24 Most Important Books To Read In Your 20s

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During this time of protest and strife, we have to remember where we came from. It's important to remember our past so we can shape our future and avoid repeating mistakes. 

Over hundreds of years, there have been many writers who have discussed the social and historical situations of the time, and many of them have become invaluable books to read in your 20s, the decade that everything really starts changing as your set the foundation for your future.

And in order to create a strong foundation, sometimes you need to just curl up with a book to get a real perspective on the past. 

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Reading is a wonderful part of life and if you take the time to try and understand what you are reading, then you may just gain a new perspective on life. 

And sometimes we need to be exposed to other people's lives so that we can be grateful for all that we have. 

Never forget your history because you wouldn't be here right now without it. So, here are some of the best books to read and learn from. Our society needs a bit more understanding to really realize how far we have come to get to where we are today, and what we can do for a better future.

Here are the 24 most important books to read in your 20s:

Relationship Books

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen describes the Bennet family, which has five daughters, where the parents are hoping at least one of the children marry wealthily. This novel explores the struggle between the societal constructs of marrying for love or marrying for wealth or social status. 


2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

This romantic novel, published in 1878, is about a housewife that runs off with her lover and a lusting landowner who struggles with his philosophy and faith. This novel is revolutionary in how women are treated by showing their hardships and prejudices in Russian society. 


3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

In this novel, Jane Eyre becomes the inspiration for women to become independent. As an orphan, Jane Eyre gains sensibility and learns more about herself.


4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This novel is another one that tries to work through the idea of marrying for love or marrying for social status. 


5. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

When Hazel finds out she is in the last stage of her terminal cancer, she meets Augustus at a support group for children with cancer. They fall in love, and her life is turned upside down.


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Historical Fiction

6. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

During the Civil War, this tale tells a story of loss and love while a nation is divided. 


7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

In Nazi Germany, Liesel is a foster girl who keeps herself alive by stealing what she cannot have: books. She learns to read and shares her books with others that are in hiding as well.


8. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Young Griet meets someone who immortalizes her in a painting and tells her story.


9. The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

Even though she possessed so much beauty, she was also intelligent. She married an Austrian arms dealer during the rise of the Nazi party. She heard the Third Reich's plans and she set a plan to fight the Nazis. The problem was getting someone to listen to the only woman in the room.


10. The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

Lilith, a Jamaican slave on a sugar plantation, was feared since birth. The Night Women, a group of slaves, plotted a slave revolt and Lilith becomes the key to their plan. 


Dystopian Novels

11. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

In this dystopian novel, declining birthrates and environmental problems lead to a second American Civil War, which resulted in the Republic of Gilead being created. It's a totalitarian regime that enslaves the few fertile women and they are used to produce children with the commanders. In this society, she does not have her freedom, her husband, her child, or a name. She is named to be the property of her commander. 


12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Guy is a fireman who has a job to destroy all books and the houses they have been found in. But when he meets Clarisse, he starts to see a past where they did not live in fear and he starts to see that the mindless control given through the television may not be as perfect as previously thought. 


13. The Giver by Lois Lowry

In a colorless society, Jonas is picked to be the one to receive the memories and see color. He must try and understand the secrets and the dark history of society. 


14. Divergent by Veronica Roth

In dystopian Chicago, society is separated into factions. Follow Beatrice Prior through her placement and her place in overthrowing the current government control. 


15. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

This novel explores the idea of good and evil regarding human freedom and what it means to ask "at what cost?" is doing something. 


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World Novels

16. Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera 

In Sri Lanka, there were two families of different cultures. The families work to survive during the Sri Lankan civil war and avoid the conflict that has tragedy after tragedy.


17. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure, a Parisian who lived during the Nazi occupation of France, and her father flee to her uncle's by the sea. They carry with them a valuable jewel from the museum where her father works. 

Meanwhile, in a town in Germany, Werner, an orphan, is enlisted to track down French resistance, causing a run-in between the two. Their relationship shows how people try to be as nice to each other as possible.


18. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy wrote about Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The Characters, Pierre, Prince Andrei, and Natasha bring three different points of view on the struggles that occurred during Napoleon's invasion. 


19. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Márquez

This novel explains the rise, fall, birth, and death of the town of Macondo through the life of the Bendia family. 


20. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a 13-year-old Jewish girl hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland in 1942. For two years she hid in a hidden room cut off from the outside world until she was discovered and taken to the concentration camps.


Other Must-Reads

21. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that expresses to the audience the anxiety the narrator is feeling. It is personal and revealing of the character's needs. This novel explores how mental illness and PTSD from World War I impacted people's lives. 


22. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This story tells the tale of a woman suffering from post-partum depression and a nervous disorder. She abandons her life and avoids company while staying alone in the yellow-wallpapered room. In this room, she descends into madness and insanity.


23. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison wrote this novel about an escaped slave, Sethe, who fled from her owner. This novel explores the horrific hardships and pain slaves faced, and the psychological effects of slavery, and reminds the audience how much family impacts healing. 


24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This novel brings attention to how African American men had to express their identities. The narrator believes he is invisible in social settings. Moreover, this novel discusses discrimination and adversity, while also depicting how hard it was for African American men to maintain work, relationships, and the symbolism of African American culture and identity.


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Emily Francos is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, and relationship topics. Her work has also been featured in Unwritten.

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