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20 Books Everyone Should Read Before Age 40

20 Books Everyone Should Read Before Age 40

Books are wonderful things. Information, entertainment, wisdom and imagination all wrapped up in a nice little bundle of pages… or an electronic file as the case may be.

But there are so many. Millions actually, so the question becomes, “What are the must reads?”, especially in the first half of your life when you’re trying to do so much and seeking all that life has to offer so diligently. I’ll start by saying that there are so many books that could have made my list, but I suspect that you, like me, read many of those throughout your educational years. Still, it might be worth another read through of some of the classics.

My list of 20 must-read books:

(In no particular order, some classic, and some modern)

anne frank

    The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank- I hope I don’t need to explain why this book is so important. You probably read this as a student, but read it again. It may be the ultimate book about the power of hope and strength in the midst of unspeakable atrocities, and it serves to remind us that there will always be evil in the world, but that we must not let it win.

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

      I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – Poverty. Racism. Rape. Coming of age amidst all that. It’s both heartbreaking and empowering, like only Maya can do.

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      Attitudes of Gratitude- How to Give and Receive Joy Everyday of Your Life

        Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Everyday of Your Life by M.J. Ryan – Ryan shows us that when we let ourselves feel and express our appreciation, we feel happier, younger, and healthier.  Gratitude creates a powerful state of happiness where we notice what’s right instead of what’s wrong, which teaches us how to unlock the fullness of life.

        To Kill a Mockingbird

          To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Another book many of us read in school, but it’s worth another read through adult eyes. Be brave enough to do what you know is right—enough said.

          Emotional Intelligence 2.0

            Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves, Patrick Lencioni – It’s no secret that emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical to success, but knowing what emotional intelligence is and knowing how to use it to improve your life are two very different things. Emotional intelligence shows us how to use self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management to achieve our fullest potential.

            The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People- Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

              The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Stephen R. Covey – It’s a classic for a reason: still one of the most valuable personal development books of all time. Covey prescribes a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach to help us lead the best life possible.

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              The Power of Now

                The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – The message is simple: living in the now is the path to happiness (and enlightenment.) An excellent manual of how thoughts and emotions get in the way of our ability to live in genuine peace and happiness.

                Mans Search for Meaning

                  Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl – Based on his own experience in Nazi death camps, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

                  Now, Discover Your Strengths

                    Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton – Unfortunately, most of us spend our lives trying to combat our weaknesses instead of developing our strengths, when the truth is that it is actually our strengths that lead us to personal and professional success.

                    Traveling Mercies- Some Thoughts on Faith

                      Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott – Anne Lamott says the two best prayers she knows are: “Help me” and “Thank you.” Irreverent and witty, Lamott shows us how to own the reality of our own brokenness while coming closer to a real understanding of grace.

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                      making-marriage-simple-10-truths-for-changing-the-relationship-you-have-into-the-one-you-want

                        Making Marriage Simple: Ten Truths for Changing the Relationship You Have into the One You Want by Harville Hendrix, Helen LaKelly Hunt – A guide to building a strong partnership in today’s world. It gives practical tools needed to transform one’s relationship into a rewarding and joyous one.

                        Tuesdays with Morrie

                          Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom – Reminds us of the importance of having mentors, and that the lessons they teach us about living robustly and fully impact our lives in ways that we may not understand at the time.

                          The Artists Way

                            The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – An inspiring and invaluable guide on living a life of creativity and passion.

                            The Gifts of Imperfection

                              The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown – This book lays out ten guideposts for Wholehearted living. Brown teaches how to combat the barrage of messages from society telling us who, what, and how we should be, to discover that we are worthy just as we are.

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                              The Tipping Point- How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

                                The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell – The tipping point is that critical moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, then tips, and spreads like wildfire. Gladwell explores the tipping point phenomenon and how it’s changing the way people throughout the world think about the development and dissemination of ideas.

                                Imagine- How Creativity Works

                                  Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer – Discusses the importance of thinking like a child, daydreaming, and adopting an outsider’s perspective. He talks about creative collaboration, criticism and how we can use creativity to better our world.

                                  The Last Lecture

                                    The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – At one time or another, we all consider our deaths and ruminate on what matters mos; the wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance. This lecture given by Pausch, a computer science professor recently diagnosed with a terminal illness, expresses the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, and of seizing every moment.

                                    The Notebook

                                      The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – This is more than a simple story of love, lost and found—it’s one about the choices we make and the hardships we face. Whether you feel it’s a love story or a tragedy, it’s about a journey to happiness and ultimately deciding what or who is important to us in life.

                                      The Power of Full Engagement

                                        The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr, Tony Schwartz – Shows us how managing energy, not time, is the key to performance, health, happiness, and life balance. This fundamental insight has the power to revolutionize the way we live.

                                        Your chosen book on your spiritual path or philosophical leanings – A must, and probably should have been listed first. Whether it’s the Bible, Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, works by Plato, Aristotle, or one of the many spiritual books out there, whatever book helps you to understand your place in the larger picture of life, that gives you purpose and meaning, may be the most important book you ever read.

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                                        Royale Scuderi

                                        A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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                                        Last Updated on January 21, 2020

                                        The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

                                        The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

                                        Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

                                        your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

                                          Why You Need a Vision

                                          Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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                                          How to Create Your Life Vision

                                          Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

                                          What Do You Want?

                                          The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

                                          It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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                                          Some tips to guide you:

                                          • Remember to ask why you want certain things
                                          • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
                                          • Give yourself permission to dream.
                                          • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
                                          • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

                                          Some questions to start your exploration:

                                          • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
                                          • What would you like to have more of in your life?
                                          • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
                                          • What are your secret passions and dreams?
                                          • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
                                          • What do you want your relationships to be like?
                                          • What qualities would you like to develop?
                                          • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
                                          • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
                                          • What would you most like to accomplish?
                                          • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

                                          It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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                                          What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

                                          Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

                                          A few prompts to get you started:

                                          • What will you have accomplished already?
                                          • How will you feel about yourself?
                                          • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
                                          • What does your ideal day look like?
                                          • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
                                          • What would you be doing?
                                          • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
                                          • How are you dressed?
                                          • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
                                          • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
                                          • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

                                          It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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                                          Plan Backwards

                                          It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

                                          • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
                                          • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
                                          • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
                                          • What important actions would you have had to take?
                                          • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
                                          • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
                                          • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
                                          • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
                                          • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

                                          Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

                                          It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

                                          Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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