Advertising
Advertising

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.

        Advertising

        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.

              Advertising

              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.

                      Advertising

                      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.

                              Advertising

                              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

                                More by this author

                                15 Books All 20 Somethings Should Read To Know More About The World 5 Workout Infographics For You To Exercise At Home On Weekdays

                                Trending in Communication

                                1 7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers 2 8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener 3 11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude Every Day 4 What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning 5 How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide)

                                Read Next

                                Advertising
                                Advertising
                                Advertising

                                Last Updated on October 22, 2020

                                8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                                8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                                How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

                                Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

                                When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

                                Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

                                What Makes People Poor Listeners?

                                Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

                                1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

                                Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

                                Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

                                It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

                                2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

                                This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

                                Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

                                3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

                                It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

                                Advertising

                                I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

                                If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

                                4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

                                While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

                                To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

                                My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

                                Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

                                Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

                                How To Be a Better Listener

                                For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

                                1. Pay Attention

                                A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

                                According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

                                As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

                                Advertising

                                I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

                                2. Use Positive Body Language

                                You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

                                A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

                                People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

                                But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

                                According to Alan Gurney,[2]

                                “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

                                Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

                                3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

                                I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

                                Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

                                Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

                                Advertising

                                Be polite and wait your turn!

                                4. Ask Questions

                                Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

                                5. Just Listen

                                This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

                                I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

                                I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

                                6. Remember and Follow Up

                                Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

                                For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

                                According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

                                It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

                                7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

                                If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

                                Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

                                Advertising

                                Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

                                Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

                                NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

                                1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
                                2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

                                8. Maintain Eye Contact

                                When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

                                Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

                                By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

                                Final Thoughts

                                Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

                                You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

                                And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

                                More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

                                Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

                                Reference

                                [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
                                [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
                                [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
                                [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

                                Read Next