In some ways, 35 is either a young number or one that makes you think of The Golden Girls. If you think about it, 35 is still a very young age. It’s a great time to reassess your priorities, double down on introspection, and celebrate all the personal growth you’ve made over the past three decades. There is no way that can happen.
There are a lot of books for people who still don’t know what to do with everything or anything. A little more comfort comes from reading these 25 books, which range from memoirs to contemporary fiction to romances to essays, to show that everyone has felt the same way at some point or another.
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
In Nora Ephron’s hilarious, touching, and very honest book of essays, she talks about everything from menopause and leaving the nest to hair dyeing grays and dealing with a wrinkly neck. When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Bewitched are all written by the same person.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Fey’s memoir has been a modern classic for a long time. The reason her book is still being called “must-read” more than a decade after it came out is because she wrote a great book. Her essays and advice about crying (or not) at work, female friendships, career, love, and breastfeeding are all the same. She tells her life story with humor, vigor, and openness, and her essays and advice are universal.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
This book won the National Book Award. It is one of the most important books of the last century. If you’re in your 30s, this is a story about an unnamed black man who’s trying to find his place in the world. It’s about feeling lost, finding direction, and trying to make your own place in the world.
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen
There is one thing that Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, and Hillary Clinton have in common: they are all women. People who write about culture are very good at what they do, so the answer might seem to be not much at first. Anne Helen Petersen says that they’re all part of a group of women who have done well even though they’re unruly.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Grace Porter, a newly minted astronomy PhD graduate, is on the verge of turning 30 and doesn’t know what to do. She’s unemployed, dealing with anxiety, dealing with microaggressions in her field, and having a difficult relationship with her father. So, she does what any millennial would do: She marries a stranger in Las Vegas. It doesn’t work out when Grace wakes up in the morning and realizes that marrying the mysterious Yuki Yamamoto hasn’t helped with any of her problems. Grace goes on a journey of self-discovery filled with ups and downs, astrological thoughts, and a lot of heartache.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Didion is one of the best writers of her (or any) time. She is one of the best. In her work, she blends the personal and the political, and the results are always breathtaking. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, her 1968 collection of essays, is no different from the other ones she has written. These stories about how she was raised in California and how she came of age during a time of so much social change are timeless, like all of her work.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
This is how it looked like: In 1949, Beauvoir wrote a manifesto about how women should be in society. It was way ahead of its time. There were some women (and a few men) who thought about feminism, but it wasn’t as big as it is now. Still, The Second Sex is a powerful look at sexuality, identity, and independence, all of which are important to every person.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
One would think that a therapist would have it all together. When Lori Gottlieb’s long-term boyfriend breaks up with her without warning, the ordeal sends her on a journey of self-discovery with the help of her new therapist, Wendell. Gottlieb’s book tells us that maybe we should talk to someone. Chapters about her dealings with some of her own patients are interspersed with chapters about her own patients.
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
If you want to learn about the lives of Latinas and Native women in the American West, you should read Fajardo-new Anstine’s book, Sabrina & Corina. It’s only 224 pages long, but it packs a lot of punch. Her stories are about sisterhood, generational trauma, complicated mother-daughter relationships, the stress that builds when you come of age, and so much more, all of which she weaves together.
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
A book called How to Do Nothing doesn’t make sense at all, but author, artist and educator Jenny Odell has a point: We live in an age of constant distractions and constant #content, and we’ve forgotten how to just be. The question is whether Millennials are too far gone to be saved from themselves and their phones. Odell has a lot of ideas about the subject.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Anyone who has written by Roxane Gay should read her work. The essays in the book Bad Feminist cover everything from the color pink to Sweet Valley High. How would you describe her? She’s a lot of fun, and she’s smart and relatable. The questions this book raises are enough to think about what feminism looks like as the times go by.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s first novel, “Maybe in Another Life,” is about a 29-year-old woman who moves back to Los Angeles after a long time away. She goes to a bar with a few friends to celebrate her move. If she doesn’t go home at the end of the night, she could stay out with her ex-boyfriend Ethan. Jenkins Reid tells the story in chapters that switch back and forth between the two timelines that emerge. He asks how one seemingly insignificant choice can have a chain reaction of consequences.
Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Because friendship is so important to so many people, why does our society put other types of relationships above friendship? Sow and Friedman, who are both writers and cultural commentators, set out to find out. When they look at the history of their own Big Friendship as a starting point, they look into what it means to be a friend and when it’s time to walk away.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
After her husband died a year ago, Evvie Drake has lived her life mostly on hold. She hasn’t talked about how much she misses him or how hard her marriage was behind the shiny veneer. As a result, Evvie is forced to face her past for the first time when Dean Tenney moves into Evvie’s spare apartment. Because of their differences, can these two people come together? Or will they fight?
Mistakes I Made at Work by Jessica Bacal
Jessica Bacal’s book, Mistakes I Made at Work, talks to 25 successful women about the mistakes they’ve made at work. Anna Holmes, Kim Gordon, and Jezebel founding editor Anna Holmes all talk about the things that have made them feel bad at work. They show us that we’re not alone, and that there’s more to life than what happens at work.
Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
During the years, Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior has become a favorite book. Her stories about desire, longing, and obsession are both scary and beautiful at the same time. This book is called “Bad Behavior.” You should read these books if you want to be a little naughty. They are sexy, thought-provoking, and raw. Plus, its meaning changes over time, which makes it a great book to read again and again.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Dannie Kohan is a lawyer who has checked all the boxes. She has her dream job, the best boyfriend, and the best apartment in New York City. That is, one night, Dannie goes to sleep and wakes up five years in the future. When she wakes up, she finds that nothing about that world is like her present life. After spending an hour in this strange new world before going back to her old life, Dannie is determined to change her future. There are some things that happen in life that she can’t change.
How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams
She’s a 30-year-old college professor and her job is in jeopardy. She decides to get out of her comfort zone one night to relax and meets a handsome, charming stranger named Jake in the process, which makes her feel better about herself. Soon, she’ll be on the verge of a long-term relationship with Jake, but she’s not sure if she’s ready to leave her comfort zone and try something new.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel may be about a 50-year-old man, but it still has a lot to say to people in their 30s. When Arthur Less, a floundering writer, gets a wedding invitation from his ex-boyfriend of nine years, he does something that makes sense. He goes on a trip around the world to avoid the wedding. When he goes on a trip to Mexico, Morocco, India, and more, he soon finds out that he can’t run away from his feelings or the person he used to be with.
You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac
Jess, a 30-year-old mother of a 10-year-old boy, has been dealing with a sick child and getting bad news about herself. She decides to spend the summer with her son and his father, her ex-boyfriend Adam, at a French chateau he owns. They start to slowly unpack their past in the present, and Jess starts to realize that she needs to make more than just a few important decisions about her future.
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
We’re Going to Need More Wine is Gabrielle Union’s memoir about how she came of age. In it, she talks about everything from petty high school drama to becoming an outspoken advocate for racial equality, feminism, and an end to sexual violence. In the end, Union didn’t want to go down this road.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Her life is very organized: She writes in her planner every day, goes to work, and plays trivia every week. One day, however, she learns that she has a family she didn’t know about, and her trivia rival flirts with her. Over the course of a few hours, Nina has to decide if she wants to stay in her perfectly planned but predictable life, or take a risk and go for it.
We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib
No one in the LGBTQ+ community comes out in a straight line. Samra Habib’s story is especially complicated, but it’s not the only one. To become a Canadian citizen, Habib and her family had to flee their home country of Pakistan. Habib has to deal with xenophobia, a “arranged marriage,” and poverty in order to find herself and find her queerness as she gets older.
Dear Girls by Ali Wong
Ali Wong’s memoir, Dear Girls, is written in the form of a long letter to her two young daughters. In it, she talks about hairy body parts, gory births, bad sex, and more. This book is full of funny and mean things, but there’s also sweetness in between them. In her early thirties, Wong talks about how she made a lot of bad decisions in her teens and early 20s.
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
Laurie, a 36-year-old lawyer, is in shock after her partner of 18 years dumped her out of the blue. When her ex and his new girlfriend are pregnant, her situation gets even worse. They both work in the same office, and his new girlfriend is pregnant, which makes it even worse for her Laurie is so determined to take things into her own hands that she agrees to start a fake relationship with office playboy Jamie in order to get her gossipy coworkers off of her back. In the end, both Laurie and Jamie realize they’re not just doing it for the “gram.”