Updated April 2020. Life as a 20-something isn’t always fun or pretty. I know, I’ve had the quarter-life crisis. At times, it’s very challenging and makes you really dig deep into your soul for answers. But there are other places you can look, too… like your bookshelf. I’ve always loved reading, but I’ll admit that, right now, I don’t read for pleasure as much as I should or would like to.
There’s something about curling up with a good book (an actual, physical book, not an e-book) before bed or on a rainy day that just calms the mind and takes you away from whatever is bothering you on any given day. A book can be an escape, and it can also provide a sense of comfort and understanding for anything you may be going through or feeling in your 20s.
I did a lot of reading shortly after I finished my master’s, but before I’d found a job. I didn’t feel stressed, but I wasn’t sleeping and was subconsciously anxious. Making time to read for pleasure helped make that month and a half between graduation and starting my job a little easier.
Here are 16 books to add to your reading list!
I haven’t read all of these, but they’re on my list (and many are on my bookshelf) and I can’t wait to work my way through them.
Grace Not Perfection, Emily Ley — This is what’s currently on my night stand. If you don’t already know, Emily Ley is the designer and entrepreneur who created the Simplified Planner. She writes about life as a mom, wife and business owner, and how having grace with herself and trying to not focus on perfection has helped in all areas of her life. While I can’t exactly relate to the “mom” or “business owner” aspects, her perspective on managing stress and anxiety is gold. Highly recommend!
Beautiful Uncertainty, Mandy Hale — My friend Caroline (of Adventures in Nonsense) read this book recently, and she loved it so much that she sent me a copy. She said she’s never had a book speak to her the way this one did, and the way the author writes makes it an easy book to get sucked into and read within a few days. Once I finish Grace Not Perfection, that book is next!
You are a Badass, Jen Sincero — Several of my friends have read this and loved it. Sometimes you just need a little boost of encouragement and a reminder of how awesome you are, and I’ve been told that this book does a great job of delivering that when it’s most needed.
The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin — This was one of my post-grad-school reads. In a year-long experiment, the author strived to find happiness in all areas of her life by blending personal experience with scientific research. It’s no wonder this book was a New York Times best-seller because it’s incredibly thought-provoking and insightful.
Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed — I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much I love this book on the blog before. Cheryl Strayed once masqueraded online as the advice writer behind “Dear Sugar.” This book is a collection of some of her columns, and it’s one of the most honest and heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read.
The Waste Land — Yes, the one by T.S. Eliot. While this is more of an epic work of poetry, it’s still worthy of being on your reading list. “My friend, blood shaking my heart, the awful daring of a moment’s surrender which an age of prudence can never retract, by this, and only this, we have existed…” (from the fifth section) is one of my favorite passages in all literature.16 books every 20-something needs on their reading list Click To Tweet
Living Well, Spending Less, Ruth Soukup — If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed and a little out of control, then this book is for you. Through personal narratives, faith and practical planning, author Ruth Soukup guides you through what it takes to foster a more organized, balanced and stress-free life.
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho — My friend and mentor Lauren sent me this book after I had my quarter-life crisis. I’ll admit I haven’t read it all the way through yet, and one day I will. The parts I have read are full of wisdom and encouragement for the main character and his pursuit of finding his treasure.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald — There aren’t many books I read in high school that I’d willingly read again later in life. Gatsby is one that I would reread in a heartbeat. It’s a classic novel about the American Dream, falling in love and life in 1920s America. If you haven’t read it yet, read it.
Anything by Shakespeare — I’m 100% serious. It’s easy for me to say since I was an English major and enjoyed my Shakespeare classes, but pick one comedy and one tragedy and reread them. Some of the topics and characters in his work are heavy and can be difficult to understand as a teenager, so go back to them as a 20-something. My personal favorites are A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet.Need to update your reading list? Here are 16 titles you can add. Click To Tweet
If You Find This Letter, Hannah Brencher — Starting a new chapter of your life isn’t easy. This book chronicles the author’s first year living on her own in NYC and all the struggles she faced during that time. She found her peace in writing “love letters” to people and places she saw, and leaving them throughout the city for others to find.
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, Kelly Williams Brown — Practical life advice written with genuine honesty, wit and sometimes a little profanity. This book is as entertaining as it is helpful.
Invisible Cities, Italo Carlino — This was our required reading assignment prior to my study abroad in London my junior year of college. I’ve reread it several times since then and it gets better each time. If you’re passionate about travel and exploring new places, then this book will make you want to plan your next adventure tomorrow.
Natural Disaster: I Cover Them, I Am One, Ginger Zee — Y’all, what a raw, honest read. I’ve admired Ginger Zee on Good Morning America for many years, but reading her memoir took that respect to a whole new level. She shares about her career, marriages, failed relationships, mental health, and so much more.
The Good Girl, Mary Kubica — Again with suspense. This book kept me turning the pages for hours on end. One chapter you think a certain person is the good guy, then the next chapter you change your mind, and vice versa. I totally didn’t see the end coming!
One non-fiction book in a field you’re passionate about — The exact book is up to you, and it doesn’t have to be in your career field. I’m a big believer that you never stop learning and should never stop pursuing knowledge. My creative director gave me Hey Whipple, Squeeze This several months ago, which is about creating the best marketing and advertising. Definitely an insightful book that shaped a little bit of how I operate at my job.
A favorite book from your childhood — That sounds weird, but I would reread Matilda by Roald Dahl today (if I had a copy with me). I read that book upwards of 20 times throughout elementary and middle school; it just never got old to me. You never know what your childhood favorite may teach you years later.
If these aren’t enough, here are some other posts and sites with other great recommendations for your reading list:
- 35 Books to Read in Your 20s (Buzzfeed)
- 27 Books to Read if You’re Having a Quarter-Life Crisis (BookBub Blog)
- Book Reviews from GenTwenty.com
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure of what you’re doing with your life, reach for a book. You may find all of the answers, advice and guidance you need within its pages.
What good books have you read lately? What’s next on your reading list?