Categorized | Featured, Random Goodies

20 Books to Read in Your Twenties

Being a twenty-something is all about self discovery, figuring out who you are and what inspires you. After polling our office, we came up with a variety of books that someone in their twenties can relate to, use as a reference guide or just keep handy for a couple of chuckles (we’re looking at you Sophie Kinsella)!

What books would you recommend to a twenty-something? Let us know in the comments below!


Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
On the Outside Looking Indian by Rupinder Gill
MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
How to Raise a Boyfriend by Rebecca Eckler
Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
It's Called a Breakup because it's Broken by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt
I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Magnified World by Grace O'Connell
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Have Him at Hello by Rachel Greenwald
One Day by David Nicholls
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
The Girls by Lori Lansens
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
NextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnailNextGen ScrollGallery thumbnail


But wait! There’s more! Here are 20 books to read in your twenties if you’re a guy and Ainsley’s list of 20 books to read in your twenties.

About Lindsey

Lindsey Reeder is obsessed with chocolate, coffee and books. It only made sense that she would choose a career in book publishing with a last name like Reeder. As a Coordinator in Online Marketing for Random House of Canada, Lindsey spends her days tweeting and blogging about books that make her laugh, make her cry and everything in between. Follow Lindsey on Twitter at @reederreads or @RandomHouseCA.

81 Responses to “20 Books to Read in Your Twenties”

  1. Janet says:

    Was going to forward this to my 20-year-old son, but I’d say you need a second list aimed at males….

  2. Kat says:

    Great idea, Janet! I like it! We’ve scheduled one just for you – and your son :) . Stay tuned…

  3. Melissa says:

    An amazing list, as a 20-something year old, I’ve only heard of a handful of the titles, great books to add to my TBR list and hopefully read while I’m still in my 20′s!!!

  4. Kat says:

    Thanks, Melissa! The Scarlet Letter was a fave of mine from high school and university. I also really like the cover on the version above. If you haven’t read On the Outside Looking Indian, you must! It is HIL-arious! The author, Rupinder Gill, is on Twitter and she is so funny and interactive (if you’re on Twitter :) ).

  5. Andrea says:

    This is a great list. I loved Magnified World, that was definitely a book that people in their twenties can relate to. I really want to read Girls In Whote Dresses as well, sounds awesome!

    • Kat says:

      Hi Andrea,
      Yes, Magnified World was great! It was pretty intense though. I haven’t read Girls in White Dress yet either but I’ve gotten many recommendations to read it.
      Let’s see which of us gets to it first :)

  6. Mary Wilson says:

    Two books I loved reading in my twenties were Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham and Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov.

  7. Melissa says:

    Why are so many of these books about relationship advice or changing your boyfriend? Really? Seems like a waste of the time it takes to read those ones. That said, there are a lot of great titles here.

    • Kat says:

      Hey Melissa,
      For a lot of ladies, I think their 20′s is a time to figure out relationships and themselves and think about what they want for the rest of their lives…what kind of guy do they want to be with, do they want to get married/have kids, etc.
      But not for everyone, that’s why we selected a list of books that deals with a variety of issues – not just the good ol’ fluffy stuff :) .

    • Sylvia says:

      I agree…romance is in most people’s lives but I don’t think it needs to be fixated on quite that much…also I feel that this list is pretty heteronormative. Not much variety. Some romances, relationship advice, and a few classics. There are some good books mixed in, but not such a good balance…

  8. kate says:

    A new book that is just amazing is “Push” by D.P. Davidson.

  9. sarah says:

    I am always looking for books to read; so the idea of a list of book recommended for me is amazing. But when the first book on the list is 50 shades of grey total turn off

    • tori says:

      Haha, I agree. This list lost all of its legitimacy after I saw that.

    • Amber says:

      Agreed. I was excited about new book recommendations…until I saw the first one…yikes.

    • Erin says:

      Agreed! I also find it odd that there is no context or information about these books or why we should be reading them, just titles.

    • Kate says:

      For real! I agree.

    • Keara says:

      Totally agree!

    • emily says:

      I have to say – the list for me loses legitimacy for a few reasons:

      1) First and most importantly: there is no description of each book. This is a big red flag to me. Why should we think it’s a good book and worth reading – just because you have shown us picture and told us it was a good book? At the most basic truth (and this will sound harsh) but why should I believe you as a book reader/someone to recommend books to others has any credibility. Throw us a bone, I want to see that you can summarize a book/write a coherent sentence yourself.

      2) In it’s most literal sense, I judge a book by it’s cover. The covers of these books have no redeeming quality to them in my mind, and the titles aren’t much better. I defer back to reason #1.

      3) 50 Shades of Grey. To be completely honest, I have never read it and never intend to. Literally, everybody I’ve spoke with describes it as poorly written ‘Mommy Porn.’ Not a great choice in trying to add credibility to the list.

      4) Reading back to your comment above about a lot of people in their 20s trying to find love, figuring out if they want families, etc. I do not disagree with you but at the same time these aren’t my top priorities at the moment. I’m trying to find myself and my passions first and foremost. In this hyper-complex world, I think it’s both a blessing and a curse that we have so much to choose from when deciding where to go in life. You should probably change the title of this blog article to something like ‘Trying to Find Love in As A 20-something Woman’. Again, I defer back to statement #1.

    • Sara says:

      Yeah. Not only is 50 just glammed up porn, it’s HORRIBLY written.

    • Madeleine says:

      I have actually read all of the Fifty Shades books and I have to say that while they are considered “Mommy porn” I think it is important to point out that they are quite imaginative and very addicting. James did not intend to write books like any others out there; these are not cheesy romance books. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy reading different types of books. There is a reason why these books were on the NY Times Best Sellers List. And if that doesn’t convince you to at least read the first book, then I’m sorry you are boring and probably have a horrible sex life.

  10. Twenty something reader says:

    This is a great list, with the exception of one title. I don’t think that Fifty Shades is a healthy book for young women. It sets up this idea that the perfect man can just fall into your life (or that you’ll just fall into his office) and that you’ll live happily ever after in a hot steamy romance filled with adventure and intrigue. That is not reality or even a shadow of it. The sex scenes are a lot of fun though and could be used as good guide for experimentation. ;)

    • kimberly says:

      If you ask me, Fifty Shades is no more misleading than a Nicholas Sparks book or any Disney fairytale. I read Fifty Shades, and I do agree that it wasn’t as well-written as it could have been; however, I loved it. I couldn’t put the trilogy down. I also am a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks and have watched and still will watch Disney movies. I don’t understand why people think it is so horrible and degrading and whatnot when I thought it was mostly about how you should explore your inner goddess and try out things, sexually, that you would like, but stay in your comfort zone. There is no need in doing things that you aren’t comfortable with, but it is normal to experiment. That’s how I took it, and I happen to know other people who agree with that being how they took it when they read the Fifty Shades trilogy.

    • anon says:

      I agree that this title should absolutely not be recommended to young women. It perpetuates the kind of thinking that women in abusive relationships use to justify staying in them – he’s controlling because he loves me, he’s broken but my love can fix him, I can’t abandon him because he’s damaged…I know it’s meant to be fluff, but as someone with experience in this area I cannot emphasize how much of a negative impact a book glorifying this mindset can have. There are better books about sexual freedom or romanticized relationships without this twisted mindset. If Christian Grey were not attractive or rich, his behavior (and I am not including the BDSM in this) would make him a very unattractive prospect for a significant other.

  11. Maddy M says:

    Just found this on Pinterest! I’m 20 currently and have read most of the books on the list! As a Writing major, I absolutely loathed 50 Shades! I thought it was awfully written and painfully repetitive. I would never recommend the book to any intellectual person. The only reason it blew up was because of the topic!

  12. Erin says:

    I just read “Love and Other Subjects” by Kathleen Shoop….SO amazing!! Definitely recommend to any 20-something.

  13. Lauren says:

    The Bride Quartet Series!

  14. Caitlin says:

    The fact that the first book on the list was Fifty Shades of Grey was such an instant turnoff, I didn’t even make it to the second book. Try choosing a book that is about bettering yourself as a human being rather than only adding to the stereotype that all women are submissive and shallow. There are far better novels out there to broaden your mind and educate yourself about the world.

  15. Emily says:

    What an embarassing list. Are we under the impression that all women in their twenties are desperate to “find a man”? Gross. I’ll give you the last several titles – though it seems like a woman in her twenties should maybe have read those already.

  16. Megan says:

    I feel like this list is poorly composed. You’ve gathered a bunch of fluff and then some obvious classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Handmaids Tale.
    50 Shades of Grey should be on NO ONE’S list. Ever. It’s written without style, class, or talent, and it is even mildly offensive to women. With the exception of the previously mentioned classics, which everyone should read, there’s nothing with any substance on here. This list is an insult to women in their 20′s. But, then again, I suppose it IS the media’s job to keep young people focused on empty and meaningless garbage so that we don’t notice what a desperately messed up world we live in.
    I call this list “What women in their 20′s should avoid reading to prevent the collapse of their individuality and intellect, and some classics.”

    • Elizabeth says:

      I agree. Actually a lot of these books are offensive to women, and offensive to humanity in general. What sort of boyfriend needs “training” and what sort of woman demotes her partner to a pet like that? Who thinks about other humans in this way? And what is all this dating advice, the implication of which is that women in their 20s are supposed to be vain, self-obsessed, man-crazy loonies? No thank you. And quit pretending people who read 50 Shades of Grey are going to read the Scarlet Letter, I ask you

  17. Jackie says:

    Any book by Emily Giffin is AMAZING– The Something Borrowed/Something Blue series is my favorite but Love the One You’re With and Heart of the Matter are both great too, very relate-able characters!!

  18. Casey says:

    The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing is one I enjoyed several times in my early twenties!

  19. Winnie says:

    I’m not one to be cruel with criticism but I am honest. As a woman in my 20′s I love to read, but some of the books on this list are not to my taste at all. I get so tired of 50 Shades of Gray. A friend of mine loaned me the books to do a research paper on. My research paper was about books that exploit women. The chit in the book is in an obsessive, stalking, and abusive relationship, and the author makes it look glamorous! It’s sick. I will not say anything else about the other “girly books” on the list, because I have not read them and they are not really to my taste. However, I do applaud you on including classics in the list. I read the book “How to win friends and influence people” before I went to college, and it helped immensely. This list is defiantly rounded, but not to everyone’s taste. All women are different. :)

  20. Emri says:

    As a woman in my 20′s, I found this list quite appalling. Starting at the beginning: Fifty Shades of Grey is not worthwhile for anyone to read. It exploits women and teaches them that they have no value. I have thought of reading some of these other books, and started them, but they are mainly filled with fluff–meaningless stories of girls who throw themselves at men in the hopes that they can find self worth. The classics (Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, ect.) should all be read, but I can’t imagine the people who read Fifty Shades of Grey to pick these up. And Rebecca Ecklers book–no girl should lower themselves to dating a man that needs training. The idea that you can “raise” a boyfriend is absurd, adults are not children. This book also contains many sexist ideas, and degrades women to nagging and being overly needy.

  21. Marie says:

    I can understand everyone has their opinions about what they think is good & what’s not. But all the ranting and raving is a little ridiculous. I’m afraid to even put in a suggestion thinking that someone may go off on how horrible it is. Just say that book isn’t what you like and give your suggestion and move on. Let’s be nice without ripping others down.

  22. Katie says:

    “He’s Just Not That Into You” by Greg Behrendt. It’s a comical book for any girl as soon as she begins dating, to keep clarity & set standards in relationships.

  23. Brittany says:

    Fifty Shades of Grey… really?
    That’s one of the worst books ever written and portrays and unhealthy relationship based on control.

    Ugh. How can you even put that on a list with Pride and Prejudice?

  24. Megan says:

    Is this a joke? How to Raise a Boyfriend, Have Him at Hello? Might as well suggest a subscription to Cosmo. I was hoping for something with a little more depth and insight than 50 Shades of Porn. The fact that Pride and Prejudice is included among these books must have Jane Austen turning in her grave.

  25. 20sReader says:

    I have to agree that 50 shades should not be on this list. Bedcause, not only was it poorly written but, it was based off of a story that already exists. Also, most young ladies fail to realize that Christian Grey is an psychopath with serious issues and that Ana only likes him for his money and good looks. The quality of this book combined with the horrible message it sends to ladies about how gentleman should behave is why it should not be on this list.

  26. Whitney says:

    I would add Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Marriage Plot by Jeff Eugenides because they both deal with the transition from youth to marriage. And I would delete Fifty Shades of Grey from the list because it is unoriginal and terribly written.

  27. Grace says:

    It seems to me that with a few notable exceptions, this list implies that the way a young woman discovers herself is through her relationships with men. As a woman in her 20′s, I do not see myself in any of these books, and feel they present a rather narrow view. Personally, the books that helped me discover myself and expand my mind as I exited my teens were ones that challenged me, and forced me to see the world from a new and different perspective. Books like Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, Tristessa by Kerouac, Brave New World by Huxley, The Bell Jar by Plath, everything by Tolkien (as I myself am a huge Tolkien nerd); I could go on and on. And Fifty Shades is just an offense on every level, not fit to be called literature.

  28. Kelly says:

    Everyones twenties are different, so no list will be perfect for everyone. No one is making you read the books on the list, they are just suggestions. I think you should keep your negative opinions to yourself. It’s just for fun!

  29. martha says:

    Great list. Excited to read a few!

  30. Karlee says:

    Another book that is AMAZING for anyone in their 20s to read is a book called Loved by Kimberly Novosel. It is all about self discovery!

  31. Brie says:

    I don’t think 50 shades was written to make girls think they can change a man. It’s a steamy romance novel. I completely thought the music and other elements of the book were horrible, the book was a good and intriguing read, I and a few hundred thousand people couldn’t put it down. This list is just suggestions not demands. It was a very popular selling book why would they not put it on the list?

    • K says:

      Something is not worthwhile merely because it is popular. If this were so then Kim Kardashian would be receiving a Nobel Prize and the Twilight movies would be winning Oscars. Fifty Shades was unoriginal, tasteless, barely literate, and presented a highly dubious message. I can’t imagine why anyone would put it on a list of must-read books for young women.

  32. Terra says:

    Hey. I really wanted to check out the list of books, but it wouldn’t should me it. I clicked on the male version and it appeared to work, but it wouldn’t show me the books on this one. Any advice?

  33. Betsy says:

    How to win friends and influence people should be on every one’s list. My mom asked me to read it when I was in middle school and periodically thereafter. Practiacally speaking, its value is incredibly high. Especially for professionals. Definitely worth the time!

  34. crissy says:

    Disagree with your list. I dont think Shades of Grey even counts as a book. Its like calling Playboy and Maxim literature.

  35. Katrina says:

    Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

  36. Amber says:

    Another classic to read in your 20s: The Diary Of Anne Frank

  37. Maxie says:

    I found this list and honestly am very surprised that something as blatantly sexist as “Fifty Shades of Grey” is on the same list as “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I can understand how putting these books on the same list might prompt those who are less likely to read a mind-stimulating novel to actually go out and pick one up, but I honestly find it very patronizing and offensive. It almost seems like two different people chose the books for this list. I usually don’t get irritated by this kind of thing but I have always respected Random House’s opinion on literature until now.

  38. Dani says:

    I would definitely suggest “Eat, Pray , Love”. Most women in their 20s are searching for themselves and that books definitely will help guide them!

  39. Becca says:

    ….The fact that Fifty Shades is on this list makes me SERIOUSLY doubt whether I want to put any stock in this list.

  40. Dixie says:

    I wish I saw A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft instead of Fifty Shades of Grey. Seriously, I thought I would see books about strong women who determine their identity regardless of the number or quality of relationships they have had with men. At least a little variation would be nice. There are plenty of women you know who have read all the classics in this list, and would like a refreshing point of view of how to overcome the emotional turmoil of being a twenty-something.

    Loved your list for men, though. Even if there was the problem that a lot of girls like those books, too, but I don’t know a lot of guys who would voluntarily read chick-lit. So in that sense building lists based on gender doesn’t quite work.

  41. Caitlin says:

    The girls from amez is another one. Amazing book. Teaches you of long lasting friendships- even if you have a fall out.

  42. Sara says:

    Ew! How does To Kill A Mockingbird wind up on the same list as 50 Shades?

  43. Emme says:

    How did 50 Shades of Grey get on the same list as Jane Austen, Gatsby, and To Kill a Mockingbird!?

  44. Katie says:

    “FireFly Lane” by Kristin Hannah needs to be on here. One of the best books I’ve ever read!

  45. Kirsten says:

    Like many of the ladies who already posted, I am really sad to think that my generation (I’m 23) is seen as so shallow. 50 Shades is a ridiculous inclusion on this list, and I feel like the only truly meaningful literature (Scarlet Letter, Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird) are things that most of the 20-somethings I know read in high school. While I love those books (the classics, not 50 Shades), why not suggest something out of the ordinary? Where’s the Kurt Vonnegut or J.D. Salinger? Is it too much to ask that the young women of my generation be recommended real literature? I think that we can handle something more intellectually stimulating than just another book about how to catch a man.

  46. Jas says:

    I’m so disappointed that 50 Shades is considered a “must-read” on any is a trashy, poorly written book with a horrible message to women (the idea that it is okay to stay with an emotionally abusive and controlling man because he is hot, and furthermore the idea that staying with him might change his behavior if you always give him what he wants). If there was ever a list of books that should be avoided by girls who are trying to figure out what they want from relationships and life in general, 50 Shades should be at the top.

    Also, everyone should read this hilarious review of 50 Shades.
    You won’t regret it. Promise :)

  47. Kaitlyn says:

    I have found both positive and negative aspects about this list. I would have appreciated some sort of summary and reason why it was on the list. I am happily married so I’m not very interested in books about finding love and a summary would help me weed those out. I don’t mind a love story but if the purpose is to teach me how I don’t need it. Also, an explanation might give a pace to give a disclaimer about 50 Shades. I read them and I liked them but a lot of the information other commenters said is true. I think you could still recommend the books but give a heads up about some reasons people may not want to read it.

    The best thing about this list was finding the book I most recently read: MWF Seeking BFF. This book is great for the LATE twenties (a nice recommendation could say that). It made me feel less alone and really points out a common, unspoken, problem in our society today. It is becoming harder to make friends as I age and I loved this book for telling me I’m not a loser for it.

  48. Ally says:

    Is there a printable list view?

  49. Samma says:

    Okay, I stopped reading this as soon as “Fifty Shades of Gray” popped up. PLEASE STOP TELLING WOMEN TO READ THIS BOOK! I’m not even offended by the sexual content –I’m offended by this spineless woman being portrayed as some kind of heroine for stay-at-home-mom’s while being brainwashed that a guy wanting to beat you for his own personal pleasure is sexy. Seriously, ladies. If you want to read a sexy book that ALSO contains an actual plot –Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yeah, it’s got the paranormal element but the females in these books are strong, independent woman, who don’t take crap from their men. Which is what we SHOULD be reading in our twenties!

  50. Bethany says:

    Great list, except for Fifty Shades Of Gray. Rotten book…..


  1. [...] ranging from classic tales of patriarchal control to self-help books on getting over guys (wrote Assistant Manager of Online Marketing Katerina Ortakova in her own defense, “For a lot of ladies, I think their 20′s is a time to figure out relationships and [...]

  2. [...] george rr martin, Giles Blunt, guys, lord of the rings, men, Thriller, tolkien Our round up of 20 Books to Read in Your Twenties was a huge hit! Many of you suggested your own must-reads and that was awesome! One of our fabulous [...]

  3. [...] recently stumbled upon a list of “20 Books to Read in Your 20s.” I had high hopes from the lede: your 20s are about self-discovery! Yeah! It’s the [...]

  4. [...] via Molly on [...]

  5. [...] 20 Books to Read in Your Twenties. [...]

  6. [...] I came across this page, “20 Books to Read in your 20s” and I’ve decided that I’d really like to [...]

  7. Book Club | says:

    [...] I came across this page, “20 Books to Read in your 20s”, and I’ve decided that I’d really like to find a new book [...]

  8. [...] you’re in your twenties, here is Lindsey’s list of 20 books to read in your twenties, Ainsley’s list for your twenties, and a list of 20 Books to Read in Your Twenties for Dudes. [...]

  9. [...] 20 Books to Read in Your Twenties by Random House [...]

  10. [...] nice relief since wedding planning is the main thing on my mind lately. I first saw the story on a list for 20 books to read in your 20s and I don’t really know why this is recommended for twenty-somethings. It’s a fun read [...]

  11. [...] this and I’ve found that men LOVE it. FOUR. Girls in White Dresses! After reading “20 books to read in your twenties” I decided to pick this book up and give it a read. I’m so happy I did! FIVE. Cable [...]

Leave a Reply

Join the Retreat Book Club!


Follow Me on Pinterest