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10 Books To Read Before You Grow Up

by TMach5
fact checked by Alex Hanton

There are many lists throughout the web about books you should read before you die. I find that peculiar. What good is reading a piece literature that can give you a whole new perspective on life “before” you die? Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to have a list of titles you should read before you start truly “living?”

Young adults have a lot time on their hands. Sprinkling that time with books that will make them better prepared for life’s peaks and valleys can’t hurt. Especially at a stage in life when they can absorb it without the distractions of adulthood. The titles my teen gravitates to are wonderful if she plans to settle down with a handsome vampire or start her own crusade against evil wizards.

High School isn’t helping either. The reading lists she brings home hasn’t changed much in 30 years. “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “All ‘BORING’ on the Western Front”, “Lord of the Flies” all great books, but basically one-dimensional. Racism…Bad, War…Bad, Civilization…Good, o.k… we get it! How about titles that inspire, teach and help you learn from others mistakes. Because growing up is tough, but being a grown-up is tougher without a clue to what lies ahead.

Here’s a list of books that I’m encouraging my own teen to read before running off to college. I know if I had, I would have been better prepared for this big, bad and beautiful world.

Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments.


Life and Death of Harriett Frean
Mary Sinclair


Harriett’s psychologically incestuous affection for her parents ultimately leads to misery, for herself, and those around her. No reader can walk away from this book without realizing the importance of leaving the nest and establishing you own identity. The lesson for teens is that to be an individual you must rebel against your parents at some stage in your development. If not, perpetual adolescence in adulthood will sabotage any chance happiness and self-respect. So erase the possibility of running home to mum & dad’s sofa when life gets tough.


Animal Farm
George Orwell

Animal Farm Poster

Don’t blindly trust your leaders!

Any government or political movement (not just Commies), no matter how well intentioned, can be transformed from a force of good to one of oppression if its citizens yield to State sponsored violence and propaganda. Political leaders, like all of us, are fallible. And if left unchallenged, can destroy a nation from within. Animal Farm poignantly demonstrates this reality. It stand as a lesson to all young readers that liberty and equality must be vigilantly guarded on a daily basis.


Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments
Robert Brent

Golden Book Of Chemistry Expriments

This book has been out-of-print for a long time. But if you can find it…get it. It’s a wonderful introduction to the basic elements that make up our world. Ever wonder how to make Carbon Dioxide? or collect Hydrogen in a test tube? make your own soap? The Golden Book of Chemistry will show you how. This book serves two purposes for the young adult. It can spark a love of life long scientific pursuit or confirm, once and for all, that the sciences are not for you. Either way, the Golden Book is a keeper.


A Common Sense Guide to the Economy
Thomas Sowell


If you can put aside Mr. Sowell’s political affiliations long enough to read this book you will discover that Economic issues are not that difficult to comprehend. No matter what point on the political spectrum you put yourself in, the rules of economics are neutral. And knowledge of basic economic principles are essential to understand how our modern world functions. Concepts ranging from economies of scale to the price of a paper clip are explained in a readable and compelling style. But most importantly, the esoteric jargon used by media pundits and politicians to describe economic issues will no longer be a mystery.


Paris in the Fifties
Stanley Karnow


Whether you love or hate the French, there’s just “something” about them that magnetically draws us into their culture. This book is a collection of memories from the authors’ time in Paris as a magazine correspondent in the 1950’s. He touches on many unique aspects of French culture and history to bring his account to life. Having lived there myself for a couple of years, it’s amazing how much the French haven’t changed in 50 years, but I digress. The book benefits a young reader by describing a culture similar to our own but fundamentally different in many strange and wonderful ways. So, get out and explore the World.


Bel Ami
Guy de Maupassant


Bel Ami is a classic (and copyright FREE) novel about a former soldier turned Parisian journalist in the late 19th century. Georges Duroy is a shameless scoundrel who will use any means at his disposal to get ahead. Although scandalous at the time of publication, Georges’ tactics are tame by today’s standards and quite entertaining. Young readers need to know that throughout their adult lives they will come across their own “Georges Duroy’s” and will be better prepared to overcome the charm of these parasites.


The Holographic Universe
Michael Talbot


Talbot’s investigation into the possible nature of reality is, at the very least, thought-provoking and at best mind-blowing. The first chapters in the book deal with how the Holographic Model could explain the nature of reality and how our brains interpret the universe around us. Both skeptics and mystics will walk away with something valuable from this book. The benefit to young adults is to provide an alternate view about the true nature of our World. A view in which answers may lie beyond what religious dogma, and “this-is-all-there-is” science can reveal. It’s not the easiest read in the list, but its definitely one you’ll keep on your bookshelf for a long time.


Candide: Or Optimism


Ultimately, the goal of life is to find your own patch of land and tend to it…or something like that.

If God could not possibly create anything but a perfect world then mankind’s brutality against itself must be part of His “perfect” design. Candide and his companions endure a series brutal hardships mirroring real-world 18th century events and narrowly escaping them. Voltaire’s hyper-detailed narrative of these horrible events actually make them humorously fun to read. Just imagine someone today writing a tale incorporating 9/11, The War on Terror, the AIDS epidemic, The Rwandan Genocide, The Japanese Tsunami and somehow make it relevant and funny. That’s Candide.


The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist1

The Alchemist tells the tale of a young shepherd in Andalusia whose quest to find the meaning of a dream leads him on an adventure through many struggles and ultimately to his own fulfillment Fortune, poverty, love, war, bravery, fear, and heaping spoonfuls of mysticism fill the pages of this uncomplicated story. The Universe wants you to “succeed” and will present you with clues to help you reach your goals. Those clues, however, don’t always follow a straight line. The twists, turns and delays encountered on your path are an important part of the journey to who you really are and where you truly belong. So, trust yourself.


The Complete Book Of Sauces
Sallie Y. Williams


Saints and philosophers alike have debated over the centuries about what makes us human. Why are we hairless apes different from the rest of the animal kingdom? The answer is simple. Humans COOK their food and animals DON’T. Therefore it is necessary for all participants in the human race to have a basic knowledge of cooking beyond simply boiling water. Mastering four or five sauce recipes from this book is sufficient to make you a proficient human being. After all, a salad without vinaigrette is just rabbit food.

fact checked by Alex Hanton