If you’ve ever stressed about the speed at which your life is moving, then you’re just like the rest of us!
as you get older, the years start flying by and your responsibilities keep piling up.
It feels as though there is more to do, less time to do it, and no sympathy from anyone.
How do you navigate adulthood? How do you thrive in a world where so many waste time and make horrible decisions?
In this article, I will share a list of books that are full of relevant wisdom for people facing adulthood. Reading these could help you avoid the pitfalls that so many fall into so that you can live a brilliant and full adult life.
Books about Becoming an Adult
1.This is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t
If you’re going to make the transition from boy/girl to man/woman, you are going to have to accept certain difficult truths about life and the world we live in.
That being said, why not let Augusten Burroughs slap you in the face with the tough talk as he shares his perspective on how to move forward in the world.
This book is all about making no excuses. Facing the brutality of existence. pushing to make your own way in the world rather than coasting and praying and hoping and waiting.
Packed full of personal anecdotes and blunt honesty, this book is not as much Burroughs sharing encouraging wisdom as it is Burroughs shaking you awake.
It might just be the call to action you’ve been looking for.
2.I Will Teach You to be Rich
Maybe the first thing you need to do in the process of becoming a competent adult is to get a grasp on your personal finances. It’s important for your life, and also for everyone who relies on you. Ramit Sethi, author of I will teach you to be rich, has distilled basic saving and investment principles into a practical 6-week program.
The book is broken down into four pillars of financial success – banking, budgeting, investing and saving.
This isn’t about some wild schemes or outside the box get rich quick ideas. This book is all about prioritising what you spend your money on, living consciously rather than impulsively, and having a reliable saving and investment plan.
This might sound boring or obvious to some people, but I see it as fundamental wisdom that almost everyone overlooks until it catches up to them later in life.
Here are some quotations from the author, so that you can get a further sense of the book’s contents.
“The American Psychological Association reports that Americans today, compared to the 1950s, seem less happy, even though we eat out twice as much and own two times as many cars. We have so many more toys, like big-screen TVs, smartphones, and microwaves. But that isn’t leading to a more satisfying life.”
“There’s a limit to how much you can cut but there’s no limit to how much you can earn”
“Frugality, quite simply, is about choosing the things you love enough to spend extravagantly on—and then cutting costs mercilessly on the things you don’t love.”
3.Mud, Sweat, and Tears – By Bear Grylls
The power of this book does not come from what you can learn about surviving expeditions and drinking your own p*ss.
The power of this book comes from what you can learn about the potential of personal transformation and mental fortitude. Anyone growing up and facing the world would do well to learn these lessons.
Bear Grylls is an adventurous person who always sought the ultimate experience. From a young age, he was taught how to climb and sail by his father while growing up on the Isle of Wight.
His early life was packed with adventure. He trained karate under grand masters in Japan, and he navigated the foothills of the Himalayas.
It all changed with a parachuting accident that left his back broken in three places. Whilst there was a real chance that he would never walk again, he went ahead and climbed Mount Everest just 18 months later. This made him one of the youngest to ever do so. We can all learn from a man like that.
Read also: Too cheap for therapy? Read these books!
4.The Working-Class Foodies Cookbook- By Rebecca Lando
“The groundwork of all happiness is health”Leigh Hunt
Hey you. yes you. stop eating those hot dogs straight out of the jar. Seriously. Unbelievable.
Jokes aside, this next book is full of hearty recipes that are affordable, nutritious and delicious. no one needs a Michelin star, but every self-sustaining adult should know their way around a kitchen and have a few decent recipes up their sleeve.
I know I’m biased (I’m a chef) but I don’t think life gets much better than cooking some really good food and sharing it with people you care about. So had to include some sort of cookbook on this list!
5.Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
There is 1 mistake that we all inevitably make as young people: not fully grasping the fact that life is short. Time is scarce. What we have will one day be gone.
How do you treat every minute of your life, with the respect that it deserves? How do you seize the day you’ve been given? How do you live your life and make your choices as opposed to being carried with the flow and living at the mercy of your surroundings?
Four thousand weeks by Oliver Burkeman is, frankly, the best book on time management that I have ever read. This is because it doesn’t deal with being more “productive” and “efficient” and using “scheduling” to be able to write more emails and all that other stuff.
This is a book then, on how to use your time in order to get more fulfilment out of your life. It is a genuinely original angle that is hard to describe exactly, so here are some short quotes from the author to give you more of an idea.
“The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control—when the flood of emails has been contained; when your to-do lists have stopped getting longer; when you’re meeting all your obligations at work and in your home life; when nobody’s angry with you for missing a deadline or dropping the ball; and when the fully optimized person you’ve become can turn, at long last, to the things life is really supposed to be about. Let’s start by admitting defeat: none of this is ever going to happen.”
“The more efficient you get, the more you become “a limitless reservoir for other people’s expectations,” in the words of the management expert Jim Benson.”
“We recoil from the notion that this is it—that this life, with all its flaws and inescapable vulnerabilities, its extreme brevity, and our limited influence over how it unfolds, is the only one we’ll get a shot at. Instead, we mentally fight against the way things are—so that, in the words of the psychotherapist Bruce Tift, “we don’t have to consciously participate in what it’s like to feel claustrophobic, imprisoned, powerless, and constrained by reality.” This struggle against the distressing constraints of reality is what some old-school psychoanalysts call “neurosis,” and it takes countless forms, from workaholism and commitment-phobia to codependency and chronic shyness.”
6.Am I Overthinking This? – By Michelle Rial
This next book is an incredibly playful and relatable choice. I have included it because as we go from child to adult, there is plenty of pressure and difficult decision making that needs to happen.
What path should I take in my career? How should I spend my money? Do I need to exercise more? Do I need to get married? Whats good? Whats bad? Its so easy to overthink and feel like we are in over our heads.
Michelle Rial shares her perspective with 101 hilarious charts that will make you laugh first, and then realise that you aren’t the only one second. This book is hilarious, but it is also reassuring and uplifting and an absolute pleasure to read.
7.Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo
I wanted to include a novel in this list, as a change from the usual self-help and finance books that comprise the bulk of my recommendations. Clap when you land is a novel in verse, meaning whilst not a fully-fledged poem there is a rhythm to the way the words are written. First off, it is quite clear that Elizabeth Acevedo has a gift for writing.
Just because the book is fictional, does not mean there is not a lot to be learned.
Dealing with the loss of a father. National Identity. Becoming an adult. Womanhood. These topics are all explored in a powerful and memorable way.
If you asked me what I was,
& you meant in terms of culture,
I’d say Dominican.
no question about it.
Can you be from a place
you’ve never been?
You can find the island stamped all over me.
but what would the island find if I was there?
Can you claim a home that does not know you,
much less claim you as its own?
If you don’t think you are a fan of fictional books and novels, try this one. It might swing you.
8. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – Don Miguel Ruiz
Part instructional guide, part introduction to alternative spirituality, this next book distils all the self-help advice you will ever need down to four agreements that the writer encourages you to make with yourself. Commit to these, Ruiz writes, and you will grow to live a full life and avoid the pitfalls that many fall into.
Agree to be impeccable with your word. Treat your own words with respect. Say only what you mean. avoid gossip and spreading rumours. Aim your words in the direction of truth and love.
Agree to not take anything personally. Nothing anyone does has anything to do with you. It has everything to do with them. If you can learn to operate independently of the opinions and actions of others, you will avoid suffering and gain control of your life.
Agree to never make assumptions. Ask for what you want. Question something when you don’t understand it so that you can learn it. Communicate with others clearly. Don’t guess- find out.
Agree to always do your best. Whatever it looks like, do your best. If your best is ok, be ok. If your best is great, be great. The power is in the effort, not the outcome. If you give your genuine best effort in an endeavour, you will sleep easily and not torment yourself. Whatever happens, is the best that could happen.
9.Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know – By Adam Grant
Wharton psychology Professor and New York times best selling author Adam Grant has spent his career researching and lecturing on how people think. Here, his message is simple: Lifelong learning is extremely powerful, but is also seriously under-utilized by most adults.
Although there is comfort in what we know to be true, all of the growth lies in what we don’t know. That being the case, shouldn’t we be actively searching for those ways in which we are misinformed? Doesn’t everyone we meet have something to teach us that we can use to grow? Shouldn’t we have the humility to be ready to abandon our views if alternative perspectives might better serve us? This is what this book is all about. What’s nice is that the man sharing these ideas is a genuine expert in Organisational psychology. Here are some excerpts from the book to give you more of a sense of it’s contents:
“It’s a sign of wisdom to avoid believing every thought that enters your mind. It’s a mark of emotional intelligence to avoid internalizing every feeling that enters your heart.”
“Intelligence is traditionally viewed as the ability to think and learn. Yet in a turbulent world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.”
“founder Ray Dalio told me, “If you don’t look back at yourself and think, ‘Wow, how stupid I was a year ago,’ then you must not have learned much in the last year.”
10.You’re Not Listening – By Kate Murphy
Think again is a book all about what listening to others opinions can do for your own growth. With You’re not listening we see the other side of the coin- When you listen to other people, but really listen, they feel heard. This is equal parts obvious and life-changing.
The truth about listening is that although we all do it, and most of us think we are good at it, very few of us are really great at it.
“The most valuable lesson I’ve learned as a journalist is that everybody is interesting if you ask the right questions. If someone is dull or uninteresting, it’s on you.”
“The truth is, we only become secure in our convictions by allowing them to be challenged. Confident people don’t get riled by opinions different from their own, nor do they spew bile online by way of refutation. Secure people don’t decide others are irredeemably stupid or malicious without knowing who they are as individuals.”
“To listen does not mean, or even imply, that you agree with someone. It simply means you accept the legitimacy of the other person’s point of view and that you might have something to learn from it. It also means that you embrace the possibility that there might be multiple truths and understanding them all might lead to a larger truth. Good listeners know understanding is not binary.”
11.Dog Medicine – By Julie Barton
This is a woman’s honest memoir detailing her battle with depression and how her pet dog became a lifesaver. Julie Barton, the author, collapsed on her Manhattan kitchen floor. At this time, she suffered from severe depression after being out of college for a year. She frantically called her mother, who took her home to Ohio.
But Julie’s episodes didn’t stop here because her troubling childhood continued to haunt her, and she sunk deeper into a depressive state. Although she had the assistance of therapists, psychiatrists, and family support, nothing changed.
One day, she decided to do one thing- adopt a Golden Retriever puppy. This deeply moving book captures the effect of suicidal depression and the anguish it leaves the patient with. But there’s beauty in having hope, forgiving yourself, and how things such as animals can help heal broken hearts.
Life can be absolutely awful. There is almost no limit to the sheer trauma and misery that can come your way sometimes. Books like dog medicine are great because they will show you that you are not alone in your struggle, and there is always hope no matter how hopeless something seems. These are powerful lessons that can carry you through adulthood.
12.101 Secrets for Your Twenties- By Paul Angone
Novels and memoirs are great, but now we come back to straightforward practical advice for adulthood. That is literally the complete contents of this book! I love books with lots of brief tips like this because wherever you are at in your life as you read, there is always something that applies to your situation directly.
You could re read this book every year, and chances are you would get different lessons from it with each reading.
There’s not too much more to say about such a concise book, so here are some quotations with some great wisdom for you to take into adulthood. Make sure to check out the full thing if you find these ideas valuable.
“The possibility for greatness and embarrassment both exist in the same space. If you’re not willing to be embarrassed, you’re probably not willing to be great.”
“Being twentysomething can feel like Death by Unmet Expectations.”
“The most dangerous job you can have in your 20s is a comfortable one.”
“We’ve all experienced the frustration of our 20s going nothing as planned, so why do we still feel like we’re the only ones who are struggling? This lie that we’re all alone in our struggle is a powerful magnifier of depression, anxiety, and confusion in our 20s. It’s vital we blow this ugly lie up. So right now, if you feel like you’re stuck between being adult and child, neither growing nor grown. —you’re not alone. If you feel like you’re struggling through a Quarter-Life Crisis you swore you’d never have. —you’re not alone. If you’re wondering when you’ll ever feel like yourself again. —you are not alone. If you’re searching for a place to hang up your coat because it actually feels like home again. If you’re staring at your gray, cubicle walls wondering how the heck you ended up here. If you’re wondering if God changed His number and forgot to pass the message on to you. —you know what I’m going to say. Call a friend. It’s up to you to make the first move. Share war stories and strategies for dodging bullets. You’re not alone. And just knowing that fact can be enough to breathe life into that which has felt suffocating.”
13.The Financial Diet – By Chelsea Fagan
Are you scared or don’t know how to handle your finances? Well, this personal finance book can help you get good with money. It’s designed to suit absolute beginners, so it suits those who are adulting. Chelsea Fagan has highlighted the complex emotions attached to money, including anxiety, stress, confusion, and avoidance, especially if you don’t understand how you can make your finances work.
Whether you are trying how to live within your means as an entry-level employee, trying to clear student debt, or you are overspending money on unnecessary purchases, this right here will help you mature when it comes to financial management.
Financial Diet, to my mind, is an appropriate title as the book contains basic knowledge of the different areas of finance that are essential to get a handle on. It contains all the essential financial information including:
How you can get good with your finances in a year
How to effectively take care of your house as an adult
Tips about keeping costs down in the kitchen
How to make an appropriate budget and stick to it
What investing means and how you can do it
14.The Road to Character – By David Brooks
This book is one that I will certainly go back to time and time again. The message of the book is humility over self-promotion. Of fulfilling your responsibilities in life. Of asking not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for the world. Counter-intuitively, this selfless space is where your own life will be most fulfilled and your potential as a man or woman will be achieved.
This book is like a wise old sage sharing valuable wisdom. It is deep truths that we all know, but we all need to hear again. I love the message, and I personally strive to shift my thinking as a result of this book. Here are some excerpts which I think are brilliant.
“Start your work from where you live, with the small concrete needs right around you. Help ease tension in your workplace. Help feed the person right in front of you. Personalism holds that we each have a deep personal obligation to live simply, to look after the needs of our brothers and sisters, and to share in the happiness and misery they are suffering.”
“In this scheme of things we don’t create our lives; we are summoned by life. The important answers are not found inside, they are found outside. This perspective begins not within the autonomous self, but with the concrete circumstances in which you happen to be embedded. This perspective begins with an awareness that the world existed long before you and will last long after you, and that in the brief span of your life you have been thrown by fate, by history, by chance, by evolution, or by God into a specific place with specific problems and needs. Your job is to figure certain things out: What does this environment need in order to be made whole? What is it that needs repair? What tasks are lying around waiting to be performed? As the novelist Frederick Buechner put it, “At what points do my talents and deep gladness meet the world’s deep need?”
“The self-effacing person is soothing and gracious, while the self-promoting person is fragile and jarring. Humility is freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time, but egotism is a ravenous hunger in a small space—self-concerned, competitive, and distinction-hungry. Humility is infused with lovely emotions like admiration, companionship, and gratitude.”
15.Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter & How to Make the Most Out of Them Now – By Meg Jay
Clinical psychologist Dr Meg Jay argues that the 20s are crucial for defining adulthood. The provocative read offers ’emerging adults’ tools to make the most out of their defining years including handling work, social networks, building identity, navigating through relationships, and understanding how your brain can change during this period.
what I like about this book is that as much as it is instructional, it is also packed full of data. Here are some points from that book that indicate its contents and give you a sense of the message:
- 2/3 of lifetime wage growth happens within the first 10 years of a career.
- More than half of Americans are either married or living with their life time partner by age 30.
“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”Leonard Bernstein
“Forward thinking doesn’t just come with age. It comes with practice and experience. That’s why some twenty-two-year-olds are incredibly self-possessed, future-oriented people who already know how to face the unknown, while some thirty-four-year-olds still have brains that run the other way.”
“Feeling better doesn’t come from avoiding adulthood, it comes from investing in adulthood.”
Why is Reading Books About Becoming an Adult Important?
As some of the books mentioned explain, maturity comes through knowledge and experience, rather than with age. Reading books is one way to take responsibility for your own maturation and life by extension. What are some of the benefits of Reading about becoming an adult?
When you are worried about your future and are unsure about your path and your growth, it is a highly stressful experience. Reading books like those above can reinforce the fact that we are all struggling. We all have our demons. We all have insecurities. This truth is reassuring and calming. It allows us all to focus on solving one problem at a time without being overwhelmed.
As Think Again by Adam grant makes clear, there are always ways to update and improve our knowledge. To read books of any kind is to be open to development and new ideas. When you think in this way, you can build on what you are to become more capable in the future. This is crucial for proper development and becoming an adult.
Enhance Emotional Intelligence
Some of the authors in this list talk frankly and open right up about awful things that have happened in their own lives. Reading such things helps us to understand that we are not alone in our struggle, but it also affects our levels of empathy and allows us to share the pain of others. When we all feel like we have struggles that we are working through, we all feel connected and have more time for each other.
Becoming an adult is difficult, multidimensional and unavoidable. It is like an unsolvable equation that we all have to do our best to figure out. My hope is that some of these book recommendations will be of genuine assistance to you in your own life, so that you can mature into the best most capable human that is possible. That way, you can go on to make an impact and leave behind a positive legacy. I know you can do it!