21 Books To Read Before You Turn 21 & Have To Adult For Real

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.


To Help You Handle Hangovers

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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.


To Help You Mix Drinks Like An Adult

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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.


To Help You Nail A Job Interview

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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.


To Help You Land That First Job

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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.


To Help You Network

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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.


To Help You Learn To Cook

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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.


To Help You Cook More

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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.


To Help You Manage Money

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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.


To Help You Keep Things In Order

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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.


To Help You Help Others

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Get into voluntourism with Volunteer. You can make your worldly travels more meaningful, whether you want to help with wildlife conservation or community building.


To Help Find Your Path

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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.


To Help You Relax

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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.


To Help You Find Adventure

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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.


To Help You Adult

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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.


To Help You Know How To Act

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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.


To Help You Maintain Healthy Relationships

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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.


To Help You Become More Well-Rounded

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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.


To Help You Speak Your Mind

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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.


To Help You Get From Here To There

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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.


To Help You Stay Fit

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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.


To Help You Find Happiness

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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.

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