Adultescence Lifestyle

Read These 9 Books in Your Twenties to Help With Your Quarter-Life Crisis

Save Moby Dick for next year.

Your 20s are a strange, confusing, and fabulous time. Taylor Swift, please don’t hit us with a plagiarism lawsuit. If you just graduated from college and are asking, “what now?”, filling your shelves with books to read in your 20s might be a good place to start. After you take off your cap and gown, of course.

Whether you’re a fan of self-help and non-fiction or you prefer your cautionary tales and insights to be packaged in a fun novel, we rounded up the books we think every twenty-something should read. So long, textbooks.

Books to Read in Your Twenties - books

Books to Read in Your 20s

1. The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

The Defining Decade is like an ice bath for twenty-somethings. Dr. Meg Jay takes a practical approach to looking at your twenties based on her time working as a therapist with thousands of clients.

It’s tempting to put the “real world” off, she explains. It’s easy to think, “I can save money later” or “I can apply for my dream job in the future.” But Dr. Jay informs us that our twenties are not, in fact, the new thirties. (Math never was my strong suit.)

Your 20s are a pivotal time to grow your identity capital, and this book emphasizes why you should use them wisely – and exactly how to do that.
Books to Read in Your Twenties - The Defining Decade
Available on Amazon.


2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Have you ever looked back on your life and regretted taking a left instead of a right? Or wondered if your life would have turned out differently if you’d made a couple of different choices?

The Midnight Library explores the meaning of regret, how it impacts our happiness, and why, ultimately, it’s futile to get stuck on the what-ifs. This book is a must-read for anyone with chronic indecisive disorder (looking at you, Gemini).

The format of the book is a novel, not a self-help book, which allows the message to come through in a non-preachy way. It is honestly a great read for anyone of all ages, but especially if you’re in your 20s.
Books to Read in Your Twenties - The Midnight Library
Available on Amazon.


3. Get Good With Money by Tiffany Aliche

Getting your financial sh!t together is one of the most important things you can do in your 20s. Tiffany Aliche, also known as The Budgetnista, shares her personal story of getting out of mountains of debt and becoming “financially whole.”

It’s a relatable take on personal finance, and it’s especially written with women of color in mind (three cheers for representation!). Aliche outlines the ten steps everyone should take to get their ducks in a row and feel less anxious about money.

Get Good With Money a must read for twenty-somethings, and the sooner, the better. All those lattes aren’t going to pay for themselves.
Books to Read in Your Twenties - Get Good With Money
Available on Amazon.


4. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

What does it mean to be Black in America? Until we understand the structural injustices that are built into the very fabric of American life, we can’t even attempt to dismantle them.

So You Want to Talk About Race is candid, passionate, and direct. Ijeoma Oluo understands, both from personal experience and anecdotal evidence, the reality of life as a person of color in America. She doesn’t sugarcoat it, and for white folks, it might be a hard pill to swallow.

But it’s worth the effort and the discomfort to get to the deeper message: we need to have a conversation about race, and we need to have it now. This book should be required reading for all twenty-somethings to educate themselves as they head out to make a mark on the world and become a better citizen.
Books to Read in Your Twenties - So You Want to Talk About Race
Available on Amazon.


5. Educated by Tara Westover

Educated is all at once a coming-of-age story, a message of resilience and survival, and an ode to the value of an education. It’s a memoir of author Tara Westover’s experience growing up in a survivalist family in Idaho, where she was unable to go to school or access an education until the first time she entered a classroom at age 17.

Equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring, Educated covers all the challenging parts of growing up: navigating difficult family dynamics, forging your own path, and discovering who you are.

If nothing else, it’ll make you really grateful for that overpriced piece of paper you have hanging on your office wall. A good education is priceless. Now someone go tell our student loan providers that.
Books to Read in Your Twenties - Educated
Available on Amazon.


6. Atomic Habits by James Clear

One of the hardest parts about graduating from college and becoming an adult is that your time is suddenly lacking structure, where structure always existed before. Atomic Habits is the guide you need if you’re struggling to stay motivated and create long-lasting habits in adulthood.

Whether you’re trying to stick to a new workout regimen, impress your boss with your work ethic, or just become less stressed and happier with your life in general, this book is sure to provide a nugget of wisdom or two.
Books to Read in Your Twenties - Atomic Habits
Available on Amazon.


7. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

There’s something so irresistible about a good memoir. And Wild by Cheryl Strayed is just that. After feeling as if she had lost everything early in her 20s – her mother died, and her marriage ended – Strayed set out on a journey of self-discovery along the Pacific Coast Trail.

Along the thousand-mile hike, she found an inner strength and resolve she didn’t know she had. And then she wrote a book about it, so all you have to do is hike to your local book store to glean the same life lessons.

Perfect for anyone doubting their own self worth, this memoir is a must-read in your 20s. The movie version starring Reese Witherspoon is worth a watch, too!
Books to Read in Your Twenties - Wild
Available on Amazon.


8. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Throughout your four years of college, can you estimate how many times you were told to follow your passions? Letting your passions guide your decisions and career path is a mistake, explains Cal Newport in his research-backed book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Twenty-somethings feeling the pressure to figure out their dream job and ASAP will breathe a big sigh of relief upon finishing this book. Newport posits that when we do things we’re good at, we’re happier. And we get good at things with time, experience, and effort.

So if you don’t love your current admin job, don’t sweat it. As you gain experience and move up in your field, it’s highly likely that you’ll develop a passion for it. And if not, there’s always grad school.
Books to Read in Your Twenties - So Good They Can't Ignore You
Available on Amazon.


9. Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

What does it take to maintain a friendship for life? And why does society place such a strong emphasis on the importance of developing romantic relationships and not platonic ones?

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, co-hosts of the popular podcast Call Your Girlfriend, write about the ups and downs of their own friendship in a way that is relatable, raw, and entertaining.

Big Friendship an ode to “society’s most underappreciated relationship,” and it makes a strong case for why friendship shouldn’t be treated as such. After you finish this book, you’ll want to call your bestie.
Books to Read in Your Twenties - Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close
Available on Amazon.

By Laura Davis

Laura is the co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast and blog for post grads, where she writes about friendship, dating, and career with the mission of helping guide twenty-somethings through early adulthood. She has written and edited for a variety of lifestyle publications, including Let's Eat Cake, Popular Science, and Flixed.

When she's not typing away on her laptop, you can find Laura working on her MBA at Boston College, listening to Taylor Swift, or sweating it out at an OrangeTheory class. Follow her on Instagram @LauraKristine21 and LinkedIn.

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