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1. Dog Medicine, a relatable memoir about the importance of practicing self-care, specifically in the form of dog adoption.
“It helped me to realize that transitioning from college life to the adult world is non-trivial, and that it’s extremely important to make intentional actions toward self-care and mental health.” —bazasaka
2. My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag, a no-shame guide on cleaning up stuff you’d have to Google to save face, like getting bong water out of your carpet.
“My sister in law gave me this book two Christmases ago and it is perfect for being an ‘adult.’” —samid4bcc1d1d8
4. Anything by Christopher Hitchens, who wasn’t afraid to go there about subjects like religion, mortality, and historical figures.
“Christopher Hitchens did a pretty good job at asking people to think for themselves and take responsibility.” —Manav Panda, Twitter
5. The Namesake, a novel that follows a first-generation kid’s struggles in dealing with parental expectations and honoring his heritage that anyone’ll find bits of common ground with while reading.
6. This Is How, for an actually sufferable self-help book that will help you feel like you can climb over that wall, get out of the pit, etc., etc.
“Genuine, insightful, funny and sharp; and it avoids the empty cliches of most self-help books.” —Helene Stovring, Facebook
7. Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of advice columns from The Rumpus’s Dear Sugar and other works that shows we all have more common ground than we think.
“I could relate to all of the people in this book, even if I had never been anywhere near the situations they were faced with. It taught me that we all have a lot more in common than we realize, and that, no matter how tough life gets, the most important thing we can do is love ourselves and each other and live our most happy lives.” —seand4c7c48b7b
8. Mud, Sweat, and Tears, the TV star’s tome about his novel-worthy adventures that’ll inspire you to pursue your dreams — even if they don’t involve the outdoors.
“It didn’t ‘prepare’ me for adulthood — but showed me that no one is ever really ‘ready’ and just go for what you love! And never let go of your childhood.” —chloem4350bba95
9. The Anne of Green Gables series, for showing how to tackle life’s mistakes…and hard lessons.
“Anne makes a lot of mistakes but takes on responsibility and doesn’t run from it. She also perfectly balanced childlike wonder with adulthood.” —baesjling
Get a box set of all eight novels from Amazon for $34.24.
12. The Defining Decade, which is actually applicable at any age.
“It’s meant to help you use your 20’s in a productive way, but it really has a lot of good life advice. It’ll either give you some really great suggestions or make you feel reassured that you’re on the right track. I tell everyone to read it.” —nadineilanas
13. Grace’s Guide, a funny read on stuff every adult has to deal with, like making friends and decorating your first apartment.
“Not only did it make me laugh, it gave me a better sense of how to handle the business of growing up and becoming an adult. Also, I adore Grace!” —Hannah Hamblin
14. The Road to Character, in which the New York Times columnists traces how famous figures’ decisions and struggles determined how history perceived their character.
“This has been essential to my growth process. David Brooks examines very different figures throughout history, their accomplishments, struggles, and ultimately what makes their character. For moments when I feel stuck, this book reminds me of the key differences between resume and eulogy virtues to put my head and heart on straight.” —pilard43ddf2c86
16. You Are A Badass, an occasionally swear-y guide to setting goals and actually reaching them.
“You may not even realize it or your potential yet, but that book helped me really find my power.” —zbibbes
17. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a wildly entertaining sci-fi read that’ll help you deal with anxiety.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy taught me everything I needed to know about dealing with anxiety and doing life.” —whalebiologist
18. The Last Lecture, a fleshed-out version of a computer science professor’s last lecture on seizing the moment and concentrating on living.
“Very good short book with multiple insights on what it really means to have a fulfilling life.” —Gina G
19. White Teeth, a tale of Bengali, Jamaican, and English people in modern London that’s can help non-immigrants get a better hold on the immigrant experience — especially in light of current US politics.
20. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a YA novel about growing up and taking on familial responsibilities before you think you’re ready.
“Although a teen rom-com book, it really opened my eyes when Lara Jean has to take on a more adult maternal role after her mom passes away and her eldest sister Margot moves on to college. Lara Jean learns that fantasies do not exist and the most important thing in her life is her little sister Kitty along with her father and her family. Not even a boy can come between that.” —ttorres28
21. The Boys in the Boat, the inspiring story of underdogs that went on to defeat Adolf Hitler’s rowing team.
“It’s not a self help book or anything. It just tells the story of a rowing crew from University of Washington who make it to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. One of the most inspiring books I have ever read and my favorite to this day. It taught me that if those boys could go through everything that they did, then I can get through my own struggles. It helps to get a little perspective.” —abomb
22. Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone, a quick hit on stuff you know you should be doing but need reminders on, like tending to your linens, sitting up straight, and other excellent mom-ish advice.
23. Women and the Blues, a thoughtful survival guide for coping with angst, depression…you name it.
“It was given to me by a college friend. I was having a hard time transitioning from schooling to adulting, with a lot of angst and a healthy dollop of real depression, to complicate it all. The author writes a great survival guide for women coping at all ages with….life?…. It was one of the best gifts I ever got from a friend. 25 years later I can still find practical advice and support in these pages. (Thanks for the book, Samara!)” —kellyd43b5fb356
24. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a classic worth revisiting through the lens of doing what you feel to be right, instead of what others have told you.
“I read the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as an adult and it was inspiring to read about him choosing his gut feelings over what he had been taught by his upbringers.” —moirosalina
25. Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life, a vintage tome that promotes some LEGIT practices like a “facial” that includes washing your face, gazing upon your reflection, and then eating some candy.
26. Pretty Little Mistakes, a choose your own adventure-style novel that you can apply to your IRL choices.
“I read Pretty Little Mistakes when I was around 20. You start out as a young woman graduating high school and making choices about life, love, education, career, etc., all the way up until death. There are over 100 different paths in the book and I’ve read it so many times at this point but I’m sure I still haven’t read it all. It really made me realize every choice I was making would be setting up the rest of my life and even though I could recover from some mistakes, others would end up really defining me. It’s easy to say ‘Well, I’m young, I should have fun.’ But really it’s time to grow up and take things more seriously..and still have fun at the same time.” —dramabomb
27. Bridget Jones’s Diary, a rom-com go-to that embraces the long journey for self improvement.
“I read Bridget Jones’s Diary in my early 20s and had an epiphany of sorts. Like, whoa, her life is as fucked mine. I’m not the only one! As adults we can pretend to have our shit together, but deep down we really don’t. We hope one day we’ll figure it all out, but seriously, do we really?” —unicornsandbutterflies
28. Fangirl, a coming-of-age tale about transitioning from the comforts of childhood to the intimidating challenges of adulthood.
“Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell helped me make the adult decision to pick a program for university.” —haleymcdonald1997
29. Epic Fantasy as a genre, like The Hero and the Crown, and series like The Mazalan Book of the Fallen and A Game of Thrones, to name a few.
“Basically every Epic Fantasy I’ve read has taught me how to be an adult.In all of them the lead character has responsibilities thrust on them, and they never think they can handle them. So, they do what they know best. Eventually, after a few stories in, you see how the character has morphed, how by doing the few things they know how to do they have become the person they didn’t think they could be. That’s what being an adult is.” —sgarnett
30. And David Copperfield, the 1850 Charles Dickens classic about the still-relatable theme of overcoming awful circumstances to achieve great things.
“I really related to him as he struggled with love, loss, education, and jobs. His kindness and dedication to people and writing helped me to feel confident in the transition to adulthood.” —picassopizza
31. Fifty Shades of Grey, to help conquer any fears of reading potentially titillating (er, or embarrassing) stuff in public.
“It opened my life to the joy of smut novels. Nothing better than reading them on the train.” —amyd41
Comments have been edited for length and/or clarity.
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