Being in your twenties isn’t easy. Suddenly forced to leave the comforts of childhood and familiarity of a school schedule behind, you’re basically thrust into adulthood. It’s an exciting decade, but also, at times, a scary and overwhelming one. Nicknamed the “defining decade” by psychologist Dr. Meg Jay, these ten years are ones filled with growth, defining moments, new experiences, and finding your true self. But you don’t have to navigate these years alone. There is a wide array of books out there written from those who have been there themselves. And, they cover a wide range of topics, including relationships, career advice, and relatable narratives. Here are the 11 authors that you definitely should be reading.
Tara Schuster is an accomplished entertainment executive who then went on to become a mental health advocate and best-selling author. Most notable is her self-help novel Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies, which was a finalist for Goodreads’ Best Non-Fiction Book of 2020. In it, Schuster bestows the knowledge she wishes she had entering her defining decade. Touching upon topics such as emotional wounds, self-limiting beliefs, self-criticism, and how to create a life you actually want, this guide should be on every twenty-something’s TBR.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard about this next author’s work. Bridget Jones’ Diary is the first installment of the Bridget Jones series by Helen Fielding. The series was later adapted into movies starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant. Whether you’ve seen the films or not, I highly recommend reading Fielding’s books. While Bridget is 32 at the start of the first novel, she is one of the most relatable characters in the history of literature. Fielding’s witty writing will offer you numerous laughs and serves as reminder to not be so hard on yourself.
Feel like your twenties don’t matter? Think again. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, argues that these ten years make up the most transformative time in our lives. In The Defining Decade, Jay provides the tools necessary to make the most of these years, offering research and advice on numerous topics including work, love, friendship, technology, fertility, and the brain. Further, Jay weaves all of this information with accounts from various twenty-somethings themselves, making it a very provocative read.
Matt Haig is the best-selling author of numerous critically-acclaimed novels. One of his more well-known works is The Midnight Library, which follows Nora Seed after she finds herself in an enchanted library. There, each book Nora takes off the shelf offers a glimpse into what her life would be like had she made a different choice. What if she had never quit her band? What if she had pursued her dream of becoming a glaciologist? Nora explores these questions as she traverses through the library in order to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, as well as what makes it worth living in the first place. Many will relate to this dark yet magical story.
Dolly Alderton is a journalist and former Sunday Times columnist. Notably, her debut memoir Everything I Know About Love details the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of early adulthood, including what it’s like to fall in love, find a job, and get dumped. Weaving together personal stories, satirical observations, lists, recipes, and more, Alderton’s writing feels like a conversation with your funniest older sister. Further, it’s a must read for anyone trying to navigate these times of terrifying yet hopeful uncertainty. For further reading, Alderton also has a fiction novel called Ghosts. In it, she touches upon ex-boyfriends, ghosting, imperfect parents, friends with kids, and more.
In search of more relatable characters? Well, look no further. Sally Rooney is the author of multiple best-selling novels and the 2017 recipient of the Sunday Times Author of the Year Award. One of her must-reads is Normal People, which follows Connell and Marianne. Seemingly, the two are polar opposites. However, they manage to strike up a life-altering conversation. In the years that follow, despite encountering new people and possibilities, they still find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. This story is one of mutual fascination, friendship, and love. Further, it is an accurate portrayal of the transformative power of relationships.
Cheryl Strayed was only 22 when she felt like she had lost everything. That year, her mother had passed away and her family scattered. Further, due to her extreme grief, it also marked the end of her marriage. Four years later, at the age of 26, Strayed felt like she had nothing left to lose. As a result, she decided to embark on a journey of over a thousand miles alone with no prior experience or training.
Strayed recounts all of this in her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. In it, she captures the terrors and pleasures she faced, forging ahead against all odds on a path that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. This read serves as a reminder that even at rock bottom, we can build ourselves back up again.
Kiley Reid is a best-selling author with multiple published works and short stories. Most noteworthy is Such a Fun Age, which was declared a Best Book of the Year by numerous media outlets. The story follows Emira, a broke 25-year-old who makes her money babysitting and doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. At the beginning, a store security guard accuses Emira, a Black woman, of kidnapping the white child she takes care of. After the video goes viral, the child’s mother, Alix, feels terrible. Resolving to make things right, she tries to help mentor Emira. Reid’s piercing social commentary tackles transactional relationships and the complicated reality of growing up, making this a must read.
You probably know of Shonda Rhimes, the prolific producer and screenwriter of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Bridgerton. But did you know that she’s also a published author? Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person follows Rhimes on her biggest challenge ever: a year of saying yes to everything that scares her. In it, she works through her fear of public appearances and interviews, pushes herself out of her comfort zone, and learns more about herself than she ever knew. With our twenties consisting of some of our most important years, we can all benefit from saying yes a little more.
Lauren Groff is the award-winning author of four different books, one of which is Fates and Furies. In this novel, Groff artfully crafts a story that showcases the perspectives of two different partners about their relationship over the course of 24 years. The first half of the book provides the point of view of the husband, Lotto. He believes their relationship to be a happy portrayal of domestic bliss. On the other hand, we learn his wife Mathilde’s perception of their relationship in the second half, and it’s a much darker view. This is an eye-opening read that highlights human imperfections and how people can never really know one another, even when they live together.
Dubbed by some as “the best columnist of her generation”, Heather Havrilesky has years of experience giving advice. As the writer behind New York Magazine‘s popular Ask Polly column, she has also gone on to write the equally acclaimed guide How to Be a Person in the World. In it, Havrilesky answers a wide variety of questions and offers tough love in order to steer readers through the “what ifs” and “I don’t knows” of modern life. Further, this book serves as reminder that even in your toughest times, you’re not alone.
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