10 Books to Read in Your 20s That Will Motivate You to Be Great

It is not easy being a young adult. You never feel quite at home. You’re too old to relate to the teenagers sitting next to you at Starbucks yet too young to enjoy mingling with your parents’ friends at dinner parties.

Does anyone else feel this way? How do you get past it?

This collection of must-reads for the wandering twenty-something is just what you need to find the motivation to keep searching for your purpose.

1. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

You’ve probably heard of IQ, how science measures how intelligent we are based on our problem-solving and critical thinking capabilities.

What you probably didn’t know is that we also harbor a certain amount of emotional intelligence, which, according to Daniel Goleman, can completely revolutionize the way we interact with others and even change the way we care for ourselves.

His book will give you deeper insight into how emotions work, how they work in tandem with the logical areas of our brains and how you can use emotional intelligence to work, socialize and live better throughout the remainder of your life.

2. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

It’s not uncommon to want to turn to some of the successful beings who have come before you on your hunt for inspiration to create the kind of life you have always dreamed of.

Amy Poehler, of Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation fame, gives you all the inspiration you’ll need to continue on your journey to becoming the greatest person you can possibly be.

You will find comedy, honesty, words of wisdom and more written in these pages, whether you’re looking for it or not. Perfect for anyone who needs a little reminder that success isn’t far away, as long as you’re willing to reach for it.

3. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

You are never too small or too big to ask strangers for help.

Singer, songwriter and former living statue Amanda Palmer made history when she hosted the first successful music Kickstarter to support her new album. As a performer she has learned that strangers will smile and they will criticize, but in one way or another, they will connect with you. If you ask them to.

You can hear Palmer talk more about the topic in her TED Talk.

4. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Do you still find yourself struggling to understand the scientific mechanisms of the world, because you found it impossible to pay attention during science class?

In this funny, informative work, Bill Bryson will take you on a trip through time as he tries to answer some of the world’s biggest questions—and in the process, helps you come to terms with the questions you’ve never been brave enough to ask before.

Whatever you’re questioning in life, there may, or may not, be an answer hidden somewhere in these pages. You’ll just have to give it a read to find out.

5. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Have you ever felt lost, as if when you weren’t paying close enough attention, your life turned in an unfamiliar direction and left you stranded without a map?

In Cheryl Srayed’s 2013 reflection, she tells the story of how she pieced together her own road map after her life fell apart before her eyes. At twenty-six, she decided to venture out alone to hike the Pacific Crest trail as a way to move forward toward a new destination while healing from the wounds of her past.

This book will show you a real-life example of how one person managed to turn her deepest pain into a story worth telling. Whatever you have been through or are going through now, you can turn it into something beautiful.

6. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

If you have ever felt like you’re the only one in the world who feels alone, hopelessly in love or not quite sure who you’re even supposed to be, you’re certainly not the only one.

Lena Dunham shares her experiences with all these things and much, much more, giving you an honest look at what it’s like to navigate your way through life when it feels like everyone’s watching (but probably isn’t).

Exploring this collection of essays will instill in you a confidence you didn’t even know you had: the kind of confidence that allows you to accept that fact that you have no idea what you’re doing half the time, and that’s okay.

7. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

We have all made “snap” decisions once or twice before. Some of them turned out to be the right decisions. Some did not.

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s book starts a conversation about the different systems of our brains in order to help us better understand intuition and why we think the way we think in different situations.

This dive into the science of how our brains work will open your eyes to new ways to think about how you make choices, and how you can start to make even better ones in the future.

8. My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

When was the last time you did something that scared you?

Noelle Hancock asked herself that same question before embarking on a unique journey leading up to her 30th birthday. Her memoir chronicles the year she spent living by Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to do something every day that scared her. As you can imagine, the quest that followed changed her life, the same way it will change yours.

This is the ideal read for anyone feeling too comfortable where they are, in need of something—or 365 things—to launch them out of their comfort zone.

9. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Have you ever sat in front of your latest meal and thought about food—really thought hard about it?

Where our food comes from and how we consume it has changed drastically since humans first walked the Earth. Michael Pollan’s book forces readers to look more closely at the problems we face when we stop paying attention to the origins of the food we are introducing into our bodies.

The way you think about food will change after you read Pollan’s prose. If you have ever searched for an excuse to pay more attention to your food, we’ve found one for you.

10. The Opposite of Loneliness by Mariana Keegan

The Opposite of Loneliness by Mariana Keegan

Growing up and figuring out how to make it through the many twists and turns the young adult life has in store is not an easy task.

In her collection of essays and stories, Mariana Keegan didn’t just summarize the life of a college student eager to make a large impact on the world. She spoke to the hearts of the many that would come after her, and still does through this book, despite her sudden death after graduating from Yale in 2012.

Perhaps you need a little inspiration. Maybe you need to know there’s someone else out there who understands what you’re going through.

These books will give you the reassurance you’ll need to keep pushing through it and make your way toward achieving great things.