenophobia, an arranged marriage, and poverty on her path to self-discovery and reclamation of her queerness as she gets older.
Dear Girls by Ali Wong
Written as a long-form letter to her two young daughters, comedian Ali Wong doesn’t hold back in her memoir Dear Girls , where she recounts hairy body parts, gory births, bad sex, and everything in between. There’s sweetness in between the baudy jokes and biting remarks, however, as Wong reflects on the mistakes of her teens, twenties, and early thirties.
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
Thirty-six-year-old attorney Laurie is left reeling after her partner of 18 years dumps her out of the blue. Her situation is made worse by the fact that she and her ex work in the same office and his new girlfriend is pregnant. Determined to take matters into her own hands, Laurie strikes a deal with office playboy Jamie to start a fake relationship online and get her gossipy co-workers off of her back. But after a certain point, it becomes obvious to both Laurie and Jamie that they’re not just doing it for the ‘gram.
This article was originally published on April 30, 2015
11 books every woman should read in her 30s.
Your 30s is about figuring what you really want in life (and what you don't) and feeling more comfortable in your own skin.
It's the perfect time to pick up books by women who have been there before you, women who are going through the same thing, and women who have something to teach you.
Here are 11 books every woman in their 30s should read:
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
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BONUS: Out Loud's Best Books To Read This Summer
A Candid Debrief About The Crown
Kya Clark's story is one that snuck up on me.
I didn't go into Where The Crawdads Sing thinking I would love it. That it would soon become one of my favourite books.
But about a third of the way in, I became deeply invested in Kya's journey. I needed to know that things were going to work out for her.
Delia Owens' debut novel is both an epic drama set over an entire life and a coming of age story for every age.
It's a story so unique that its lessons can be applied universally.
And ultimately, it's uplifting and life-affirming.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
I can't even think about A Little Life without feeling a little bit... traumatised.
The epic drama follows the story of four friends - Willem, JB, Malcolm and Jude - who move from their small Massachusetts college to New York City to chase their dreams.
The book follows them from their broke and desperate twenties, and through the decades, as their relationships deepen and darken, and their lives are impacted by success, loss, addiction, heartbreak and childhood trauma.
The group's greatest challenge is Jude - a talented litigator, who by middle age becomes an increasingly broken man, haunted by childhood trauma which he fears he will never be able to escape.
A Little Life is a book about the enduring love of friendship, the hard road to success, the impact of childhood trauma and how one little life can have a huge impact on so many people.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert is the poster girl for women who reach their 30s and then realise that maybe the life they've built for themselves isn't actually what they want.
In her bestselling memoir, Gilbert writes about leaving her marriage, career and mortgage behind at 34 to travel around Italy, India and Indonesia.
By eating, praying and loving her way across the globe, Gilbert figured out who she really was and want she wanted out of life.
If you're in your 30s and you're ready for a big life change, you need to read Eat, Pray, Love .
Dear Girls by Ali Wong
If you've watched Ali Wong's Netflix special Baby Cobra , you need to read Dear Girls immediately.
Wong's bitingly funny, blunt, and heartfelt humour shines through in this collection of letters to her daughters.
In the letters she passes down the lessons she's learnt throughout her life - from navigating the cringeworthy waters of modern dating, to being a working mum in a male-dominated industry.
It's heartfelt, enlightening and laugh out loud funny.
Ghosts By Dolly Alderton
In Ghosts , Dolly Alderton nails what it feels like to be in your early 30s and feel like your friends are leaving you behind.
The book follows the story of Nina Dean, a successful food writer, who in her early 30s, has a loving family, close friends and a new home.
Then she meets Max. At first, Nina thinks Max is perfect for her and exactly what she needs when it feels like all her friends are settling down and moving on without her.
But soon, Max will throw Nina's life into chaos and along the way she'll learn what's really important to her.
Heartsick by Jessie Stephens
When Jessie Stephens was heartbroken in her early 20s, all she wanted to do was read a book about people who had gone through the same thing she was going through in that moment.
But that book didn't exist.
In 2021, when she was 30 and madly in love, Jessie published that book.
Heartsick is a non-fiction, narrative style story that follows of the journey of three real people in the throes of heartbreak.
Ana is in her 40s and married with three kids. Then, she falls in love with someone else. Claire is in her 30s and married to Maggie. Then, one day, she finds something on Maggie's phone. Patrick is in his 20s and engaged. Then his entire world blows up.
Bruising, beautiful and ultimately healing, Heartsick is the perfect read for fans of Three Women and Elizabeth Gilbert, and anyone who has ever had their heart broken.
Group by Christine Tate
Christie Tate's memoir Group is the story of a broken woman and the eccentric therapist and rag-tag group of strangers who changed her life.
Tate had just been named the top student in her law school class and she finally had gotten her eating disorder under control, when she started fantasising about her own death.
Desperate to feel better and get her life together, she joins one of Dr Rosen's psychotherapy groups. He tells her all she has to do is turn up and be honest.
What follows is a brilliantly honest journey over several decades, through highs and lows, unbelievable wins and heartbreaking setbacks, as Christie is broken down and ultimately put back together again.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
I avoided reading The Midnight Library for a long time because it felt almost too close to home.
For years, I've wished that I could go back and redo a large chunk of my life. Make the right decisions. Pick myself up after the failures and turn them into something better.
In The Midnight Library , Nora Seed gets to do just that. Haunted by her past mistakes and missed opportunities, and feeling isolated from the rest of the world, 35-year-old Nora ends her own life.
She wakes up in 'The Midnight Library', a place between life and death where she gets the chance to live all the lives she missed out on.
The Midnight Library is a life-affirming novel about the choices we make, the little moments that make a big life, and the realisation that it's never too late to start over.
One Day by David Nicholls
Gosh this one got me good.
This is the book that made David Nicholls the household name he is today and it's easy to see why.
On July 15, 1988, Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their university graduation.
They spend one brilliant night together but the next day they must go their separate ways.
The book then follows their story and where they are on the same day, each year.
Do they end up together and get their happily ever after? Or is theirs a love story destined to end in tragedy?
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey's memoir, Bossypants , is a modern classic.
In it, Fey writes about her journey from an awkward teenager with a big dream of being a comedian on TV, to losing her virginity at 24, to becoming one of the most successful members of the Saturday Night Live alumni.
Fey's self depreciating humour shines through and the memoir is packed full of clever observations about having a big dream and what it's like to actually achieve it.
Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Friendships are at their trickiest in your 30s.
Careers, marriage, babies, divorce, infertility, and geographical distance often means you can't always be in your best friends' day-to-day lives.
In this funny and honest book, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, hosts of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast, write candidly about the struggles their friendship has faced over the years and how they've fought for it.
Keryn Donnelly is Mamamia's Pop Culture Editor. For more of her TV, film and book recommendations and to see photos of her dog, follow her on Instagram and TikTok .
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Redefine Your 30s: Best Books for Women in Their 30s
Many women fear their 30s because of societal expectations to have children, settle down, and maintain a stable career. All this pressure creates doubt and challenges for women approaching this decade of their lives. The truth is, many wonderful things come with turning 30!
Being 30 will look different for everyone. Some people will have children, get married, and buy a home. Others may build a business and travel the world. Women play many different roles in life, and neither is wrong. Whichever journey you’re on, each brings unique highlights and challenges.
In this booklist, we empower you to get excited about your 30s! It’s a time of great adventure, independence, and discovery. We found the best books for women in their 30s to show you there is no timeline to follow. It’s not too late to start your passions or learn to love yourself. Instead, it is a period to advocate for yourself, work towards what you want, and cultivate joy.
A woman’s 30s are a misunderstood decade. Instead of feeling apprehensive, there are many reasons to get excited about your 30s! Whether you’re an expecting mother, building a career, traveling, or still figuring it out, everyone’s 30s will look different.
Two empowering and relatable books every woman should read include We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.
The best books for moms in their 30s include Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.
For those approaching your 30s with doubt, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig and How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell are must-have books to read before turning 30.
20 must-read books for women in their 30s
Below, we have the best books to read in your 30s. We’ve designed this booklist to empower, educate, and entertain. So, whether you’re navigating heartache, love, loss, or even success, these books will support you through the next decade of life.
Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan For Embracing and Achieving Your Goals by Rachel Hollis
Your 30s are the perfect opportunity to let go of other people’s opinions and focus on being true to yourself. In this straightforward read, Hollis encourages women to advocate for their dreams. She helps readers work towards self-growth rather than playing the roles they’ve been given and making excuses.
What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
If you want to change your lifestyle, successful people are often the blueprint for doing so. Countless books have analyzed their habits, including how they spend their mornings. Similarly, Vanderkam wrote this book l to help readers become more productive. She focuses on small, manageable shifts that make a big difference. Getting your mornings right in your 30s might sound like a drag, but it could be what you need to kick-start your days.
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo
So you’re approaching your 30s, and people expect you to have everything figured out. This is simply unrealistic for most of us. Life presents challenges no matter your age. Having a stable career is a significant part of this decade. Still, not everyone has the same opportunities or follows the same path. For those just getting started in their career, Julia Zhuo explores the fundamental lessons for someone stepping into a leadership role for the first time. She teaches you to adapt to new roles and build your confidence, whether you are 25 or 35.
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown, Ph.D.
Embracing your true self is a major theme in your 30s. Rather than being somebody you think everyone will like, this book teaches you the importance of being your true self. Being at peace with yourself is a huge part of building self-esteem, which Brown addresses in this book. The Gifts of Imperfection is a globally recognized text everyone in their 30s should read.
Burn Out: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., and Amelia Nagoski, DMA
There are some fundamental differences between men and women. According to the authors of this book, the way we experience burnout is one of those things. Burn Ou t is rooted in science and aims to provide practical advice for balancing emotions, reducing stress, and cultivating more joy in life.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
If you’re looking for a helpful book on gender inequality, The Moment of Lift is for you. Prepare yourself to hear fresh perspectives on a prevalent subject. In this account, you’ll hear from inspiring individuals and relevant data to support each idea. Alongside Bill Gates , Melinda Gates is a co-founder of the Gates Foundation. Within their private charity organization, their work centers on gender inequality, helping all people lead happy and fair lives.
Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis
Your 30s are a time of transformation and being honest with yourself. Although your peers might have families, careers, or are traveling the world, not everyone has defined their path. The truth is most 30-somethings feel they haven’t. Girl, Wash Your Face is a book about honesty and identifying which lies govern your life. Are you doing what makes you truly happy, or are you following what you think you should be doing?
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown, Ph.D.
In this book, Brown covers topics from love, parenthood, and leadership. The author explores the power of vulnerability and how it can lead to changes in your life. Readers will unlearn the notion that being vulnerable is a weakness. Instead, this book empowers women in their 30s to take control of their emotions because you find true strength when you surrender to vulnerability.
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help you Find — and Keep — Love by Amir Levine, M.D., and Rachel Heller, M.A.
While we don’t suggest reading over counseling, readers have likened this next book to attending therapy. In Attached , you’ll learn about the scientific approach to attachment styles and how understanding this can alter your experience of love. Although we suggest this book to women, it’s a fantastic read for anyone before they turn 30. You’ll learn about attachment theory and insightful techniques to apply to your romantic life.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Between the World and Me is a moving read which offers women in their 30s a book from a different perspective. Written as a letter to his young son, the author attempts to answer challenging questions about American history, race, and the experience of living as a Black man. If you’re looking to read beyond your own experience and gain a deeper insight into the lives of others, Coates’ book is the one to read.
How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
While its title may convince you this book is about inactivity, it is rather the opposite. Jenny Odell, artist and critic, first teaches you how to step away from mindless consumption — how to do nothing. As the book progresses, you learn to retrain attention and focus on what truly matters; making positive changes to the environment. In its truest form, this book is about mastering communication and persevering your energy until it’s time to speak up.
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Friendships are essential throughout life, whether you’re in your 30s or not. The authors discuss what makes good friends and how to maintain meaningful connections, even when you’re busy. If you’re preparing to turn 30, add Big Friendships to your list of books to read before 30 and beyond.
I Thought It Was Just Me (But it Isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Brené Brown, Ph.D.
The social expectations during one’s 30s are daunting. You may be questioning if you are on the right path and when you’ll start a family, if at all. Those pressures can fuel your 30s with anxiety and stress when it should be a time of adventure. Once again, Brené Brown makes the list of books every woman should read in her 30s. This bestseller opens you up to reality and helps you accept challenges when they arise.
The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho
If you’re looking for fiction books to read in your 30s, The Alchemist is a parable about following your desires and listening to your heart. Readers around the world praise this book for its life-changing and inspiring message. If you have a dream to fulfill, you can read or listen to the core lessons in The Alchemist on the Headway app.
We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union
Renowned actress and activist Gabrielle Union shares stories for all women in their 30s. In this New York Times bestseller, Union writes essays about life in Hollywood, the challenges of being Black, and what life is like as a modern woman. We’re Going to Need More Wine makes for a captivating read that injects humor and heartbreak onto the pages.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Reasons to Stay Alive is one of those books to read before you are 30. Matt Haig shares advice for people suffering from depression and those who aren’t. It is a book everyone should pick up, whether you’re 20, 30, 40, or above. Readers will discover the lessons Haig learned on his journey battling mental illness and how to apply these to everyday life.
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book intimately depicts how to raise a child to be a feminist. What started as a letter to a friend turned into one of the best books for moms in their 30s and a daily guide for living life. It is an intimate read touching on parenthood and gender inequality. We Should All Be Feminists is another fantastic work by the same author that helps readers understand what the term feminist actually means.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
In 1951, the medical industry changed forever when Henrietta Lacks passed away. This account tells the moving story of Henrietta and her family, how her cells still live on today and the questions that follow her immortal life. Rebecca Skloot attempts to answer challenging questions about the medical field and the injustices that followed Henrietta’s family.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Your job or relationships are often the defining factors in your 30s. It can leave many people, especially women, to fight internal battles about what they truly want from life. When things get tough, Tiny Beautiful Things is the book that will catch you when you fall. Despite the social expectations and the challenges of everyday life, this book is here to empower. Strayed offers advice on love, loss, and life, in hopes it’ll bring you closer to your most joyful self .
Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D.
Throughout history, women have adapted their behavior to society’s criteria. Although we’ve come a long way in the past century, many women still fall subject to pleasing people even when it disregards their own needs. In Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, the author details women’s unconscious decisions that hold them back, particularly in their careers. This book shows women how to step out of the people-pleasing trap and start advocating for themselves in the workplace.
Discover books for women in their 30s on the Headway app
You can still have fun and continue to learn in your 30s! Headway makes it easy to read more books, even if you’re living a busy lifestyle. With just 15 minutes of reading a day, Headway supports you in creating healthy habits.
On the app, you’ll find bite-sized text and audio clips which provide an in-depth summary of the text. It is an efficient way to learn more from popular books and helps you decide if you want to read the whole novel. Download the Headway app today to start your learning journey.
We hope you’ll find a book to suit your needs and are getting excited about what this decade will bring. If you want to learn more about the texts on this booklist, head to the Headway app to read or listen to summaries of each one. Headway provides a fun way to learn and grow on the go!
What book should I read in my 30s?
Brené Brown is an author that has appeared on our list numerous times. So, it’s only fair we recommend I Thought It Was Just Me to empower anyone feeling lost, uninspired and anxious in their 30s.
What book should every woman read?
Girl, Wash Your Face is a book about being honest with oneself and honoring what you really want from life. The author, Rachel Hollis, creates books every woman should read in her 30s.
What is the most life-changing book to read?
Attached by Amir Levine, M.D., and Rachel Heller, M.A. is a book some have likened to therapy. While we don’t recommend replacing a professional with a book, it provides some life-changing insight you can start exploring on the Headway app .
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