If your 20s are all about finding yourself, then I think your 30s are about re-finding yourself. Entering a new decade in life feels ceremonial; a pivotal moment of reevaluating and deciding if this is truly what you want in life. As a woman freshly in her 30s, I have recently come to appreciate the importance of living out your truth and being exactly who you’re meant to be. Whether that be in your career, in your relationships, or in your art—entering a new decade in life feels like being gifted a blank slate, a chance to allow yourself the life that you truly desire.
But…what if you’re not exactly sure what you truly desire? In this circumstance, I find books to be key for diving deeper into my own thoughts and feelings, allowing the words to cull out truths in my own heart and what I desire in the world. Whether it’s non-fiction books that teach me how to quite literally be a badass, or novels that teach me what it means to truly be myself, books help me better understand who I am and where I fit in the world around me.
So whether you’re also fresh into your 30s or you’re knocking on 40’s door, here are quintessential books to read for this time in your life.
A collection of 21 different stories (including bestselling authors Diana Gabaldon known for Outlander, and George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones ), this book dives through themes of what it means to be a dangerous woman, both heroines and villains alike. These original stories may be set in fantastical fictional worlds, but the themes that come across are very real, and teach us what it means to be a woman of influence in our world.
It’s probably a little too typical to say you should read Eat Pray Love as a 30-year-old—a true story about traveling and finding yourself. So instead, here’s a book you have likely not heard of yet, and I promise will have you belly laughing out loud in public. After being laid off from her job, Geraldine DeRuiter decided she wanted to be a travel blogger…but had yet to travel anywhere. This story is about her adventures in travel and all of the lessons she learned about herself, her partner, and the world around her. It’s the kind of book that will have you feeling up for whatever challenge you want to face in this decade—even if it means turning your world upside down by trying something daring and new.
As a woman in your 30s, you’re likely hitting your groove in the workplace. Or, unfortunately in a lot of circumstances, you find yourself hitting a few brick walls—or, to go along with the metaphor, a glass ceiling. Looking to finally climb your way to the top? Want to land those executive roles or finally get that promotion you rightly deserve? Breaking The Glass Ceiling looks at themes of success or derailment in the corporate environment, how being an executive is different for women in business, and other obstacles women have to face when it comes to climbing their way to the top.
Ready to transform your life and finally be the badass woman you’re meant to be? This bestselling self-development book is all about reshaping your mindset and living your best life. It will help you define those self-sabotaging behaviors and help you shift your energy to what you truly desire, helping you to create a life you absolutely love. Oh, and make more money.
If you didn’t spend the better part of your twenties gobbling up everything Jane Austen, this is a great time to finally dive in—specifically with one of her later novels, Persuasion. While the main character Anne Elliot is technically in her late 20s in the book, the story is one that I think a lot of women in their 30s can relate to. After originally breaking off her engagement with Navy Captain Frederick Wentworth, Anne is once again faced with her past as Captain Wentworth comes back into her life. But will she finally break apart from what she should do and finally go for what she truly wants in life? An ode that every woman in their 30s would likely understand.
As we’ve gotten older, we’ve come to realize the importance of therapy. Therapy can be vital in a person’s healing for mental health and traumatic events, which are some of the themes Lori Gottlieb touches on in this book. It explores what it means to be a therapist for patients struggling with real-life situations, her particular journey of getting therapy herself, and the types of questions that seem to get to the heart of the human experience. If you are in your 30s and still find yourself with a lot of questions—and maybe are a bit skeptical about the healing powers of therapy—this book could be key to getting you thinking about these themes as you walk through the next decade of your life.
If you find yourself dealing with a huge turning point at the beginning of your 30s and in need of a little adventure, this novel is a great place to start. It follows the story of Helen Carpenter, a 32-year-old divorcee who is about to go on a wilderness-survival course in Wyoming. This story follows her tales and trials through her course, and what it means to truly feel found after being lost. Similarly, another great book with wilderness find-yourself vibes would be Wild by Cheryl Strayed—if you haven’t devoured it already, of course.
Divorced in her late 30s with two kids, Nora Hamilton fuels her story into art—as in, a massive screenplay—and finds herself stumbling upon major success, and a handsome movie star to boot. While this story is a flirty, cute romance that will have you kicking your legs in the air, it’s also a story of heartbreak and finding yourself anew after years of giving into the monotony of everyday life, and finally allowing yourself to be the incredible person you truly are.
Sick of constantly scrolling on your phone? Maybe it’s time to Marie Kondo your digital lifestyle. This book helps you put down your phone and appreciate the quiet moments in a simplified, notification-free lifestyle. By the end of it, you’ll find yourself finally taking control of your digital lifestyle, instead of letting the constant doom scroll take over you.
There’s no denying that our bodies change from our 20s to our 30s, and there should be no shame about bodies that age beautifully. And yet, our world wants us to think otherwise—to buy all of the “ageless” products and routines, exercise like crazy, and essentially eat like a rabbit. But we know deep down that’s not a life well lived, and this book shows us that. Specifically that “your body is not the problem” and the standards of beauty and culture around us actually are the problem, it’s them.
While many have likely read her best-selling memoir Becoming, Michelle Obama’s recent book The Light We Carry walks us through her struggles and highlights after experiencing tumultuous hardships in her life. These stories wrestle through honest dialogue in conversations we all face, like finding strength in our differences, addressing self-doubt and helplessness, building honest relationships, and finding light amidst darkness. If you’re looking for a read that is thought-provoking and inspiring, Michelle is always our go-to gal.
Even if you’re in the thick of your career as you cruise your way to the top of the ladder, you may have at some point felt the stressful effects of burnout. This book walks through why women experience burnout much differently than men and provides science-backed tools to help women manage stress and emotions, and live a more joyful life. If you find yourself feeling constantly exhausted by the everyday grind of work and are counting down the minutes until Friday, then this book is for you.