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3 books to read in your thirties

originally published January 2015 

· reading,books,good books,self help

I saw a pin on Pinterest that inspired this blog. Almost immediately I felt the urge to write. In life, if we open our hearts, often we can find inspiration in the simplest of things.

In my Marriage and Family Therapy work, I once had a supervisor who did just that. She inspired me – I was just starting my career when I off-handedly remarked I was afraid that I wondered if I was helping at all. And if I was, how would I ever know it?

Then she grabbed a pen, and a piece of paper and she drew a picture, of someone walking on a straight line. As she demonstrated she explained that when others come in contact with that person, walking that straight line, it shifts their path, ever so slightly. And as she kept describing that slight shift cause that person walking that straight line, to end up in a totally different spot on the page. That slight shift while seemingly small might make all the difference in their journey, and that slight shift, might be me.

I wasn’t one of those girls who freaked at 30. I had that freakout at 25, when the auto insurance company lowered my rates, and the health insurance company raised them, and being in marketing (at the time) I knew I was officially out of the 18-24 demo, and into the “old” one.

And with the 25th birthday freakout long in the past, I embraced 30 wholeheartedly with the lessons of my twenties in my back pocket, an air of cynicism on my breath and a tremendous amount of hope and excitement. I was incredibly wiser, but still spontaneous and aside from my laugh lines, sans any major wrinkles. I had an err of calm, that I lacked in my twenties, and the experience to back up my fiery statements.

The pin I saw on Pinterest was” twenty books you should read in your twenties.” I had to laugh. That’s what your twenties are all about- taking on the world unabashedly in an “all about me” kinda way.

Why strive for one great book, when you have ten years to read twenty! Then sometime around 29, the realization hits that taking on the world will require a lot more than you budgeted for, emotionally, physically and financially.

But, while I read a ridiculous amount of books every year, even 20 in your 20’s seemed silly. However, with an e-book, one could hypothetically download or wish list all 20 books now and slowly tap away at it.

Though I had dabbled with my mother’s ancient, hand me down, first generation kindle-like apparatus, and I hadn’t fully committed to e-book. I hadn’t quite joined with the masses to embrace the digital book. My own published book had gone e-book back in 2010…but I was still holding paper. I love the feeling of turning the pages, the grime from whatever liquid I’m consuming and whatever treats I’m devouring gracing the edges of the thin paper.

But even then, only handful of books ever made it to my bookshelf. It’s reserved for only those books that have such an impact, I believe I might read them twice (gasp! Why when there are so many books to read?) or those that I might pass to a friend (knowing I’ll never get back) but that it would be worth it, to keep on hand, because that book might inspire them in just the right way.

On the dawn of my 33rd birthday, my husband surprised me with a Kindle Fire. It only took three greasy finger swipes across the glossy new screen to be hooked. The entire worldly ISBN collection was at my finger tips.

As I flipped through the vast assortment of various genres of must-reads, I realized perhaps there were twenty books to read in your twenties, but more importantly there are 3 books, that I believe everyone in their 30’s should read. These are books to not only “borrow” from Amazon, but actually own in paper.

They are books to read again, and books to be lost to friends. They are books who names and authors I have come to use in monthly conversation. They are must-reads.

And if you are anything like me (a 37-year old wife, mom, entrepreneur/business owner, book writing, Marriage & Family Therapist and elementary school fundraiser aficionado) then you know that 3 books in your thirties is what us wise-girl’s post twenties try to tackle, and will likely achieve in that pull-a-miracle-out-of-our-Ugg-Boots kinda way we do things.

Here they are, in no particular order.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

The book was first published in 1988, and since Coehlo has written and published other excellent reads, but The Alchemist is a life-read. The book is set hundreds of years ago in a small town in Spain, but take the reader to Egypt on a treasure hunt for a young shepherd’s boy (Santiago’s) life purpose.

Now, while a fable told of a shepherd boy, may seem boring, I assure you, this book is riddled with day to day life connections about our own personal quest. It seems once in our 30’s we come to terms with that which we set out to become in our twenties, and the place which we have landed. We begin question fate, life purpose, and our greater meaning as we start to realize our own mortality. While this book is a timeless read for all age, having been told in fable style, I believe in your 30’s you are really able to connect the dots, with a greater understanding.

Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

Her book was published in February of 2012, and since I first read it a few months back, I have intended to write a lengthy review. Why does this book make the life list of books to read in your 30’s? Because it tells the complicated story of what our heart wants to do in life, and what we sometimes end up forsaking for logic. Unlike the summers filled with weddings of our twenties, in our thirties, we often find ourselves sharing a cup of coffee with an old friend, hearing the woes of divorce and the one that got away. It seems that our thirties are filled with the polar opposites of happiness and sadness, marriage and divorce, baby showers and funerals. And that we live in the gully between them, fully relishing in the good times, and commandeering our way through the bad.

The Orchid House shares heartbreak, and love rekindled, but told in a way so incredibly relatable to anyone who has ever wondered the who, when and why of those we love, and those who take our heart, or even just our breath away, and the devastating things we experience from the love we share in life.

The story is set in modern day England, but takes us back to Thailand decades early through a story told through the eyes of an aging grandmother, to her granddaughter. says, “When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Their search takes them back to the 1930s when a former heir to Wharton Park married his young society bride on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt on generations to come.”

Get out your highlighter and be prepared to enjoy some notable quotes.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I questioned this third book tremendously. Because there are so many others books, some many years older (like Little Women) and some fresh off the press (Glass Castle, and Hoot), that might better fill this spot. But my husband, who is an avid reader, also loved this book. And thus, I felt that this would be a well rounded selection.

This book is told through the eyes of the dog. And while that may seem juvenile, this is just about the wisest hound around. The story takes us through the everyday life of your average person living in middle America. A man (Denny), who owns a dog (Enzo), falls in love with a woman, they have a baby, and the woman becomes terminally ill. Denny is a race car driver, and Enzo spends his days with Denny watching racing videos who is learning how to balance the fear of racing in the fear, with the excitement of living life to the fullest.

The story is told so inspirationally through Enzo, that it touches every fiber of your being, and makes you laugh out loud at times from some of the quirky viewpoints. Again, I connect it whole heartedly with life in your thirties, which is often a fine balance of enjoying your youth, with the impending reality of aging.

In our thirties the day to day gives way to exciting times and devastating times, and as we begin to experience the reality of our aging bodies, and the monotonous grime of work and bills our prayers shift from “pretty please” to “thank God” and “why me?”

I could recreate the wheel, but my January 2010 review, still seems applicable, “I don't usually rate a book 5 stars, but this is one of those "must reads" for men, women and children. The story of the life of Denny from his dog Enzo's perspective is filled with complete inspiration, quotes like "that which we manifest is before us" and "you go where your eyes go" imply that we have the power to change our destiny. Despite that the story has a sad basis for a foundation, I still found myself chuckling out loud. This was our January bookclub pick, and I highly recommend it for other bookclubs. Truly, an excellent read all around...I'm waiting for the follow up, even though it's not "real life."

This bonus book is not for everyone, but it's for's for people who have done some incredible work soul searching and are ready to dive a little deeper.

You Are Here by Thich Naht Hahn

Hahn is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and peace activist. In this incredible self-help book he's drives the belief that forgiveness of ourselves is required. There is no better moment than the present moment. He dives into the notion that even a red light is an opportunity to embrace, a moment to reflect, and a moment for gratitude.

This book single handedly shifted my perception on life following a traumatic car accident. Though he uses some descriptive and deep terms, this book is easily readable by someone who is just diving into the notion of mindfulness.

Hahn takes years of negative self talk that you have been whispering to yourself, and gives you something beautiful to believe instead. You are here, and there is no better thing in the world than that.