I’ve been seeing lots of discussion on Twitter about the lack of New Adult books out there and how a lot of NA books get marketed as YA so that it gets read at all. So, after reading this recommendation list by Book Riot, I thought it would be interesting to come up with a list of my own.
I don’t really have lots of self-help (I’ve seen lots of those on other lists like this) because I don’t read those much. I have on this list romance, contemporary, fantasy and classics. Maybe a nonfiction or two. So, without further ado, here are some books I recommend for 20-somethings!
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
This is a classic that keeps getting recommended to people, especially women. I agree with that assessment – many people would benefit from reading this gorgeous book. Sylvia Plath has a beautiful writing style, but more than that, she captures the emptiness that a lot of people feel, that distance between oneself and others. It’s not an upbeat book, but a great read that will get you thinking.
Maybe in Another Life, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ohh, her books are so great for people on their late 20s! This story has such an interesting premise: one day, Hannah needs to make a simple decision – stay at a party with her ex-boyfriend or go home with her friends? Here, she makes both decisions and two parallel stories happen showing all the ramifications of that choice. It’s amazing and really gets you thinking: it will be okay. No matter what, you will be okay. I loved this book!
After I Do, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is a bit older, and you can tell by the writing (her newer books I find way better written and more complex), but this is absolutely heartbreaking/heartwarming (yes, both). It’s the story of a couple who married early and now, in their late 20s, don’t feel iin love with each other anymore. So they decide to separate for a year – and many things happen. It’s a romance-but-not-quite. It’s a lot about commitment, letting go, forgiveness, love, and one’s identity outside of a relationship.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
This book deserves so much more hype! This is the story of Nikki, who starts teaching English to a group of Punjabi widows and finds herself, instead, involved in a storytelling tradition of… erotic. It is a funny and sexy book, but it’s also so much more: it’s about the power of community, about the role of women in that community who have become widows, oppression, love. An amazing book! I think 20-somethings struggle a lot with the idea of community and making friends, so this would resonate a lot.
Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
If The Bell Jar was too depressing for you, pick this one up. It’s a nonfiction book about mental illness and it’s… belly-aching hilarious. It’s full of stories of the author’s life, and while they all are about serious topics and can get heartbreaking sometimes, most are so light-hearted you’ll feel reinvigorated in battling your own struggles.
Sourdough by Robin Sloan
This lovely book is about Lois, a young woman working in software engineering, finding her passion in baking. It’s a sweet story that I really related to – she has a job she doesn’t love, lots of pressure, anxiety and is getting depressed. She doesn’t really have friends and is so far away from everyone – but slowly, through baking, her life gets put back on track. It’s amazing to watch her grow and feel that you, too, can find passion, love and friendship.
Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin
This is the story of Aviva, an intern who has an affair with a popular politician and has her reputation ruined and her life changed forever, while he… escapes with barely a scratch. This is a powerful story of a woman who rebuilds her life and grows into a self-possessed, confident and wise mother running her own company. She is no longer defined by the scandal, but going into politics may put her past in the open for everyone to judge – again. This book is wonderful, made me angry a lot of times, but more than that: it gave me hope. A reckless young woman who made a mistake and then turns into someone amazing. I was so happy about that. I think it’s an important book for 20-somethings who worry a lot about reputation and about making that One Mistake that will ruin your life forever (not necessarily sleeping with politicians, but you know what I mean).
1984, by George Orwell
This is a book that, although not without its flaws, does a great job at showing what the problem of “security over freedom and privacy” is. This is such a brilliant dystopia with powerful messages that I think 20-somethings should have in mind. Having a political opinion is something that maybe a lot of us were discouraged from, if you’re a woman, so it’s important to take steps to educate yourself and I think this novel is great for making one think about your rights and the ways which the government can infringe them.
Women Who Run With Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
This is a very interesting book, rich with myths and traditional tales from different cultures in which women have a main role to play. Women are still encouraged to be demure, lacking opinions and assertiveness, not occupying much space politically, physically, intellectually – and this book helps seeing and nourishing the wild, strong, wise and leading woman we could be. It talks a lot about archetypes and how psychologically women have been hurt by oppression and how they can break free. It was a very unique and empowering read.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is one of my favorite books of all time – it’s the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, from Nigeria, who are trying to make it in life and dream of living in the United States. Ifemelu gets a visa and moves first, eagerly waiting for Obinze to join her – but then 11/9 happens and he is denied a visa. He ends up moving to London illegally, where his life separates him from Ifemelu. This is a wonderful story about this intelligent, beautiful and assertive woman coming face-to-face with sexism in the US in a way she never did in Nigeria, and Obinze as an illegal immigrant trying to find success. There are many strong themes in this story, including depression and how it’s dealt different when it’s not a white person, sexism, xenophobia… all with Chimamanda’s gorgeous writing and storytelling.
Reluctant Royals Series, by Alyssa Cole
So you want a sweet, light-hearted romance, but also realistic relationships that tackle important issues? You demand strong, feminist heroines who will not take shit from their love interests just because they’re hot PLUS there should be a prince or two involved? Alyssa Cole got you covered. This romance series is addictive, Alyssa’s writing is so good and witty, and she always touches on important topics (ADHD, sexism, immigration etc) with such sensibility. This is a great series for 20-somethings who believe in love and romance, but don’t want to risk falling prey to the same sexist tropes all the time.
Adulthood is a Myth, by Sarah Andersen
Sarah just understands me so well, I love revisiting her cartoons and feel that someone is so like me and knows exactly what I’m going through. It’s nice to laugh at one’s problems and doubts sometimes, it makes them seem smaller. And since millennials seem to be the anxiety generation, we sure could do with a bit more laughing.
Jade City, by Fonda Lee
I love a good YA fantasy, but as I go older, I start to crave… non-YA fantasy. Dripping your toes into those waters can be a bit confusing, as a lot of more well-known fantasy is a bunch of epics about white people in medieval settings, which can be a bit repetitive. So I chose this vibrant, unique fantasy that will leave 20-somethings with a taste of magic and addictive power on their tongues. This novel has lots of fighting, political drama and Asian-inspired culture (mostly from Hong Kong, if I remember correctly), so it is a nice book to delve into when contemporaries are too close to your own reality and you want some escapism.
The Poppy War, by R. F. Kuang
If you actually quite like the usual fantasy story we so often read in middle grade and young adult, with the underestimated hero making it to magic school and then doing great things BUT you also love suffering, pick up The Poppy War. This is a dark, dark take on the hero-goes-to-magic-school story, based also on Chinese folklore. I loved the main character, Rin is so intelligent, ruthless and ambitious. I love her. Although she isn’t on her 20s, I think 20-somethings will be refreshed by this new take on the usual fantasy hero story.