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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 March 14, 2019

                                7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

                                7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

                                Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

                                For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

                                Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

                                1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

                                A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

                                It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

                                It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

                                How it helps you:

                                If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

                                Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

                                2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

                                Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

                                Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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                                How it helps you:

                                Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

                                Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

                                If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

                                Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

                                3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

                                Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

                                Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

                                How it helps you:

                                This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

                                For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

                                Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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                                A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

                                4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

                                To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

                                A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

                                How it helps you:

                                One word: hierarchy.

                                All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

                                In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

                                If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

                                5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

                                Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

                                Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

                                How it helps you:

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                                Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

                                If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

                                This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

                                6. What do you like about working here?

                                This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

                                Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

                                How it helps you:

                                You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

                                Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

                                Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

                                7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

                                What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

                                As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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                                How it helps you:

                                What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

                                First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

                                Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

                                Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

                                Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

                                Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

                                Making Your Interview Work for You

                                Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

                                Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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                                Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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