“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
1. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
This book is the Bible for how to be a human–I want to give it to all my friends. Before Wild became a bestseller, Cheryl Strayed began writing advice columns for an online literary website under the pseudonym ‘Sugar.’ And the result was dynamite: a cult following, this NY Times-bestselling book compilation, and a podcast called Dear Sugar Radio. A back cover blurb for the book says it all: “Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel.” Basically what Cheryl has done in this book is apply her best self to all sorts of terrible and terrific situations in the lives of her letter-writers, and let me tell you, it is illuminating. We all want to be our best selves no matter what life throws at us, and this book offers an anecdotal manual on how to do that.
$9.09 on Amazon.
“Most 20 something’s can’t write the last sentence of their lives. But when pressed, they usually can identify things they want in their 30s or 40s or 60s -or things they don’t want- and work backward from there. This is how you have your own multigenerational epic with a happy ending. This is how you live your life in real time.”
2. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them by Meg Jay
This book is pretty much Adulting 101, written by a clinical psychologist who has a decade of experience working with twenty-somethings. Dr. Meg Jay will show you how to succeed in all the main aspects of your adult life—career, romantic relationship, social network, health, your own personal identity, etc. She will also show you how to evaluate the story you’ve told yourself about yourself since childhood, decide whether you want to change that (possibly very destructive) story, and how to go about doing that. I discovered this book in my university’s bookstore, and proceeded to read it all in one day, mostly while sitting outside a café. The book assuaged my fear of ‘selling out’ my artistic passion and put to rest my fear of not having what it takes to be a functional adult. This book truly is a dynamo—it will probably do more for you than your career counselor, best friend, therapist, and family combined.
$9.76 on Amazon.
“Eventually you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problems.”
3. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer
This book is the #1 bestseller on Amazon’s Emotional Mental Health section. It is a NY Times bestseller. Enough said? …I’ll say more. You know that voice in your head that is constantly chattering about when will he text me back—I’m so hungry—my sister’s probably pissed at me for what I said last night—I think I left my phone in the car—wow, that girl’s coat is awesome, I wonder where she got it?—damn it, I’m going to be late—seriously, when will he text me back? etc. etc. etc.? This book shows you how to get some space from that voice, feel more comfortable inside your own mind, and basically lifehack your way into peace and happiness by using the tenets of modern psychology and ancient Eastern philosophy.
$9.83 on Amazon.
4. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
I think learning how to cook is one of the best things a young adult can do. It will save SO much money over the years, and be such a source of personal and social satisfaction. Cooking is pretty much a productive and functional art form that you can make every single day. Great, right? But easier said than done. Learning how to cook is tough. That’s why this book is fantastic. It is a graphic memoir, basically an illustrated book-length cartoon of author Lucy Knisley’s experiences with cooking. It is a fun read, and will show you how to get comfortable with following recipes, buying and using quality ingredients, and figuring out what you like in the kitchen (maybe more important than what you like in bed?). Lucy Knisley is one of the most thoughtful, raw, wise, and real voices of the millennial generation, and through this book, she will hold your hand while you demolish your kitchen and build some real cooking prowess.
$12.19 on Amazon.
“Great swaths of her life were white space to her husband. What she did not tell him balanced neatly with what she did. Still, there are untruths made of words and untruths made of silences, and Mathilde had only ever lied to Lotto in what she never said.”
5. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
This novel was Barack Obama’s favorite book of 2015. Cool, right? On the surface level, this is a NY Times-bestselling novel with super interesting characters that will keep you turning pages late into the night. It is sort of like Gone Girl—it’s about a heterosexual marriage, the first half written from the man’s perspective, and the second half from the woman’s.
On a deeper level, this novel will show you how a person’s life can progress over many years based on the actions one takes, one’s personality and how one changes or doesn’t change over time. It will show you what it truly is like to be partnered to someone over many years, how we never really know just how much or how little we know about someone else. It will also show you how important it is to maintain your own identity in a life partnership, and how important who we choose as our partner truly is for our health and happiness.
$9.55 on Amazon.
Kelsey Crow is a writer and yoga teacher living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with a B.A. in English from Boise State University, and during those four years of college, she practiced academic tourism — studying English literature at University of St Andrews in Scotland and creative writing at University of Washington in Seattle. She loves traveling, cooking, having deep conversations, and Pinterest-ing.