T Nation

Books for Twenty Somethings


Apologies if this thread has already been done, but I had a quick look and couldn't find anything.

What are some of the books you've read that have had a profound influence on your life? In particular, which books gave you insight that you wish you had just after leaving university/college to help guide you through your Twenties and into your Thirties? This is kind of one of those "if only I knew then what I know now" threads but with books instead. It can be fiction or non-fiction, it just has to be something that personally affected you and you think every Twenty-something should read.


“The Fountainhead” & “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand
"The War of Art" by Stephen Pressfield
"Beyond Good and Evil" by Nietzsche

Those are just a few that came to the front of my mind. I will keep adding to this list and am very interested in what other people will recommend.


Go back to the beginning. Read the Bible, the Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aneid, all the stuff you should have read in High School but didn’t because you were either too lazy or the education system failed you. Plutarch, Ovid, Plato. Just dig in.

The reason being that everything you read now was written by people who read and know all of that intimately. It will help you to understand the conversation.


I was 2 classes short of an english major, so I read a lot in college… an ungodly amount of shakespeare, so I took a break after and read the newspaper front to b ack daily, along with barron’s, and a few other magazines (money, forbes (sucks), fortune (better than expected), time, newsweek, etc.). I find the weekly news magazines even better now, because they distill all the information found out over the week into what you really need to know and go more in depth than some other sources.

Actual books I wish I had read younger:
-The Happiness Hypothesis by Haidt - puts things into perspective, based on science
-Remembrance of Things Past by Proust - honestly, the plot and all is pretty dull, but it’s written so well it doesn’t matter, but it’s not the type of book to read casually… you have to put time in and read for longer periods to get into the groove, like shakespeare
-Algebra - Not a real book, but I wish I had done something to help retain my quant skills more
-Difficult Conversations - It’s kind of a management/negotiation book, but it’s basically conflict resolution
-More fiction

Honorable mentions because I could see some people getting something out of it:
-The alchemist
-The Art of the Start
-On the Road
-Down and Out in London and Paris
-A long biography of some notorious figure (I read Stalin). I wouldn’t have it be anyone too recent, and definitely not an autobiography


The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I don’t follow it completely but it gave me an entirely new outlook on debt and how to manage my finances.


Also, Influence by Robert Cialdini - this really makes you aware of all the ways people, salesman and marketing try to manipulate your natural human tendencies.


I learned to love books at an early age. Here are a few influential, at least to me, books and works that I read as a young man.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu
The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
Annapurna by Maurice Herzog
The Unabridged Works of Edgar Alan Poe

One that seems to be forgotten today. You really should pick this up, get comfortable with your favorite drink, and get lost in the pages.

The Unabridged Works of Rudyard Kipling

 The Young British Soldier

When the ‘arf-made recruity goes out to the East
’E acts like a babe an’ ‘e drinks like a beast,
An’ 'e wonders because 'e is frequent deceased
Ere 'e’s fit for to serve as a soldier.
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
So-oldier OF the Queen!

Now all you recruities what’s drafted to-day,
You shut up your rag-box an’ ‘ark to my lay,
An’ I’ll sing you a soldier as far as I may:
A soldier what’s fit for a soldier.
Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .

First mind you steer clear o’ the grog-sellers’ huts,
For they sell you Fixed Bay’nets that rots out your guts –
Ay, drink that ‘ud eat the live steel from your butts –
An’ it’s bad for the young British soldier.
Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .

When the cholera comes – as it will past a doubt –
Keep out of the wet and don’t go on the shout,
For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,
An’ it crumples the young British soldier.
Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .

But the worst o’ your foes is the sun over’ead:
You must wear your 'elmet for all that is said:
If 'e finds you uncovered ‘e’ll knock you down dead,
An’ you’ll die like a fool of a soldier.
Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .

If you’re cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,
Don’t grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;
Be handy and civil, and then you will find
That it’s beer for the young British soldier.
Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .

Now, if you must marry, take care she is old –
A troop-sergeant’s widow’s the nicest I’m told,
For beauty won’t help if your rations is cold,
Nor love ain’t enough for a soldier.
'Nough, 'nough, 'nough for a soldier . . .

If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
To shoot when you catch 'em – you’ll swing, on my oath! –
Make 'im take ‘er and keep ‘er: that’s Hell for them both,
An’ you’re shut o’ the curse of a soldier.
Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

When first under fire an’ you’re wishful to duck,
Don’t look nor take ‘eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you’re livin’, and trust to your luck
And march to your front like a soldier.
Front, front, front like a soldier . . .

When ‘arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
Don’t call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
She’s human as you are – you treat her as sich,
An’ she’ll fight for the young British soldier.
Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .

When shakin’ their bustles like ladies so fine,
The guns o’ the enemy wheel into line,
Shoot low at the limbers an’ don’t mind the shine,
For noise never startles the soldier.
Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .

If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!


can’t go wrong with Emerson either


How to win friends and influence people, by dale Carnegie. There is nothing groundbreaking in this book, but I read it every couple years to make sure I haven’t been neglecting any effortless, yet important, habits.

This is your brain on music, by Daniel levitin. This didn’t have any impact on my professional development, but music is a passion of mine and it changed the way I listen to and compose music.


“WTF are books, those are longer than 140 characters, i cant play xbox while reading” - typical 20 something kid


The autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. Think it was Spike Lee who said this a book every man, regardless of color, should read. I agree. Absolutely phenomenal book.

There are no children here by Alex Kotlowitz. I’ve read this book three times and counting. Maybe my favorite book.

Really interested in what others have to say here. About to start Mein Kampf. Again. Started this damn book three separate times and have never made it to 200 pages. Older now and am ready to get it done.

Great thread.


I second Total Money Makeover. You don’t have to follow it but I think everyone should read it a few times in their teens and again at their high school graduation. I wish I read it the first time at 16 instead of 26.


It does well for a twenty something who has life figured out to read about some of the greatest minds ever struggling with the same issues we have today. I found this to be an excellent introduction considering it explains the works of others, jumping straight into Descartes or Hobbes, or even Plato may be daunting.


[quote]broyourmybro wrote:
How to win friends and influence people, by dale Carnegie.

On my book shelf…The story of Lincoln and not unnecessarily condemning or criticizing people sticks with me always.


“The Rock Says” by The Rock


To understand this world:

1984 - George Orwell
Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited - Aldous Huxley
Propaganda - Edward Bernays

To understand the other one:

DMT: The Spirit Molecule - Dr. Rick Strassman
Journey of Souls - Dr. Michael Newton
Qigong Empowerment - Shou-Yu Liang and Wen-Ching Wu


[quote]Alpha wrote:
“The Fountainhead” & “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand
"The War of Art" by Stephen Pressfield
"Beyond Good and Evil" by Nietzsche

Those are just a few that came to the front of my mind. I will keep adding to this list and am very interested in what other people will recommend.[/quote]

I’m not making fun but The Fountainhead along with Atlas Shrugged are two books I wish I hadn’t read in my 20s


1984 is one of the best books ever written.
Tropic of Cancer has its moments in between all the blah-blah-blah, hookers with lice.


iron john, Mind OS, Mastery these books were recommended by AC in confession thread


Hayek’s Road to Serfdom
Thomas Paine Rights of Man

Road to Serfdom is really interesting because it shows how current civilization is degrading back to feudal times. Written in the 1940’s.

The Richest Man in Babylon is fantastic. This is the kind of stuff we should have read in High School. Brilliantly simple money management from 2000 years ago. It’s written more like a novel too which made it easy and fun to read.