The zeitgeist often refers to your 20s as a time to “figure things out on your own.” And while this warning certainly rings true, sometimes you need a little guidance to help point you in the right direction. Here are 5 books that are helping me through my 20s:
1) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
I never watched The Office or The Mindy Project, yet I was drawn in by the title. The book follows Kaling’s life from middle school all the way up until her gig at The Office. Kalling’s book is a series of personal stories or short essays, most of which she uses to explain her current identity, and the process by which she’s come to accept it. What I enjoyed most about this book was that she makes the reader feel as if its okay to be who they are — something that I feel every 20-something needs to hear.
2) The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
I stumbled upon this book through my Goodreads account recommendations — I was really intrigued by this book’s description, and decided to swing by my library to pick it up. At the moment, The Georgraphy Of Bliss is probably one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction out there. It follows Eric Weiner, a former NPR journalist, around the world as he tries to discover “unheralded happy places.” What made this book so interesting was that for every different country that he visited, the means by which each country considered happiness varied quite a bit. While Weiner’s book doesn’t point blank give you “answers” regarding happiness, it does teach us that happiness might be a lot closer than we sometimes think.
3) Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Although there is a ton of controversy around a particular story that’s told in the book, I found the overall work extremely comforting. Dunham herself is a rather well known 20-something, so it’s not surprising that the work is largely relatable to her demo. The book is divided into different sections — titled Love&Sex, Work, etc., giving us a glimpse of her thoughts regarding many of life’s different “subdivisions.” Her stories are extremely intimate, and sprinkled with a bit of wit — the latter of which can never hurt.
4) Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book has come under a lot of criticism, but I personally love Liz’s story. Too often we find ourselves in a rut, unhappy in a situation and unwilling to change it because we are scared of the unknown and losing the comfort zone. Gilbert found herself in a crushing depression, and an unhappy marriage. She finally decided to do something for herself, and traveled the world for an entire year. She traveled to Italy for pleasure, India for devotion, and finally Bali for a balance between the two. I think countless lessons can be learned from this book, but taking the risk to really let go of your comfort zone and is something that all 20-somethings can identify with.
5) The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
If there is only one book you read during your entire college career, let it be this one. Marina Keegan was an American author, poet, playwright, and journalist who had just graduated from Yale University in 2012 when she tragically died in a car crash. The book is titled after an essay that she wrote for her Yale graduation. All the pieces of writing in this book are honest and heartfelt, and discuss everything from love, to family, to society in general. The title essay “The Opposite of Loneliness” discuss how she has never felt alone during her four years at Yale. I had the honor of hearing her family and friends speak while studying in London, and I still struggle with putting into words what this book means to me. Her mother said she was full of life and was always embracing life. Life is short; there is no way around it. We need to go into it with positivity and joy and live it to the fullest.
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Selected as the winners of Random House’s national contest, a stunning collection of essays ranging from comic to poignant, personal to political, by the brightest young writers you haven’t heard of . . . yet.
Here, for the first time, current twentysomethings come together on their own terms, in their own words, and begin to define this remarkably diverse and self-aware generation. Tackling an array of subjects–career, family, sex, religion, technology, art–they form a vibrant, unified community while simultaneously proving that there is no typical twentysomething experience.
In this collection, a young father works the late-night shift at Wendy’s, learning the finer points of status, teamwork, and french fries. An artist’s nude model explains why she’s happy to be viewed as an object. An international relief worker wrestles with his choices as he starts to resent the very people who need his help the most. A devout follower of Joan Didion explains what New York means to her. And a young army engineer spends his time in Kuwait futilely trying to grow a mustache like his dad’s.
With grace, wit, humor, and urgency, these writers invite us into their lives and into their heads. Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers is a rich, provocative read as well as a bold statement from a generation just now coming into its own, including these essays
“California” by Jess Lacher
“The Waltz” by Mary Beth Ellis
“The Mustache Race” by Bronson Lemer
“Sex and the Sickbed” by Jennifer Glaser
“Tricycle” by Rachel Kempf
“Prime-Time You” by John Fischer
“Backlash” by Shahnaz Habib
“Think Outside the Box but Stay Inside the Grid” by Emma Black
“Finding the Beat” by Eli James
“You Shall Go out with Joy and be Led Forth with Peace” by Kyle Minor
“The Idiot’s Guide to Your Palm” by Colleen Kinder
“Sheer Dominance” by Christopher Poling
“Live Nude Girl” by Kathleen Rooney
“An Evening in April” by Radhiyah Ayobami
“Cliché Rape Story” by Marisa McCarthy
“Rock my Network” by Theodora Stites
“Goodbye to All That” by Eula Biss
“All the Right Answers” by Brendan Park
“Why I Had To Leave” by Luke Mullins
“In-Between Places” by Mary Kate Frank
“A Red Spoon for the Nameless” by Burlee Vang
“My Little Comma” by Elrena Evans
“Fight Me” by Miellyn Fitzwater
“The Secret Lives of My Parents” by Kate McGovern
“My Roaring Twenties” by Lauren Monroe
“In, From the Outside” by Katherine Dykstra
“The Mysteries of Life . . . Revealed!” by Travis Sentell
“So You Say You Want a Revolution” by J. W. Young
“Working at Wendy’s” by Joey Franklin
Praise for Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
“Being in your twenties is weird. The world tells you you’re a grown-up, but damn if you feel like one. With 29 sharply observant and well-written snapshots of life between the ages of 19 and 30, Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers couldn’t have captured this more perfectly.”–Nylon
“You’ll devour this compilation of essays by funny, smart, insightful young writers in just a few hours.”–Jane Magazine
“If we are still looking for a voice for this generation, I’d nominate this eclectic choir instead.”–Orlando Sentinel