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20 Books to Get You Through Your 20s

Happy New Year! To kick off our “New Year, New Reads” celebration, we’re giving you books about being Young, Broke, and Fabulous all week long! From relatable fiction that will make you laugh, to cookbooks that will help you survive–we’ve got you covered.

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Fiction

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”

Loosely based on Pride & Prejudice, this modern day take follows Bridget Jones as she obsesses over everything from her love life to her weight. Bridget’s friends play a key role in supporting her and offering advice through all of her struggles—making is a very relatable novel for twenty-somethings.

The Group by Mary McCarthy

“If [she] had come to prefer the company of odd ducks, it was possibly because they had no conception of oddity, or rather, they thought you were odd if you weren’t.

The novel that caused such an uproar that is was banned in some countries is considered to be the original Sex and the City. The Group follows eight post-grads from Vassar College between 1933 and 1940 as they deal with sexism, marriage, family life, and love.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

“I must work harder to achieve my goal of not seeking approval from those whose approval I’m not even sure is important to me.”

Actress Lauren Graham’s first novel is quite charming as it follows Franny—an aspiring actress in the early 90s who is rapidly approaching her self-imposed deadline of getting her big break in three years. The Wall Street Journal says, “Descriptions of the indignities suffered by struggling actresses feel hilariously, and poignantly, authentic” and we think you should give it a chance.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Woe by Junot Diaz

“Success, after all, loves a witness, but failure can’t exist without one.”

Junot Diaz’s novel that won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008 follows the life of Oscar de Leòn—a Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey who is plagued by his family’s curse. Oscar’s search for love and his own identity provides a meaningful expression of what it means to grow up.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”

Playwright Oscar Wilde’s novel explores youth and beauty. Dorian Grey wishes to sell his soul rather than age—thus inflicting a portrait of himself with aging and all of his wrong-doings. It’s a very important tale about the consequences of vanity and just how important youth is.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“There I went again, building up a glamorous picture of a man who would love me passionately the minute he met me, and all out of a few prosy nothings.”

The only novel written by author and poet Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar was originally released in 1963 under a pseudonym. The novel follows Esther, an aspiring writer, as she leaves her home in the suburbs of Boston for a summer internship at a magazine in New York City. After returning home, she suffers from mental illness and feels “trapped” in her own life. A notion that many have felt, this is definitely one to pick up as your feelings might have changed if you read it in high school.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

On the Road is the ultimate road trip. The book follows Sal and Dean (who represent Kerouac and Neal Cassady, respectively) as they travel the United States between 1947 and 1950. The books covers a wide array of themes and lessons, and while you might not be able to go out and explore the country—it’s an interesting perspective.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

“We can’t behave like people in novels, though, can we?”

The Age of Innocence was the first novel written by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction—doing so in 1921. Though it might seem quite outdated, the novel has timeless themes and deals with situations that people are still facing today. Engaged Newland Archer is in love with Ellen—who is married. The characters must decide what is most important: society’s perception, responsibility to others, or love.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

“All this, all of this love we’re talking about, it would just be a memory. Maybe not even a memory. Am I wrong? Am I way off base? Because I want you to set me straight if you think I’m wrong. I want to know. I mean, I don’t know anything, and I’m the first one to admit it.”

The collection of seventeen short stories end with the titular tale: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. Carver explores the theme of love and its inadequacies when it comes to verbally expressing it. In his other stories, he celebrates ordinary people—something that is done less often in literature. His exploration of characters and love offers an interesting perspective for those also trying to figure it all out.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, you must do so in your twenties. Elizabeth Bennet lives in nineteenth century England, in which you were expected to marry a man of wealth. Elizabeth defies social norms by wanting more than wealth and deals with this as the novel explores upbringing and marriage. Twenty-year old Elizabeth Bennet may not be dealing with the same things as you, but she certainly has a modern-day outlook.

Nonfiction

#GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso

“There are secret opportunities hidden inside every failure.”

The founder and CEO of clothing company Nasty Girl tells readers how she got her start. In her early twenties, she was broke and directionless until she started selling vintage clothes on Ebay. Eight years later, it turned into a successful fashion retailer. Sophia Amoruso offers advice and blunt wake-up calls for all aspiring people—twenty-somethings and those at any stage in their life.

F*ck! I’m in my 20s by Emma Koenig

The self-explanatory title paves the way for the realization that you are in fact in your twenties. Koenig’s blog has now been turned into a book so you can explore this new world of your twenties with her handy flow-charts, graphs, and commentary as a guide.

The Money Book for the Young, Broke, and Fabulous by Suze Orman

We’ve all been there: credit card debt, student loans…this list goes on and on. Money management expert Suze Orman offers advice to young people on how to tackle all of these money problems and more.

The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel

While it may not offer you much advice, it’s definitely a hilarious account of Angela Nissel’s days of struggling in college that many can empathize with. Instead of being sad about it, she decided to create a journal that turned these experiences into things others can laugh with her about.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

“You should know I disagree with a lot of traditional advice. For instance, they say the best revenge is living well. I say it’s acid in the face—who will love them now?”

Mindy Kaling’s humorous book goes over everything from what she thinks makes up a best friend to what the perfect amount of fame is. The unconventional tour of Mindy’s life is definitely something you must read. The laugh-out-loud humor will keep you wanting even more!

My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart

“There are certain people who will always seek to criticize. This has nothing to do with you. It must be hard to be inside their head, you know? I mean if they find so much fault in everyone around them… then one can only imagine the faults they must see in themselves.”

This delightful guide to tipsy cooking is a must-read for twenty-somethings. Hannah Hart created her cookbook after a YouTube video of her cooking and drinking went viral. Her book is full of recipes that you can actually make—plus helpful life tips are included.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young

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“Some people are lucky enough to stumble across the right path straight away; most of us only discover what the right one is by going down the wrong one first.”

The memoir by English author Toby Young accounts his failed attempt as a contributing editor for Vanity Fair magazine. He discusses his awkward run-ins with celebrities, relationships, and the difference between the United States and England—specifically between New York and London.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

“The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.”

The bestseller and now motion picture recounts Cheryl Strayed’s journey after her mother’s death and her own divorce. She sets out to hike over a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. The journey ultimately strengthened and healed her—learning valuable lessons along the way that are worth noting.

He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

“Because here’s what guys don’t do if they can’t live without you: They don’t break up with you.”

This book is a perfect guide that is full of dating advice and rules you need to learn in your 20s. The authors basically say that women are wasting their time over-analyzing men because they are just not that complicated. Whatever you may believe on the subject, it’s definitely worth checking out!

My Misspent Youth by Megan Daum

Daum’s essays discuss everything from her want of an authentic connection in a world defined by consumerism, to her un-glamourous job working in a “glamour profession”. Her essays are especially valid for twenty-somethings as they are feeling some of the same wants and desires.

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