• Culture

20 Books to Read in Your 20s

When you're twenty-something, you're constantly changing, growing, and learning. You're setting a foundation for your life, and books are a great way to expand your horizons and learn even more about the world. The books on this list are great ways to experience different perspectives and learn about other cultures and history. These are books that will make you think.

These are 20 good books that will open your mind and change you during your 20s. There's something for everyone on this list, but first and foremost, an honorable mention goes to The Complete Works of Shakespeare – which didn't make the list because you all should be smart enough to read that without being told. I can't do everything for you guys! So, take a look at the 20 best books you should read in your twenties, then start reading! Time's a wastin'!
  • This book consists of two separate stories that intertwine together. One is set in the 14th century in Italy and Sicily and features Dante Alighieri. The other is set in Autumn 2001 and has a fictionalized version of Nick Tosches as the protagonist. The historical and modern stories alternate as Dante tries to finish writing his magnum opus and goes on a journey for mystical knowledge in Sicily. Meanwhile, Tosches, as something of a Dante expert, is called in by black market traders to attest to the authenticity of a manuscript of The Divine Comedy that was supposedly written by Dante himself.

    This book is so good and interesting, you'll find it hard to put down. Even if you know nothing about Dante, The Divine Comedy, or Tosches, this is a must-read. Even Johnny Depp has read it and supposedly purchased the rights in order to turn it into a film - so you know it's cool.
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  • This is not just a book. In 1968, The New York Times called The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test "not simply the best book on hippies… [but also] the essential book." It's a work of literary journalism by Tom Wolfe, published in 1968. Using techniques from the genre of hysterical realism and pioneering new journalism, the "nonfiction novel" tells the story of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters. The book follows the Pranksters across the country while driving in a painted school bus dubbed "Further" (called "Furthur" in the book due to an initial misspelling on the bus's placard) as they seek personal and collective revelations through the use of LSD and other substances. The book also describes the Acid Tests, early performances by The Grateful Dead, and Kesey's exile to Mexico.

    This book is a real trip, even if you're not a hippie. It takes you into the land of the Merry Pranksters, and as square as you feel reading it, you also feel like you maybe just got a little cooler. This film version of the book is supposedly in development with Gus Van Sant directing.

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  • Photo: Signet

    This book, Rand's first major literary success, brought her fame and financial success as more than 6.5 million copies were eventually sold worldwide. Ayn Rand was a strong, opinionated woman, and some call her the first feminist. Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism – instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions.

    The Fountainhead's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. The book follows his battle to practice what the public sees as modern architecture, which he believes to be superior, despite an establishment centered on tradition-worship. The ways other characters in the novel relate to Roark demonstrates Rand's various archetypes of human character, all of which are variants between Roark, the author's ideal man of independent-mindedness, and integrity, and what she described as the "second-handers." The complex relationships between Roark and the various kinds of individuals who assist or hinder his progress (or both) allow the novel to be at once a romantic drama and a philosophical work. Roark is Rand's embodiment of the human spirit, and his struggle represents the triumph of individualism over collectivism.

    The manuscript was rejected by twelve publishers before a young editor, Archibald Ogden at the Bobbs-Merrill Company, risked his job to get it published. Despite mixed reviews from the contemporary media, the book gained a following by word-of-mouth and became a bestseller. The novel was made into a Hollywood film in 1949 in which Rand wrote the screenplay, and Gary Cooper played Roark. It even made it on an episode of The Simpsons.

    #122 of 171 The Greatest American Novels#365 of 1,236 The Best Novels Ever Written#202 of 704 Books That Changed Your Life

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    Switters is a contradiction for all seasons: an anarchist who works for the government; a pacifist who carries a gun; a vegetarian who sops up ham gravy; a cyberwhiz who hates computers; a man who, though obsessed with the preservation of innocence, is aching to deflower his high-school-age stepsister (only to become equally enamored of a nun ten years his senior). Yet there is nothing remotely wishy-washy about Switters. He doesn’t merely pack a pistol. He is a pistol. And as we dog Switters’s strangely elevated heels across four continents, in and out of love and danger, discovering in the process the “true” Third Secret of Fatima, we experience Tom Robbins — that fearless storyteller, spiritual renegade, and verbal break dancer—at the top of his game. On one level this is a fast-paced CIA adventure story with comic overtones; on another it’s a serious novel of ideas that brings the Big Picture into unexpected focus; but perhaps more than anything else, Fierce Invalids is a sexy celebration of language and life.
    That's from the book jacket. What they leave out is Switters's affinity for the show-tune "Send In The Clowns" and the fact that he is confined to a wheelchair for a very specific and terrifying reason, but he isn't disabled. This book is hilarious, and though Robbins is better known for his novel Still Life with Woodpecker, I much prefer this book.
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