The idea of turning 21 seems totally glamorous: you spend your birthday surrounded by other gorgeous 20-somethings, carefree and on top of the world, drinking copious amounts of mixed drink as you celebrate all you have ahead of you. But in reality, hitting the 21 milestone can come with a great deal of apprehension about the future and the looming reality of adulthood. But there are at least several books to read before turning 21 that will put you well on the path to acting like a grown ass woman (even if you still feel like a child at times.)
Seriously: I wish I could retroactively gift these reads to my 20-year-old self. I imagined adulthood as a series of cocktail parties where you’d be rewarded for knowing interesting trivia. It’s turned out to be anything but that. By understanding boring, but vital things like personal finances, basic life skills, and career opportunities that are open at this time, you can get set up for a smoother transition to adulthood.
This is not to say that all of these reads are boring. With a foul-mouthed cookbook and a witty etiquette guide in the mix, you’re certain to stay entertained as you learn some legit life skills. Adulthood doesn’t have to be boring or terrifying at all. You can do this, so long as you have these books to help you along the way.
1To Help You Handle Hangovers
Don't party harder — party smarter. Smart Partying by C.K. Murray provides advice on how to use food, drinks, and supplements to keep hangovers at bay. So while the rest of your friends spend the day by the toilet, you can actually be productive.
2To Help You Mix Drinks Like An Adult
Now that drinking is legal, you need to learn how to mix a cocktail that isn't half Red Bull. The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich will help make you a home bar all-star. With 450 pages of top-shelf drink recipes, this guide will serve you well for years to come.
3To Help You Nail A Job Interview
Written by recruiter and CEO of Career Confidential Peggy McKee, How to Answer Interview Questions will help you woo potential employers. By learning what interviewers are trying to gauge from your responses, this book can help you market your skills in the best light.
4To Help You Land That First Job
If you're ready to go for that first real world job, Do What You Are by Paul D. Teiger, Barbara Barron, and Kelly Teiger is a great source of information. By relying on information about your personality type and work-related strengths, it can help you find a job that works best with your talents.
5To Help You Network
It's a classic for a reason. Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People can teach you how to connect with pretty much anyone. Let the schmoozing begin.
6To Help You Learn To Cook
The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook is basically a cooking school in book form. It will teach you how to cook (more or less) everything, from fried chicken to cheesecake. With more than 800 pages of instruction and recipes, it will whip you into culinary shape in no time.
7To Help You Cook More
Seriously: this is a crucial life skill. Thug Kitchen will help you eat more veggies and feel pretty gangster at the same time. Delivered with adorably aggressive wording, these recipes are delicious and will accommodate almost any diet.
8To Help You Manage Money
Are you prepared to pay off debts? Wondering how you will afford grad school? Beth Kobliner's Get a Financial Life will help you get in track and (hopefully) avoid the major financial pitfalls that happen to young adults.
9To Help You Keep Things In Order
You're probably in a nomadic phase of life, so you don't need a lot of clutter weighing you down. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo will help you simplify your belongings so that you only hold on to those that spark joy.
10To Help You Help Others
Get into voluntourism with Volunteer. You can make your worldly travels more meaningful, whether you want to help with wildlife conservation or community building.
11To Help Find Your Path
Even if you aren't a yoga practitioner, Wanderlust by Jeff Krasno, Sarah Herrington, and Nicole Lindstrom will likely strike a chord. By encouraging readers to embrace positive thinking, music, and eco-friendly activities, this book may help you find your own path.
12To Help You Relax
Chances are, you have about a million things going on at any time, and finding time to legitimately relax is difficult. Thich Nhat Hanh's How to Relax uses principles of mindfulness to help you purposefully rest and recharge.
13To Help You Find Adventure
Are your dreams of travel colliding with a small bank account? Matt Kepnes's How to Travel the World on $50 a Day provides a no-nonsense guide to budget travel almost anywhere in the world.
14To Help You Adult
In Adulting, Kelly Williams Brown explains how to do everything from stock a kitchen pantry to pick the right apartment to rent. It covers the little, crucial details that can make your life so much easier.
15To Help You Know How To Act
Great etiquette is one of those things that can make any social situation a little smoother. Meghan Doherty's How Not To Be a Dick is a non-stuffy, humorous guide to respectful behavior.
16To Help You Maintain Healthy Relationships
Navigating the dating world can get more serious, and therefore more confusing, in your early 20s. Bethany Marshall's Deal Breakers can help you locate your personal boundaries for relationships and know when to walk away.
17To Help You Become More Well-Rounded
People who read poetry outside of school are automatically interesting and probably pretty cultured. These are the people you want to chat up at those mythical future cocktail parties. By reading Czeslaw Milosz's A Book of Luminous Things, you will learn how poets from around the world interpret the human condition, and therefore become more interesting to talk with at parties.
18To Help You Speak Your Mind
From class presentations to business pitches, chances are you'll have to do some public speaking in the near future. Carmine Gallo's Talk Like TED will help you deliver ideas with confidence and style.
19To Help You Get From Here To There
Don't fear the mechanic. Car Smarts by Mary Jackson gives you a basic rundown of how your car operates and what basic maintenance you systems require. A bit of preventative care can prevent major problems down the road.
20To Help You Stay Fit
Need an almost-free way to stay fit? Jago Holmes's 5K Training For Beginners will get you up and running in no time. Just be careful: it might become a lifelong obsession.
21To Help You Find Happiness
Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection can help you learn to use courage, compassion, and healthy boundaries to lead a more joyful life. If you're bogged down by worries about not measuring up in the real world, this book can help remind you of the pitfalls of perfectionism.