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15 Books All 20 Somethings Should Read To Know More About The World

15 Books All 20 Somethings Should Read To Know More About The World

Fresh shoots tentatively probe the air while their roots have yet to find purchase. The more firmly they are rooted, the more boldly they stretch their new leaves toward the sun. So it is with the intellect of youth. As yet unburdened by the life-weary prejudices of their seniors, their powerful imaginations and desire for knowledge are unguided by the wisdom which can only be attained with experience.

Books are a short cut to experience. Books merge centuries together, granting the wisdom of ages to those with the strength of will to grasp it. People in their twenties can bring meaning and direction to their lives by learning through literature, how others have coped with this difficult time of life.

These 15 books will help you transcend the your experiences and gain a deeper understanding of human nature – and who you want to be:

1. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

hamlet

    Don’t be put off by the fact that this is Shakespeare’s longest play. For hundreds of years, actors, writers and critics have celebrated this as one of the greatest works in human history. Four centuries years after it was written and Hamlet remains as relevant to young people as it ever was. By setting the play in Denmark about 1000 years before he was born, Shakespeare ensured that it remains eternal, belonging to the ages.

    Prince Hamlet has been an inspirational figure for generations; a brilliant young man, tortured by indecision, existential angst and the frustration of a humiliating fate.

    The skill with which Shakespeare depicts psychological themes such as madness, vengeance, love, suicide, duty and emotional torment are timeless. If ever you have felt it hard to describe the internal strife of youth, then you will find a kindred spirit in Prince Hamlet of Denmark.

    2. The Odyssey – Homer

    homer

      Like Hamlet, The Odyssey depicts a noble young man missing his Father and lamenting the fact that he is too young to defend his family’s honour. The young Telemachus laments the death of his heroic father Odysseus, who is in fact living in captivity on a faraway island. In his absence, Telemachus must fend off a horde of suitors who, hoping to win his Mother’s affections, have taken up residence in their home and are driving him to poverty with their appetite for food and wine.
      The ancient poem was composed about 2800 years ago and along with The Iliad, represents the beginning of the Western canon. It is amazing to think that all Western literature began with this book, and that the themes remain so compelling to this day. Sex, war and gods are all enjoyable subjects but the deep emotions and noble motivations of the human characters leave a more lasting impression.

      3. Patriotism – Yukio Mishima

      mishima patriot

        A short but powerful Japanese story which presents a dramatically different attitude to love and death than most people in their twenties are accustomed to. Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama and his 23 year old wife, Reiko, both commit ritualistic suicide in response to a mutiny against the Imperial Army. Shinji is implicated by association and out of love for both his emperor and his comrades, chooses to commit seppuku. His devoted and adoring young wife is immediately resolved to join him in death.

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        The short story uses evocative, poetic language to paint a picture of the mundanity of their apartment and the weather outside in contrast to the deeply noble ideals which the couple seek to embody in their extraordinary actions. They make love one final time before death. A scene in which Mishima beautifully portrays the depth of their emotions without compromising the refined dignity of the traditional Japanese culture.

        4. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

        confederacyofdunces

          This hilarious, insightful but tragic novel wasn’t published until 11 years after the author, who was convinced he was a failure, had committed suicide. Walker Percy, another great Southern writer of the 20th century, said that the protagonist is “in violent revolt against the entire modern age.”

          The plot revolves around Ignatius J Reilly; a highly articulate and intelligent man at the end of his twenties who, due to his slothful disposition and awkward social habits, is unemployed and living with his Mother in New Orleans. He is a man whose lofty ideals, aristocratic bearing and love of medieval philosophy render him an absurd anomaly in a tacky world in which he is reduced to selling hot dogs on the streets.

          Despite being partially autobiographical, the author pokes fun at Ignatius’ provincial outlook, repressed sexuality and fear of change. This is done in an affectionate way, for the real object of scorn in the novel is not Ignatius, but the society which fails to accommodate him. A must read for any twenty-something who feels trapped in the wrong era.

          5. Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

          notesfrom

            If ever you have felt socially awkward, introverted or unable to properly assert yourself, then you will sympathize with the protagonist of this famous Russian novella. The existentialist theme and the unnamed protagonist’s inability to act are reminiscent of Hamlet. He is a retired civil servant, paralyzed by his own paranoia, ennui and laziness. It is his own quest for virtue which prevents him from acting and renders him impotent in this sense. He resents self interested altruism and represents rebellion against the cultural dysfunction one inherits with adulthood.

            His obsessive hatred of society and those he sees as representative of it reduce him to a pitiful wretch, incapable of making a difference to the lives of those around him. This short story serves as a warning to those in their twenties who are at times overwhelmed by their dissatisfaction with society. It is better to direct such feelings to practical ends, or else be consumed by them.

            6. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

            clockworkorange

              The streets in the dystopian future of this prophetic novel are ruled by gangs of youths for whom rape and theft are a form of entertainment. Time magazine listed it as one of the top 100 novels in the English language. It is particularly relevant to those in their twenties, as it shows not only how the young can be seduced by the allure of drugs, violence and criminality but also that they can find redemption. The book is written from the point of view of Alex, the vicious leader of a gang of rapists, who is also an intelligent and somehow likeable young man.

              His rehabilitation is seized by rival politicians as a means to defame each other. In the end, it is neither social programs nor scientific tests that transform Alex into a functioning member of society, but simply his desire to be good.

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              7. Beyond Good and Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche

              beyondgood

                Reading Nietzsche is one of the best ways that people in their twenties can have their views challenged because he deliberately opposes and attacks all the most deeply held moral convictions of Western society. Whatever your beliefs may be, you are unlikely to agree with everything in this book, but that is the point.

                Nietzsche reveals his vision of the philosopher of the future as the most imaginative, bold and willful type. Abandoning Christianity and denying the existence of any universal morality, he argues that what is good is what gives power to man and raises him up. His work totally revolutionizes philosophy and is therefore particularly attractive for twenty somethings, who looking boldly to the future, wish to dispense with the baggage of convention and falsehood that Western culture has inherited.

                8. The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson

                rumdiary

                  The famously hedonistic journalist, Hunter Thompson, wrote The Rum Diary when he was only 22. Despite his youth, the novel shows his concern with growing old. Semi-autobiographical, the narrative follows a writer named Paul Kemp as he moves from New York to Puerto Rico to work for an expat sports paper.

                  Heavily influenced by Ernest Hemingway, the story reveals the devastating consequences of unrestrained lust and alcoholism. This is particularly poignant when you consider that Thompson remained an addict for his entire life until he committed suicide at the age of 68.

                  9. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

                  hemingway

                    Like The Rum Diary, this novel is about alcoholic expats and was written while the author was in his twenties. Set in Paris and Spain during the roaring twenties, it is regarded as one of the first modernist novels and a classic of American literature.

                    The story follows a group of young American and British friends, all heavy drinkers, during their visit to Spain to watch bullfights and the running of the bulls. Twenty somethings will sympathize with the tempestuous relationships that Hemingway portrays between the characters, which were all based on people he knew.

                    10. The Outsider – Colin Wilson

                    outsider

                      At the age of 24, the philosopher Colin Wilson was sleeping rough in London while writing this book in the reading rooms of the British Museum. Wilson identified with “outsider” protagonists from existentialist novels by authors such as Dostoevsky, Camus and Sartre and thought they may hold the key to a new way of thinking.

                      The book is an attempt to construct a new, more positive existentialist philosophy for the modern age by examining literary characters which are somehow above or outside the society in which they emerge. Many old academics were furious that a brilliant young man had written a hugely popular book which so succinctly identifies the problem of human alienation, even going so far as to posit a spiritual solution. Wilson approaches all art and philosophy not through critical theory or any other tired academic convention, but by asking what it says about the meaning of existence.

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                      11. Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller

                      millercancer

                        This hugely controversial American novel, first published in France in 1934, was banned in the USA until 1964. Despite sex scenes so explicit that they verge on the pornographic, the book is regarded as a masterpiece of 20th century literature.

                        The semi auto-biographical novel is based on New York born Miller’s time living in Paris. The struggling writer faces homelessness, loneliness and despair over his recent separation from his wife. But there also many positive themes, as Miller illuminates the beauty of experience in his writing. Whether on the subject of sex or food, Miller celebrates physical sensation with an almost religious fervor. This unquenchable thirst for life is extraordinarily valuable to anyone in their twenties.

                        12. 1984 – George Orwell

                        1984

                          Since its publication in 1949, this classic novel has seriously altered the way we talk about politics and government. The dystopian story presents a future in which the entire Western world is ruled by a brutal totalitarian socialist government under which all of history is rewritten to support party policy. Even thoughts against the state are deemed criminal.

                          Twenty somethings should read this book, not only because it is so influential in popular culture, but because it depicts a horrible future which could become a reality. It is important for people in their twenties to be conscious of the value and fragility of their hard won freedoms so that a “1984” state can be prevented.

                          13. The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

                          canterbury tales

                            You may wonder what relevance 14th century literature has to the lives of twenty somethings today. Give it a chance! The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories, each one told by a different fictional character whilst on a pilgrimage from London to Canterbury in Kent, England.

                            Each of the charming stories demonstrates the different perceptions of reality held by the very different kinds of characters; from the noble knight to the drunken miller. Each story is a sort of morality tale or fable with a message about sex, love, religion, class or other pressing topics. The issues with which the characters are concerned are often as relevant now as they ever were, proving that some things never change.

                            14. The Descent of Man – Charles Darwin

                            darwin

                              Long gone are the days when everybody believed in Adam and Eve and the seven days of creation. But even though many claim to be scientifically minded, few bother to actually read Darwin’s theory on the origin of mankind. Published 12 years after his extremely controversial “On the Origin of Species”, this is the book that actually answers the question of how the human species came to exist.

                              Nearly a century and a half after it was published, we have discovered DNA, mapped the human genome and made many other scientific discoveries, some of which have rendered parts of Darwin’s book redundant. But the core theory of Darwin’s work; that mankind evolved through natural selection and sexual selection from another apelike organism, remains incontestable.

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                              15. The Divine and the Decay – Bill Hopkins

                              hopkins

                                Described by the author’s friend Colin Wilson as one of the most important novels of the 21st century, The Divine and the Decay is sadly neglected because the publisher recalled all known copies and had them destroyed in response to the hysteria of critics.

                                No other novel in recent times has dared look so honestly at the human condition and suggest the herculean will power required to change it. It tells the story of a young English politician who, having arranged the murder of a rival within his party, takes a trip to a tiny island in the English Channel as an alibi. The characters he encounters on the island each symbolize the different types of people with whom he must contend in the world at large. His conflicts with the islanders serve as a critique of the problems of modern Western culture. The protagonist wrestles with self doubt but ultimately overcomes his own weakness in a spectacular and uplifting finale. This novel will raise the spirits of readers in their twenties, filling them with hope and courage as they embark on the journey of life before them.

                                (Please note that this particular book doesn’t come cheap – having not been republished since 1957. Publishers are attempting to get it reprinted but this is a long, slow process.)

                                If you enjoyed this article, check out this similar post on 15 Books For Everyone to Better Their Writing Skills.

                                What are some other books you think that people in their twenties should read? Let us know in the comments.

                                Love this article? Share it with your friends on Facebook.

                                Featured photo credit: wikicommons – Joe Crawford from Moorpark, California, USA via commons.wikimedia.org

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                                Last Updated on January 15, 2021

                                7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                                7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                                The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

                                Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

                                Posture

                                First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

                                • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
                                • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
                                • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
                                • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

                                All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

                                Facial Expressions

                                Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

                                • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
                                • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
                                • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

                                If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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                                1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

                                A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

                                The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

                                This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

                                2. Relax Your Face

                                New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

                                The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

                                To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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                                3. Improve Your Eye Contact

                                Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

                                The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

                                To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

                                3. Smile More

                                There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

                                Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

                                4. Hand Gestures

                                Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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                                It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

                                5. Enhance Your Handshake

                                In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

                                “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

                                It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

                                6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

                                As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

                                Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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                                Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

                                Final Takeaways

                                Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

                                If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

                                More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

                                Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

                                Reference

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