36 Books You Need to Read Before You Turn 20

If you're already 20+, it is never too late to catch up!
by Alyssa Jose   |  Aug 25, 2016
Image: Pinterest ART Clare Magno
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Turning twenty is a milestone in any person's life. You may dread not being a "teen" anymore ("twen-teen" is not happening, sorry), and maybe you are feeling excited about finally being a full-pledged adult; we bet our lives you are feeling a crazy mix of both. Hear this, brace yourself for the years to come for they will be the best years of your life; they will also be the most difficult.

That is why we have listed down the books you need to read before you turn 20. These titles helped us cope in the most trying times; we're honestly hoping they do the same for you.

  1. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is just one of those books you come back to from time to time because we're all children in adult bodies after all. The charm of this poignant tale will remain no matter how old we get and for us that is pure magic.

  1. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

The life lessons you will earn from this book will be of great help as you trudge on to your most difficult years—your twenties. We promise you, you will never be the same person after finishing this book BUT we can't promise that you'll finish it with an unscathed heart.

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  1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

We know you'll love a dystopian read but there is another reason to get fully committed to this book: it tells the story of one woman's struggle for self-determination against all odds and all throughout the book you will feel as if you are fighting alongside her. This book is an experience you cannot miss.

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This book shows you grief in the most honest way possible. Some parts will leave your heart heavy and your tear ducts ready to give out but we hope you come through. We will all experience loss at some point; introduce yourself to it through this book.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

You may have seen this on the big screen already (who could ever forget Logan Lerman's stellar performance?) but the book will take you to an even more special place. We're pretty sure you will identify with Charlie as he tries to navigate uncharted territory a.k.a growing up. This book is also loaded with quotes you'll end up scribbling on your journals, they are that beautiful!

  1. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

This book has been published years ago but it only proves that love stories never really get old. In the time of modern dating where everything moves at a dizzying speed, it warms the heart to witness a story of love that endures no matter the circumstance.

  1. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

This book is worth your time even when you're not a writer because it will teach you so much more than stringing words together. It did not take us long to fall in love with Anne Lamott's wit and humor that is why this is probably our favorite nonfiction read EVER.

  1. The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

This book is not your mathematics textbook pretending to be a novel so you’ll pick it up, trust us. If you ever felt like you're destined to be alone and you can't seem to find your "people," this is the book for you.

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

Finally a book that celebrates introverts (it's about time, right?).This book affirms that "There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas." and this is something every introvert is trying to fight for. You go introverts of the world; stay golden!

  1. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

This memoir is a true account of Corrie Ten Boom's experiences in German-occupied Holland during World War II. It's a story of pain, suffering and also of faith, strength, kindness and perseverance.This book will make you feel the pain that is not yours but you will carry it anyway because you are human. It's an eye-opening experience.

  1. Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Absolutely no one is ever too old for Dr. Seuss. Whether you're five, 25, or 50, this book will resonate with you in some way. It's amazing how even in the face of our most "adult" and complicated problems, we can still go back to this book we all grew up with.

  1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

It's impossible to read this book without getting affected; this book is meant to get to you for it is dealing with a serious problem all of us can fall prey to. It can happen to your best friend, your sister, to you; and that gives us all the more reason to talk about it out in the open.

  1. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

Sometimes you read the right book at the right time in your life and it just clicks. If you're about to face the adult world and you are a strong, independent woman (who still has nothing figured out, though), you and this book is a match made in heaven.

  1.  #NoFilter by The Sandbox Collective

No Filter is a collection of monologues written by millennials for millennials. If you're part of generation Y, and you are tired of hearing about how "self-absorbed" and "lazy" millennials have become, and if you're bummed of how Tinder oversimplified love to mere swiping on our phone screens, this book will definitely speak volumes to you. 

  1. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this coming of age read when he was only twenty-three years old and eighteen years later, this book still speaks to every young person who flips through its pages. There are many amazing lines from the book but this one perfectly sums up young love: "There is a moment—Oh, just before the first kiss, a whispered word—something that makes it worthwhile."

  1. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

This is probably the Murakami book that "everyone" has read but we're telling you, joining the Murakami party is the best decision you will ever make. Norwegian Wood will leave you a feelsy mess but it will be worth it because the ending is utterly beautiful. We can't wait for you to finish it already.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

We're sure your English teacher may have asked you to read this for class before. You might have hated you loathed everything that was "required" or you did not know any better so you didn't really bother to read it but believe us, going back to it as an adult is an entirely different experience. To Kill a Mockingbird is an undisputed classic for a reason, it truly is a masterpiece and you are sure to regret not reading it sooner.


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  1. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Your twenties is the perfect time to build good habits that you will carry with you for the rest of your life and it is also the time to banish the bad ones. This book will guide you on how to do just that. The best thing about it is that everything's backed with years of research so you know that it’s no bogus.

  1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This book is a powerful classic about Anne Frank and her family's life in hiding during WWII in the Netherlands. Her outlook that there is beauty in everything and that there is always goodness in other people will change the way you see the world.

  1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This is not only a must-read for big fans of the sci-fi genre but also for anyone who is in for an intergalactic adventure. This book is out of this world (literally) and the absurdity of it all will challenge your imagination. Its pages is also home to timeless, "will forever be relevant" quotes like this one: "And so the problem remained; lots of people were mean, and most were miserable, even the ones with digital watches."

  1. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

There will always be a part of us that will make us think "I am a little mad." Or "I don't want to grow up" and that is why Alice in Wonderland will forever be a joy to read. We love Alice to bits because she’s the poster girl for anyone who finds themselves in getting lost. 

  1. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

This book tells the story of three women as they navigate through treacherous waters of heartbreak and career change, family pressure and new love. There are LOTS of relatable moments and it will feel like the characters are people you actually know. This is also you transitioning to more mature chick-lits!

  1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This book will rip you heart out in less than seven hundred words (we didn't think that it was possible too, but IT IS.) The Giving Tree teaches us about unconditional love, the kind that does not ask for anything in return, the love we all strive to give and receive.

  1. And Then There Was None by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie has written some fantastic murder mysteries but this will always be our number one pick. If you grew up reading Nancy Drew (with a flashlight because you had to have your lights off by 9 PM), this book will remind you of your love for gripping mystery novels.

  1. One Day by David Nicholls

This book is a love letter to all the love we will find and lose along the way as we grow older. It reveals how life can sometimes make love difficult and that that is a reality we can't run away from. Watch the movie too (it stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess), it's just as beautiful.

  1. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

It tells the stories of four women who were born in China but were forced to leave due to tragic circumstances, and their four daughters who were all born in America. The novel explores the cultural divide between the two generations of women and explores how national identity influences people's lives. Stories of women who come through amidst adversity should always be celebrated.

  1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Reading this book feels like watching a film because of Virginia Woolf's remarkable imagery and no other writer from this century can do it like she does. This is one of those books that will make you dig deep and think about the things that actually matter.

  1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This novel is part coming-of-age story, part mystery, and part rumination on the value of a human life versus the value of art. Rick Riordan (author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series we all adore) gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads so we’re sure it is a good one.

  1. milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about violence, abuse, love, loss and survival from the perspective of a headstrong woman. This book is confronting and shocking, and it will pull you out of the comforts of your own mind but sometimes, that is exactly what you need. We have nothing but love for this piece of art.

  1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

You know those books that you finish and then immediately begin again because they were just that good? The Unbearable Lightness of Being might just be that book for you.

  1. The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

Reading this book will make you want to have lunch with Dorothy Parker and just listen as she rambles on and on about everything under the sun. We strongly suggest you read the short story Big Blonde, it's the best in the book!

  1. Coming of Age by Summit Books


If you are about to turn 18 then this is the perfect book for you! It has 18 stories about turning 18 written by 18 different voices. This book will prove that these 18 people have survived adult-ing so far and so will you.

  1. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This book will teach you all about life and what remains after it is taken away. Susie Salmon's death will break your heart to pieces, and reading the book will feel like sharing the grief of her whole family. It's been years since we've read this book but it is still on our minds.

  1. Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

If ever find yourself uninspired and unmotivated, give this book a read for an instant pick me-up. Our favorite quote from the book will definitely be this one: "Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here."

  1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Remember A Little Princess, the book you can't put down when you were twelve, maybe thirteen? The Secret Garden is from the same author so you can be confident that you are in good hands. Our favorite line is this one: "If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden." The perfect reminder to always look for the silver linings.

  1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

William Golding very realistically portrays human behavior in an environment where civilization no longer has meaning. This book will disturb your existing beliefs about humanity and it will keep on haunting you long after you’ve finished it. Did you know that The Hunger Games can be traced back to this 60-year old classic?

What are the books on your reading lists? Leave a comment below or tweet us @candymagdotcom. We always love hearing from you. :)

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About the author
Alyssa Jose
Candymag.com Correspondent
A huge believer in optimism and good karma. Alyssa spends her days in pursuit of genuine and intense happiness. Her heart is an ocean of her dreams and passions, brimming with the people she loves deeply. Her immense love for good books and divine apple pies keeps her going. She adores New York, sing-alongs, hand-written letters, deep conversations, pretty flowers and cute dogs.
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