Become the Best Version of Yourself: Must-Read Books for Your 20s

Reading is one of the most beneficial habits you can develop in your 20s. This decade is full of major life changes – graduating, starting a career, financial independence, relationships, and more. Reading offers many advantages during this transitional life stage.

Reading broadens your perspective. Books allow you to live other lives, expand your worldview, and understand different points of view. This helps you become more open-minded and empathetic.

Reading enhances critical thinking skills. Non-fiction books present researched information and arguments, while fiction invites you to analyze narratives, characters, and motifs. Evaluating what you read grows cognitive abilities.

Reading improves focus and concentration. The deep thinking required when reading strengthens your attention span. This boosts productivity and the ability to retain information.

Reading grows knowledge. Reading books on topics like history, science, business or memoirs imparts valuable wisdom. Absorbing and connecting new ideas grows your mental faculties.

Self Improvement

One of the most popular and impactful self improvement books to read in your 20s is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Published in 1989, this book teaches foundational principles for improving your effectiveness in life through developing good habits. Some key lessons include beginning with the end in mind, putting first things first, and trying to understand others before seeking to be understood. The book provides a holistic, principle-centered approach to personal improvement.

Another more recent self-improvement book worth reading is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. This 2015 book offers a counterintuitive approach to life advice, suggesting readers focus energy on fewer things they truly care about rather than trying to please everyone. It uses vivid examples and curse words to provide a raw, entertaining perspective on self-improvement. Key concepts include avoiding false positivity, accepting failures and imperfections, and taking responsibility for one’s own emotions and life direction.


Building your career in your 20s is a critical time. The books you read can provide important lessons, frameworks, and inspiration to set yourself up for success. Two standout books to read in this category are:

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

In this modern feminist manifesto, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in leadership roles has stalled. She provides research-backed guidance on how women can overcome barriers like internal sabotage, sit at the table, and “lean in” to their careers. This book will empower you to advocate for yourself at work and achieve your ambitions.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

The common career advice to “follow your passion” can actually be counterproductive, argues computer scientist Cal Newport. He makes the case that you should focus first on mastering rare and valuable skills to become good at something society values. Passion often follows as a result of excellence. This book provides a refreshing perspective on how to identify and build a compelling career.


Finance is a crucial area to educate yourself on in your 20s. The money habits and principles you establish now will pay dividends for the rest of your life. Two classic personal finance books I highly recommend are:

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

This timeless classic uses parables set in ancient Babylon to illustrate financial principles that are still relevant today. It teaches lessons on living below your means, paying yourself first, and using the power of compound interest to grow your money. The book emphasizes taking responsibility for your financial future rather than luck or circumstance.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley

This book studies the habits and lifestyles of real American millionaires. You may be surprised to learn most millionaires live modestly, below their means, and avoid flashy displays of wealth. The book focuses on accumulating wealth through disciplined saving and investing rather than a high income alone. It provides a blueprint for building wealth even on an average salary.

Both books provide fundamental yet powerful insights on achieving financial independence. They are essential reads for anyone looking to take control of their finances and build lasting wealth. The lessons will help you develop habits to maximize your earnings potential and find financial freedom.

Philosophy Books That Make You Think

The books below offer timeless wisdom and philosophical insights to help broaden perspectives and critically examine life.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

This classic work lays out the private thoughts and stoic philosophy of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Written as a series of notes to himself, it offers profound insights on how to live wisely and virtuously. From enduring hardship to the importance of service and duty, Aurelius reflects on how to find meaning and purpose through reason, self-control and humility. His meditations provide an enduring source of guidance and inspiration.

The Republic by Plato

Consisting of ten books of dialogues between Socrates and others, The Republic is widely considered one of the most influential works of philosophy and political theory. It covers a broad range of topics including justice, good governance, the ideal city-state, and the nature of knowledge. Plato examines profound concepts including his famous allegory of the cave, the idea of philosopher-kings, and the immortality of the soul. The Republic’s examination of justice in both the individual and society continues to shape philosophical debates today.

Adventure Books To Read In Your 20s

The 20s are a time for exploration and expanding horizons. What better way to capture that spirit than by reading books about great adventures? Here are two must-reads for the adventurous 20-something:

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

This nonfiction book chronicles the story of Christopher McCandless, who donated his law school fund to charity and embarked on a journey to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness. His quest for freedom and his tragic end will resonate with anyone feeling restless or searching for meaning. Krakauer combines interviews, letters, and his own outdoor expertise to paint a vivid portrait of an idealistic young man determined to find his true self in nature.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Published in 1957, this novel was a seminal work of the Beat Generation. It follows Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty on their meandering road trip across the United States in search of truth and meaning. Fueled by jazz, poetry, and benzedrine, their adventures epitomize the romance of youthful wanderlust and rejection of postwar consumerism. Kerouac’s infectious prose will inspire you to hit the open road and embrace improvisation and chance encounters.

Both books capture the exhilaration and peril of pushing boundaries to discover one’s place in the world. Their protagonists’ uncompromising individualism will motivate you to live fully and authentically.


Some books have stood the test of time and are considered must-reads for good reason. Here are two classics everyone should read in their 20s:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Published in 1960, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel takes place during the Great Depression in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. It follows young Scout Finch and her brother Jem as their father, Atticus, defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. Through Scout’s innocent but knowing eyes, the book explores issues of racial injustice, morality, courage, and loss of innocence. Lee beautifully evokes a child’s perspective to comment on the existence of systemic racism and prejudice in society. The novel teaches powerful lessons about empathy, compassion, and standing up for what’s right.

1984 by George Orwell

Orwell’s chilling dystopian novel, published in 1949, envisions a totalitarian future society ruled by omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation. The book follows Winston Smith in the nation of Oceania, where independent thinking is forbidden and history is constantly altered to support the regime. Winston begins to rebel by falling in love and keeping a forbidden diary. 1984 popularized terms like “Big Brother,” “thought police,” and “doublethink.” While it depicts a disturbing futuristic world, the book serves as a timely warning about oppressive governing powers and the importance of free-thinking individuals. This classic is a must-read for its profound observations on power, corruption, and human nature.

Reading influential classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984 provides important perspectives that remain strikingly relevant decades later. Though written long ago about fictional places, these books offer crucial insights into real human experiences that still resonate today.


Relationships can be complicated, especially in your 20s when you are still figuring things out. Two books that can provide tremendous insight into understanding love languages and getting the love you want in a relationship are:

The 5 Love Languages

Written by Gary Chapman, this book identifies the 5 main love languages that people speak – words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Understanding not only your own primary love languages but also your partner’s can vastly improve communication and lead to feeling more loved and appreciated in your relationship.

Some key highlights in The 5 Love Languages:

  • Explains how people give and receive love differently
  • Helps determine your own and your partner’s love languages
  • Provides tips for expressing love in ways your partner best understands
  • Can resolve conflicts stemming from mismatched love languages
  • Improves relationships for both married and dating couples

Getting the Love You Want

Written by Harville Hendrix, this book helps couples uncover unconscious patterns from childhood that negatively impact their relationship. It provides exercises for couples to complete together to facilitate open communication, promote empathy, and reconnect.

Key insights from Getting the Love You Want:

  • Helps understand how past experiences shape our approach to love
  • Focuses on becoming conscious of unhealthy dynamics
  • Teaches techniques to nurture intimacy and passion
  • Explains role of imagination in creating the love you desire
  • Provides a roadmap for resolving conflicts and arguments

Both of these relationship books can transform love lives when applied. Highly recommended for those seeking stronger bonds with their significant other.


Memoirs allow us to step into someone else’s life and learn from their experiences. Two great memoir options for your 20s are:


This memoir by Tara Westover details her journey growing up in a survivalist Mormon family and educating herself outside of any school system. She faces challenges adjusting to the modern world while pursuing degrees at Brigham Young University and Cambridge. Educated inspires readers in their 20s to appreciate education and think critically about their beliefs.

The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls chronicles her poverty-stricken, dysfunctional upbringing at the hands of negligent parents in this raw memoir. Despite the adversity, she and her siblings find resilience and learn to care for each other. The Glass Castle is an eye-opening read in your 20s about dysfunctional families, overcoming challenging circumstances, and defining your own path.


Reading should be a lifelong journey that offers value at every age and stage of life. But books can be particularly formative and transformative in one’s 20s as a period of self-discovery. The books highlighted in this article cover key topics like self-improvement, career development, financial management, philosophical ideas, adventure stories, classic literature, relationships, and inspirational memoirs.

To summarize:

  • For self-improvement, books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win Friends and Influence People provide timeless advice on achieving goals and connecting with others.
  • Career-oriented books like What Color Is Your Parachute? and Lean In supply job search strategies and leadership principles.
  • Finance books like The Millionaire Next Door and Rich Dad Poor Dad offer contrasting perspectives on how to think about money.
  • Philosophical works like Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and Sophie’s World examine profound ideas about life’s meaning.
  • Page-turning adventure stories transport readers imaginatively to other places and cultures.
  • Classic novels remain insightful studies of the human condition.
  • Relationship books like Getting the Love You Want provide guiding frameworks for finding fulfillment with a partner.
  • Inspiring memoirs like Educated demonstrate the transformative power of education and personal growth.

The books highlighted in this article represent just a sampling of the must-reads for young people charting their path in life. Reading great books in one’s 20s can impart new knowledge, expand one’s worldview, stimulate deep reflection, and provide needed direction. Making reading a consistent habit will pay dividends for years to come.


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