15 Books You Need to Read before You Turn 40

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Turning 40 is a milestone for most people. And it can be a quite difficult point in time as well.

Psychologically, many go from trying to get the most out of life to trying to prolong life as much as possible. As the body gets older, we’re reminded daily about how fragile and mortal we are. And we start thinking that we’re past our prime.

However, that’s not necessarily the case. Most people over 40 are past their toughest period with young children and long hours at work. Studies show that happiness goes up in the 40s and later on in life.

And yet people struggle to cope with turning 40. As it turns out,  it’s really a matter of how you think and look at things. Therefore, we suggest that you… it’s really simple… read more!

And, more specifically, we’ve compiled a list of 15 books that we think you need to read before you turn 40. Because they will – each in their own way – prepare you for the transition into and joy of the second half of your life. 

So here we go. Please don’t hesitate to suggest other titles in the comments.

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“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

the year of magical think joan didion
From Joan Didion (pictured above), one of America’s iconic writers, this is a stunning book of honesty and passion.

The author explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: The portrait of a marriage and life that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband, a wife or a child.

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“Middlemarch” by George Eliot

An exploration of a fictional 19th century Midlands town and all of the upheaval that is caused by the technological and scientific advances of the time.

Interestingly complex characters whose lives are further disrupted by the appearance of two outsiders on the scene.

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“The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

Even if you read this one when you were in school, it is definitely worth reading again. It speaks to overcoming life-altering obstacles and horrific events and surviving and thriving in spite of those things.

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“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

A heartbreaking and empowering telling of coming of age in the midst of poverty, rape, racism. Angelou paints a picture in a way no one else can.

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“An Attitude of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life” by M.J. Ryan

Letting yourself show appreciation for the little things in your life helps you to feel happier, healthier, and younger. Noticing what is right with our lives instead of what is wrong is the key to unlocking the full potential in life.

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“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Do we really need to explain this one? I know you read this one in school, but it is definitely worth a second look. The experiences of adulthood will give you a whole new perspective on this amazing classic.

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“Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves, and Patrick Lencioni

Emotional intelligence is critical to success. No doubt about that. This book will help you understand how to use emotional intelligence to achieve your fullest potential. 

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“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey

This book has sold over 25 million copies. Now, 25 million people can’t all be wrong, can they?

This book is regarded as one of the best personal development books of all time. Covey lays out a holistic approach to leading the best life possible and being the best that you can be.

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“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle

The key to enlightenment and true happiness is living in the now.  What a powerful message!

This book is a truly inspiring guide on how our thoughts and emotions can get in the way of living our lives in a truly peaceful and happy way.

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“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl

This book is based on Frankl’s own firsthand experiences in Nazi death camps. He argues that it is not humanly possible to avoid negativity and suffering, but that what we can control is how we react to it and allow it to affect us.

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“Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

People spend most of their lives focusing on their weaknesses and how to overcome them, when what they should be focusing on is their strengths and how to capitalize on them.

After all, it is our strengths that shape us and make us who we are, leading to our successes.

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“Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom

A poignant look at the importance of having mentors and learning that what they can teach us about life are things that you will never learn in any textbook or classroom.

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“The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks

Not just another love story. This is a story about making choices and living with the results of the choices and the hardships that we have to face.

Viewed as either a love story or a tragedy, what it is really about is the journey and deciding what is really important in life.

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“Dear Life” by Alice Munro

Because the fictionalized moments that are so pivotal and life-changing in this fiction work are the same life-changing moments that we need to pay attention to in our own lives.

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“Bossypants” by Tina Fey

This may seem out of place on this list, but trust me, it is definitely something you want to read. It will make you think about a lot of things, like why things are the way they are and what has shaped each and every one of us.

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Whether you are struggling and striving to find the meaning of life, or on a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement, the books on this list will help you to find out more about who you are, where you have been and where you are going.

Often the first step to learning to move forward in our lives is looking inward. This list includes some of the must-read books that many have regarded as the best pieces of the written word to help shape your future and to find meaning.

Some may be books that you have read already when you were younger, but they definitely warrant another look now that you are older and have some of the experiences of adulthood to shape your thinking.

Give them a read. You will not regret it.

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