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21 Books to Read in Your 20s + FREE Book Tracker Download!

21 Books to Read in Your 20s + FREE Book Tracker Download!

I was terrified. I’d just walked into the dean’s office of my university. I was about to tell her I was learning more from books that cost a few dollars, than my classes that cost a few thousand. I was hoping she’d tell me I was wrong. 

She didn’t.

She said they were working on it. 

Why reading is important

I realized that to succeed in life, you need to learn things you’ll never learn in school.

  • You’re going to have to question things you’re taught to believe.
  • You’re going to have to use tools like Passion Planner designed to help us excel beyond what most people think is possible.
  • You’re going to have to read books.

Any problem we could ever face has been written about in a book. There are thousands of must-read books out there. How can you make sure to read all of them?

How to read more 

Here’s the problem. You want to read more, but something always gets in the way. You don’t have the time. You read too slowly. You don’t have the motivation.  I wrote an entire article on building a reading habit last summer which covers these issues, but it all boils down to this:

Develop a love for reading. How do you do that? It’s like Naval Ravikant says: “Read what you love until you love to read.”

Best books to read in your 20s

Most people finish school and stop learning. So they go through their entire lives feeling stuck. But just imagine the possibilities if you got passionate about learning again. You can excel in your career. You can have a love relationship beyond your wildest dreams. You can take control of your health. 

All you have to do is learn what you need to do. And then do it.

Here are 21 of the best books to read in your 20s to thrive in your career, relationships, happiness, and making an impact.

Books for when you feel lost

1. Loving What Is by Byron Katie 

Do you find yourself spiraling down thoughts of depression? Every thought you think is a train. You don’t have to get on every train that passes by. And you don’t have to believe every thought you think. 

If you’ve ever found yourself lost in a vortex of negative thoughts, this book is the answer.

Favorite Takeaway: Stressful feelings are alarm clocks telling you, “Warning: You’re believing an untrue thought!” 

Favorite Quote from the Book: “A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but the attachment to our thoughts that causes suffering.”

2. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer 

Does it feel like you’re never able to be in the present moment? You wake up in the morning, and you’re telling yourself how bad you don’t want to get up. You’re working, and you tell yourself that you have to succeed in what you’re doing. (We’ve all been there!) 

This book will re-shape how you think about your thoughts and give you tools to come back to the present moment.

Favorite Takeaway: You are not your thoughts. There is you, sitting here, reading this article, and then there is your mind, that is always running in the background.

Favorite Quote: “There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind--you are the one who hears it.”

3. Outwitting The Devil by Napoleon Hill 

Do you find yourself drifting through life? In 1938, Napoleon Hill wrote a book where he interviewed the negative side of life. If it had something to tell us, what would it say?

This book is that interview. It will get you seeing life’s challenges in an entirely new way.

Favorite Takeaway: Your mind is an empty jar. Either you consciously fill it with positivity and purpose, or life fills it with negativity and fear.

Favorite Quote: “Your only limitation is the one which you set up in your own mind.”

Books on relationships

4. The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz 

Do you want to experience deeper, more authentic relationships? The perfect relationship looks just like the relationship you have with your dog. Because you never tell yourself, “gee, I wish my dog were a cat…or a horse.” The people in your life must be perfectly okay with you, just the way they are.

This book will help you develop more love for yourself, and for the people in your life.

Favorite Takeaway: Accept people exactly as they are, and exactly as they’re not.

Favorite Quote: “You cannot change other people… To try to change them to fit what you want them to be is like trying to change a dog for a cat, or a cat for a horse…”

5. Conscious Loving by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks 

Do relationships ever feel like a struggle? This book helps you move from having co-dependent relationships to what they call “co-committed relationships,” and is packed with wisdom.

Things like taking full responsibility for the problem, keeping your agreements, and living in a state of continuous positive energy. 

It also gives you powerful questions to ask when stuck in a conflict.

Favorite Takeaway: Take full responsibility for problems, regardless of whether the other person takes responsibility for it or not.

Favorite Quote: “You are almost never upset for the reasons you think you are.”

Books on personal finance

6. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki 

Have you ever gotten a pay raise and had even less in your bank account? If you’re broke month after month, making more money won’t solve the problem. Because most people, when they make more, they spend more.

This book will get you thinking about saving and investing your money in a way you never have before.

Favorite Takeaway: The key to wealth is knowing how to save and use your money regardless of how much you make.

Favorite Quote: “Most people, given more money, only get into more debt.”

7. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Do you ever wonder how to invest your money? Ramit Sethi says that instead of worrying about getting your investing perfect, shoot for getting it just 85% right. Because 85% right is WAY better than 0%, which is what most people who try to get it completely right get.

This book will show you how to get it 85% right.

Favorite Takeaway: Most of us are incredibly lazy when it comes to managing our money. That’s why we have to make managing our money simple, and automatic.

Favorite Quote: “The 85 Percent Solution: Getting started is more important than becoming an expert.”

Books to read in college

8. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport 

Are you looking for your passion in life? This book flips the “follow your passion” advice on its head and tells you that instead, you should focus on becoming so good at what you do, that they can’t ignore you.

Because you’ll come to love what you’re good at.

Favorite Takeaway: If Steve Jobs had followed his own “follow your passion” advice, we would have probably found him as a popular Zen teacher, and not as a tech entrepreneur! 

Favorite Quote from the Book: “The more we [focus] on loving what we do, the less we [end] up loving it.”

Inspiring stories

9. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight 

Want to feel inspired to go after your dreams? This book is the story of how a lost, 24 year old kid follows a crazy idea, flies to Japan, and over the next 18 years builds one of the biggest companies in the world: Nike. 

If you’re wanting more inspiration in your life, this is the book for you. 

Favorite Takeaway: True success in any calling, whether it’s painting or building a billion dollar brand, takes a village. It’s impossible to do it alone.

Favorite Quote: “What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much that it becomes essentially the same thing.”

10. The Third Door by Alex Banayan 

Do you feel like there’s so much more for you than what you’ve got in your life? Alex Banayan was an 18 year old pre-med student who set out on a five year quest to track down and interview the most successful people of our time.

This book is the story of his journey. And it will open your eyes to what’s possible.

Favorite Takeaway: When you re-define what’s possible in your mind, you change your life.

Favorite Quote: “While you can give someone all the best knowledge and tools in the world, sometimes their life can still feel stuck. But if you can change what someone believes is possible, their life will never be the same.”

Books on happiness

11. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz 

Are you stuck in small thinking? We all limit ourselves with our thinking. And you’re exactly as big or small as the size of your thinking.

This book will show you exactly how to think Bigger. 

Favorite Takeaway: Master the habit of not letting your mind dwell on problems. Instead, direct your mind to dwell on what you want.

Favorite Quote: “The size of bank accounts, the size of happiness accounts, and the size of one’s general satisfaction account is dependent on the size of one’s thinking.”

12. Gratitude Works by Robert A. Emmons  

Do you feel unhappy? David Hume said that ingratitude is “the most horrible and unnatural crime that a person is capable of committing.” Yet, most of us find it hard to feel grateful in our day to day life. 

This book shows you how to bring a gratitude practice into your life.

Favorite Takeaway: The key to gratitude is to be specific about what you’re expressing gratitude for.

Favorite Quote: “Gratitude empowers us to take charge of our emotional lives.” 

13. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Are you tired of clutter in your life? Clothes you don’t wear, books you don’t read, papers you don’t look at, kitchen utensils you don’t use? 

This book will help you get over clutter once and for all. It will also change your life.

Favorite Takeaway: The key to beating clutter is to first make a mess. Then take every single thing in your hand one at a time and ask: does this spark joy?

Favorite Quote: “The lives of those who tidy thoroughly and completely in a single shot are without exception dramatically altered.”

14. How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

Do you worry a lot? It’s the early 1900’s, and Dale Carnegie is at home with his family. One of his neighbors rings his doorbell and says, “You have to get the smallpox vaccine!” Dale Carnegie says that he had lived in New York for many years. And that no one had ever rung his doorbell to warn him against an illness that had caused ten thousand times the damage of smallpox…Worry.

This book will do exactly as it promises. It will teach you to stop worrying and start living. 

Favorite Takeaway: Every day is like it’s own room. Don’t let thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow enter the room of today.

Favorite Quote: “Today is our most precious possession. It is our only sure possession.”

Books on success and motivation

15. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book says that the starting point of achieving anything is a burning desire.  A desire so strong that it’s an obsession that you eat with, sleep with, and have top of mind basically every second you’re alive.

It then walks you through how to develop that burning desire and what else you need to do to achieve your wildest dreams.

Favorite Takeaway: All success starts with thinking the right thoughts.

Favorite Quote from the Book: “Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat.”

16. Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Do you want to become a more inspirational leader? On August 28, 1963, 250,000 people from across the country stormed into Washington D.C. to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. give a speech. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t lead. He inspired.

This book is all about how to inspire others to action by getting clear on what you believe and communicating it to others.

Favorite Takeaway: Get good at communicating what you believe.

Favorite Quote: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Books on productivity

17. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Does it ever feel like you don’t get much done? The superpower of the 21st century is being able to work with distraction-free concentration. In a world where most people don’t do this, those who master this superpower will thrive.

This book will help you develop this skill.

Favorite Takeaway: Your ability to thrive in today’s world depends on your ability to master the Deep Work Superpower.

Favorite Quote: “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.” 

18. The One Thing by Gary Keller

Do you feel overwhelmed by everything you have to do? William of Occam said in the 1300’s, “the simplest solution is almost always the best.”

This book takes simplicity to the next level by helping you focus on the ONE THING that matters most instead of getting lost in the many things that don’t.

Favorite Takeaway: Ask yourself: What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? 

Favorite Quote: “Extraordinary results happen only when you give the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work.”

Personal development books

19. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Do you want to build better habits? James Clear was the only junior cut from the varsity baseball team. But then something changed when he started college.

  • He built good sleep habits.
  • He made it a point to keep his room clean and uncluttered.
  • He built good study habits. 
  • He started lifting weights multiple times a week and gained 30 pounds of muscle.

By his senior year, he was named top male athlete at his school and named to the ESPN Academic All-America Team. 

That’s the power of habits. This book will show you how to develop those habits.

Favorite Takeaway: All that’s standing between you and your dream life is a collection of habits.

Favorite Quote: “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”

20. Why We Sleep? by Matthew Walker

Do you wake up every morning tired? Sleep is one of the most misunderstood concepts,  especially among young people. This book will blow your mind with what you’ll learn about sleep. And it will make you think twice before you have an urge to sleep too late, or wake up too early.

Favorite Takeaway: Most of your dream sleep happens in the second half of the night. If you wake up too early, you’re robbing yourself of crucial dream sleep.

Favorite Quote: “Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.”

21. Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant

Are you excessively hard on yourself? What if you could feel the same love for yourself, as lovers do for each other?

That’s what this book is about. Why loving yourself is so important — and exactly how to do it.

Favorite Takeaway: When you start to love yourself like your life depends on it, your life will start to feel magical.

Favorite Quote: “As you love yourself, life loves you back.”

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Author Bio

Brandon Hakim is on a mission to help you get unstuck. He was so frustrated by what he was learning in college, that he went to the dean of his university to say he felt like students were getting an outdated education. He’s since read over 1,000 books, and helped over 200K students online get “unstuck” through his online courses. Connect with him at Insider School or Instagram

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Comments

Michelle - July 19, 2021

Great list!
Also thank you to Stephanie in the comments for additional female perspectives.

In the future can Passion Planner or Guest Writer please disclose when the provided Amazon links are referrals earning commissions? Transparency would be greatly appreciated & may even encourage readers to purchase knowing it would help out the PashFam <3

Pam - July 14, 2021

Thank you for adding some additional perspectives!

Stephanie - July 9, 2021

I love this list and some of my favorites are on it! However, I noticed that the majority of the authors are male presenting. If anyone is interested in other perspectives on some of these topics, I would recommend:

Bad with Money by Gaby Dunn
Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry
Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
Educated by Tara Westover
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

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