Best Books To Read In Your 20s: Top 7 Titles Most Recommended By Experts

There are some books that everyone should pick up at pivotal points in life — like your 20s. These are titles that have been lauded as having the ability to impact a person’s outlook on life. Why? These authors explore common themes of self-discovery that usually plague young minds. That is why our list of the seven best books to read in your 20s collects some sage advice from authors on the subject of emerging adulthood.

Regardless of your path, we all seem to go through similar phases as we navigate our 20s. This may mean figuring out your career path, moving out of your parents’ house, or steering through the dating scene. Hopefully, these books can help to sort out some of those universal doubts that tend to stream through our minds at this age.

Common Stages of Your 20s:

  • Early Twenties (20-23): This period is often marked by exploration, experimentation, and self-discovery. Young adults are often navigating the transition from college to the workforce, establishing their independence, and forming new relationships.
  • Mid-Twenties (24-27): During this phase, the focus shifts towards career development, financial stability, and personal growth. Individuals are often seeking clarity on their career paths, building professional networks, and making choices that shape their future.
  • Late Twenties (28-29): As the decade draws to a close, the focus expands to encompass long-term goals, relationships, and life purpose. Individuals may be considering marriage, starting families, and contemplating their place in the world.

As you go through these stages of self-discovery, it may be helpful to have a hand to hold along the way. Perhaps nothing mythic, but the authors of these titles do have useful opinions that many young adults find helpful. Our sources helped us sift through volumes of books to discover the best books to read in your 20s. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Woman reading a book (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

The List: Best Books to Read in Your 20s, According to Experts


1. “The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay (2012)

This book falls somewhere between self-help and strategic planning. This well-known book is lauded by our sources. Leaders raves, “Perhaps the most well-known book written specifically for readers in their 20s, ‘The Defining Decade’ discusses this transformative decade, based on … research by author Meg Jay. The book highlights the importance of balance in your 20s, engaging in activities that allow for self-discovery, and finding purpose in your work and personal life.”

“The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay (2012)
“The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay (2012)

Pure Wow praises, “In ‘The Defining Decade,’ clinical psychologist Meg Jay argues that 20-somethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what she sees as the most transformative time of our lives. Drawing on more than two decades of work with thousands of clients, Jay combines the latest science and studies with the stories of real 20-somethings she’s worked with.”

TCK exclaims, “To anyone who says that your 20s don’t really matter: Dr. Meg Jay begs to differ. In ‘The Defining Decade,’ the clinical psychologist uses science and real-life stories to argue that our personalities, relationships, and identities can change more in this decade than any other time in our lives.”

2. “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin (1956)

“Giovanni’s Room” is about sexual identity and self-discovery. It is an historically important title for representation. Penguin says, “‘You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.’ So goes some advice to protagonist David in this soaring classic of gay literature, about a young American man coming to terms with his sexuality through a tortured love affair with an Italian barman in Paris.”

“Giovanni's Room” by James Baldwin (1956)
“Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin (1956)

BuzzFeed describes, “The books that will move you, inspire you, make you cry, make you think, make you laugh… [‘Giovanni’s Room’ is] A timeless story of masculinity, desire, and heartbreak that has become particularly resonant for young gay men.”

The Confused Millennial elaborates, “We need fiction books inspired by true stories or real-life events that let us into the heart and soul or allow us to reimagine worlds we think we knew… Originally published in 1956, [‘Giovanni’s Room’] has become one of the iconic LGBTQ+ classic fiction books to read in your 20s. Taking us through love, controversy, fear, alienation, and so much more.”

3. “Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, From Someone Who’s Been There” by Tara Schuster (2020)

This book has an eye-catching title that lures readers into a witty and insightful look at self-care. Part memoir and part advice narrative Schuster deigns to share personal experiences and the lessons that were learned. Headway Blog comments, “If you want to read a book about your 20s, add Tara Schuster’s best-seller to your booklist. You’ll read about her journey of hitting rock bottom, re-parenting herself, and discovering self-love. Readers adore this book for its humor and practical advice for living a life you love.”

“Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, From Someone Who’s Been There” by Tara Schuster (2020)
“Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, From Someone Who’s Been There” by Tara Schuster (2020)

Real Simple adds, “While [Tara Schuster’s] life looked glamorous, in reality, she was suffering from intense anxiety and depression. Her rock-bottom moment came when she called her therapist while drunk, begging for help. Her quick-witted, straight-talking book is about accepting who you are, dealing with your baggage, owning your emotions, treating yourself with love, and building confidence.”

Penguin Random House details that this book is, “Brutally honest, often hilarious, hard-won lessons in learning to love and care for yourself from a former vice president at Comedy Central who was called ‘ahead of her time’ by Jordan Peele.”

4. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl (1946)

This book was an important publication in the aftermath of WWII. It remains a powerful account that has a lot to offer in terms of life lessons. All Groan Up explains, “Writing about his survival of concentration camps, Vicktor Frankl’s powerful book shows twentysomethings the power of hope and belief to get us through any situation. This book was an extremely powerful read in my twenties when going through the really hard seasons of my [life].”

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl (1946)
“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl (1946)

Penguin Random House offers, “‘Man’s Search for Meaning’… is the story of psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s struggle for survival during his three years in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Yet rather than a ‘tale concerned with the great horrors,’ Frankl’s seminal work offers us all an avenue to greater meaning and purpose in our own lives — a way to transcend suffering and find significance in the act of living.”

The Confused Millennial states, “Written by Viktor Frankl, a psychologist recounting portions of his experiencing surviving the concentration camps during the Holocaust, and then the second half of his book is about his revolutionary approach to psychotherapy… Which he derived from his experience.”

This book is also recommended by StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton: “This book is riddled with mind-boggling advice that flips how you see the world on its head,” says Naughton. “At one point, Frankl compares the meaning of life to making moves in chess. Every move you make is the best for that specific moment and opponent, and the same goes for human existence. He explains that life’s meaning is different from person to person, time, and place. ‘What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.'”

5. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho (1988)

“The Alchemist” is a work of fiction. This entertaining read is praised for its engrossing character exploration. Real Simple claims, “In need of an enchanted escape from reality? Look no further than this mystical fantasy by Paulo Coelho. This tale follows an Andalusian shepherd boy as he travels from Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of an unknown treasure. Feel inspired by the story’s message of following your heart and the power of our dreams.”

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho (1988)
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho (1988)

TCK relates, “Through the mystical story of Santiago and his adventurous travels, Coelho offers readers important lessons about listening to their hearts, following their dreams, and recognizing opportunity—making this a perfect read for young adults still feeling insecure about their life’s path.”

Penguin reviews, “It follows a Spanish shepherd boy who leaves home for Egypt in search of buried treasure. Along the way he encounters a string of colorful characters, and no shortage of roadblocks. But he soon discovers that, as well as the real treasure in the desert, there is another he must find – the one inside his soul.”

6. “Transitions” by William Bridges (1980)

“Transitions” is a book about taking your first true steps as an independent adult. This is another advice by way of memoir title that hits the sweet spot for many readers. “Whether we choose them or not, our 20s are definitely filled with transitions—some easier than others. In this bestseller, William Bridges offers advice on navigating some of life’s biggest changes,” according to TCK Publishing.

“Transitions” by William Bridges (1980)
“Transitions” by William Bridges (1980)

The Confused Millennial asserts, “We need nonfiction books to offer us tips, advice, and experiences that can only be shared by an inspirational messenger who lived it and practices what they preach… I get SO many emails from young college students looking for advice on the transition after graduation. Bridges provides an awesome framework for navigating the true constant in life: change.”

All Groan Up evaluates, “Life after college is one of the most significant transitions we will ever go through. William Bridges provides a stellar framework for how to handle transitions and not freak out! (well at least not too much).”

7. “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek (2009)

This management book grew in popularity thanks to Sinek’s public speaking presentations. Advice is cheap, but our sources claim that Sinek’s publication is worth a read. All Groan Up compliments, “Simon Sinek blew up with this Ted Talk and re-enforces in this book the power of starting with your ‘Why?’ A great book for anyone looking to uncover their Signature Sauce.”

“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek (2009)
“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek (2009)

Penguin Random House assures, “Discover the book that is captivating millions on TikTok and that served as the basis for one of the most popular TED Talks of all time. ‘Start with Why’ shows that leaders who have the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way.”

Leaders articulates, “To learn about leading with purpose, ‘Start With Why’ is a must-read. It explains the importance of putting purpose at the center of your business so that you stay focused on what matters most. Even if you aren’t a business owner, this book will help you to think about your professional mission and how you’ll get there.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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