10 Books You Need to Read in Your 20s

They say 20-something is the best time of our life. The golden age, some even say. This is the age when you are still young but have been considered an adult. This is when you (hopefully) have the energy, maturity and resources to experiment with a whole lot of things. So you can reinvent yourself, shape your character, and think about long-term goals.

Personally, I think that might be true. Being in the early 20s myself, there have already been so many turning points that I experienced. How many more will I experience by the time I reach 30?

Also, to actually “live”, I’ve realized that I need inspiration so I can keep learning and growing. And book is one of the things that inspires me. Just like experiences, there are always incredible things you can get from a book. The only problem is, which book? From countless well-written books in this world, how do we choose the book that “speak” to us? Well, fuss no more because here are some books that you might want to check out.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

book recommendation for 20sTaking the multicultural London into the background, this novels tells a family history in the 1975. White Teeth talks about varying identity aspects, such as race, religion and sexuality, in the very light and sassy style. But, at the same time, the narration is deep and philosophical (read this book and you will understand what I mean). Smith’s debut can be an inspiration to anyone, especially those in the 20s. Not only because the main character is in her 20s but also because Smith herself published this novel at the age of 24.

“You must live life with the full knowledge that your actions will remain. We are creatures of consequence.”

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

book recommendation for 20sCritics agreed that this surrealist piece of writing is one of the best French literary works in the last century. de Saint-Exupéry describes the childhood of his characters with a full amount of happiness, sadness and curiosity. The book was initially marketed for kids. However, psychologists and literary academicians then studied further into The Little Prince and came up with a notion that this book wasn’t only suitable for children. They argue that for someone to grow into an adult with a healthy mind, they need to integrate their childhood into their adulthood. This is where The Little Prince takes its part—to remind adults to channel their inner child.

“All grown-ups were once children…but only few of them remember it.”

On the Road oleh Jack Kerouac

book recommendation for 20s50s classic. On the Road is one of the must-read for young adults. This novel shows vividly the passion, energy and emotion of its main characters, young adults who have just set to “see the world”. These characters live in the era of jazz and poetry. Reading On the Road, you will get to experience the freedom, excitement, frustration, even fondness that the characters felt during their road trip across the USA. Long story short, this book is a perfect fit for 20-something people, particularly if you are still transitioning between a teenager and an adult.

“I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

book recommendation for 20sReading Americanah will give you a glimpse of what it’s like to live in Nigeria, England and the USA. Although the time is set 2000s, everything related to characters is deeply affected by the history of those three countries. The main character’s determination in moving from Nigeria to the USA to continue her study can be an inspiration for you who are looking forward to a new experience in another city or country. Through her intriguing plot, Adichie also talks about issues like race and racism, identity, culture criticism and love.

“And her joy would become a restless thing, flapping its wings inside her, as though looking for an opening to fly away.” 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

book recommendation for 20sIf you love contemporary literature, you might have been familiar with this one. The winner of 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction will inspire you to get to know yourself and your family history a little bit deeper. In this novel, you will follow an emotional story of Oscar Wao, a geeky son of Dominican immigrant who lives in New Jersey. Oscar’s struggles to fit his personal perspective to the place where he grows up might relate to you if you feel like you don’t belong with everything around you.

“If you didn’t grow up like I did then you don’t know, and if you don’t know it’s probably better you don’t judge.”

Handmaid’s Tale oleh Margareth Atwood

book recommendation for 20sJust like other works of Atwood’s, Handmaid’s Tale is led by a female character. What differs this book from most of Atwood’s works is that the genre is futuristic dystopian, set in New England, the USA. Handmaid’s Tale illustrates woman subjugation and how important it is for women to have freedom and individualism in the middle of the new and totalitarian USA government. If you want to learn about woman objectification and its aftermath, this book can be a starter.

“But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.”

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

book recommendation for 20sThis book starts with lost and disappointment, but ends with forgiveness and an ability to healing oneself. Wild is actually Strayed’s memoir, talking about her self-discovery when going on 1,100-mile trekking on Pacific Crest Trail. There is also a little bit of the background story of why she did the PCT trekking. This book is such a companion for you who need an alone time to recover from problems or to find what version of you that you are most comfortable with. Solo traveling is very helpful, indeed, and Wild can give you an extra motivation.

“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.”

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

book recommendation for 20sBy “tipping point“, Gladwell means crucial times relating to social outbreaks in everyday life, including social media trends and utilization. Although first published in 2000, The Tipping Point is unpredictably still relevant today since it also discusses how people exchange ideas and information till they go viral. If you would enjoy discovering facts about limitless communication, try this book. Gladwell’s writing will also help you find out more specific aspects of communication—name interview, sales and thought delivery.

“That is the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.” 

Walden (Life in the Woods) by Henry David Thoreau

book recommendation for 20sFirst published in 1854, Walden depicts how for two years, Thoreau had lived in a cabin that he built by himself in the forest near Conrod, Massachusetts, the USA. Similar to WildWalden is such an inspiration for you who yearn for self-discovery and self-reliance. But, Walden stresses more on social experiment and the writer’s decision to live freely, closer to nature and farther from toxic society.

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

A Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

book recommendation for 20sMaybe you’re tired being told that the keys to happiness is by thinking positively and hanging out with people who have positive energy. Well, guess what? Manson gives you another perspective: not everything should be responded positively. This book will help you see that you will be healthier and happier if you don’t give away your energy without consideration (including “positive energy”). This book also gives you a chance to look back on your life experience and sometimes, even felt like you get slapped in the face by how real Manson’s argumentation is.

“Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”

The best books have dynamic storylines, which meaning will shift along with the changes happing to their readers. That why there are certain books that “click” only when you are in the early 20s and maybe lose their chemistry when you reach, say, 30. If you have read one of the books mentioned above, I’d recommend you to reread it again. Who knows, maybe you will get a whole new reading experience?

* the Indonesian version is published on Glints

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