The best books for building adulthood in your twenties

The Books I Picked & Why

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now

By Meg Jay

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now

Why this book?

Jay points out that the decade of the twenties, once regarded as the core of young adult life, has become for many a kind of extended adolescence - or an early retirement. The skills, knowledge, habits, and talents which would ordinarily be developed during this time are put off for a later that may prove too late. She makes the case for treating the decade seriously - while still having fun and laying the groundwork for yet more enjoyment later on in life.


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Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

Why this book?

Most books carve out a small part of existence to examine. Gilbert has done a remarkable job of looking at virtually all of life through a neglected lens: emotional forecasting. This is the prediction of future mood states given the various choices we make. Despite making hundreds of such decisions each day, human beings are remarkably poor at guessing what will ultimately prove fulfilling. He argues that many of our trusted instincts are fundamentally untrustworthy - but that there are other ways of making these decisions in more effective ways.


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Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps

By Kelly Williams Brown

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps

Why this book?

Adulthood seems like a necessary and possibly desirable life stage, but HOW exactly does one do it? What are the essentials? Brown steps away from cheerleading and the examination of deep psychological concepts, and instead focusses on the actual skills you need in order to be a tolerably functional, reasonably independent adult. From how to roast a chicken, to coping with upsells at the lube shop, to responding to dinner invitations, she inventories the things every grownup should (and often doesn’t) know.


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Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest

By Sally Koslow

Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest

Why this book?

The cultivation of independent adulthood is a tricky dance - usually at least part of the time conducted with parents. It helps to see the other side of the fence, and Koslow describes the emotional journey of parents as they gradually disengage from their role as captain of the ship of a young adult’s life. Whether they know it or not, you are almost certainly the biggest and most lasting project of their entire lives, and standing on the sidelines to watch it sink or swim ain’t easy.


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The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success

By Walter Mischel

The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success

Why this book?

Our culture has a great tendency to (over-) emphasize the importance of talent in a person’s life, as though our abilities came as standard equipment fresh from the factory. And yet one of the strongest determinants of a fulfilling life has little to do with intelligence or skill or mysteriously-acquired abilities. It’s about the ability to manage our wanton and often self-defeating impulses. Mischel uses the famous “marshmallow test” studies to describe the cultivation of self-discipline - not so that we can be responsible to others, but so we can achieve the goals WE choose for ourselves.


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