5 Books That Helped Me Be a Better Adult

These books taught me how to navigate the world, and even better, about what kind of adult I wanted to be.

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When I graduated from college, I had absolutely no idea what the universe had in store for me. Adulthood is a rollercoaster, y’all, and it will ask you to grow up quickly, whether you’re ready to or not.

Thankfully, I had a wonderful, loving support system of family, friends, coworkers, and my partner (it’s still you, babe), who held my hand (or held my hair back, depending) while I figured some stuff out. I also happened to read a lot of awesome books along the way that not only plied me with practical knowledge about how to navigate the world, but about what kind of adult I wanted to be.

Here are the 5 books that helped me be a better adult:

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown

Book via Amazon

I’ve written about Adulting before on this site, but I wanted to mention it again, as it is really a gem that isn’t talked about enough.

Don’t know ish about ish when it comes to setting a budget or getting a credit card? Adulting has a section on it. Wondering if you should hook up with your coworker? Adulting has a section on that, too. Don’t know what that light that came up on your dashboard means? Adulting, yo.

Williams Brown is an entertaining and shrewd writer who comes off as both an authority and your empathetic bff, and I have referenced this book so many times when in a pickle at work or when I didn’t know what a 401(k) was.

There is also some really compassionate advice on how to deal with some real shit, like how to deliver terrible news or break up with a bad friend.

It’s a lovely book, and I buy it probably far more than I should as a graduation gift.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Book via Amazon

This book came into my life somewhat serendipitously. I was eighteen years old, the smallest I had ever been in my life, counting calories and exercising in a way that was neither sustainable nor healthy as I prepared to transition into college life. The universe had my back and placed The Omnivore’s Dilemma in my hand as my incoming freshman class’s shared reading experience (or whatever we called it), and I absolutely devoured it.

Michael Pollan tracks from dirt to table where each element of four meals comes from — one from McDonald’s, one from Whole Foods, one from a single alternative agriculture farm in Virginia, and the last, foraged largely by himself in the wild.

As a person who felt like they were very in touch with their food and how it was grown, I was shocked at how little I actually knew. I soon got to know our industrial food chain and found out how damaging it was not only to our ecosystem but to the animals I was eating and, ultimately, to my own health.

This book completely changed the way I looked at food and has impacted how I (and my partner) now approach what we eat. If you care about the environment, about compassionate consumption, and about what you put in your body, this book is an absolute must-read.

Honorable Mentions: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson

Book via Amazon

My partner and I bought a house almost two years ago now (!!!) and I was in absolutely no way prepared for the rigors and responsibilities of homeownership. Luckily, around this time, this book was making the rounds on Buzzfeed and I added it to my Amazon cart on a whim. Best impulse purchase ever.

If you’ve ever needed to know how to mend a shirt, how the eff to read care labels on laundry, how to build a fire, how to properly store food, how to put together an emergency kit, how to care for wood floors, or how to do anything ever in your home, this book is an excellent resource. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used it as a reference when I didn’t know how to fix a problem with my sink or how to properly plan a dinner party or whatever. Buy it now, use it forever. You’re welcome.

Honorable Mention: The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Book via Amazon

HAH I know you’re shocked this book made the list.

Let me start by explaining that I do not have a Kondo-perfect house, I do not fold my shirts or socks the way she does (I should, but I don’t) and I definitely do not adhere to her philosophy about books. (Though I do adhere to the Amanda Palmer philosophy about books, which is Kondo-adjacent, I’d say; learn more here.)

More than anything else, this book changed the way I think about my consumption and purchases.

I was the type of girl who would roll through Target and easily spent $150 without trying (see setting a budget in Adulting, stat, past Sara) without even thinking about what I already had. Now, I’m much more intentional about what comes in and out of my house and how long the things I buy will last.

Not only has this helped me save money, but I’ve found that the things I do have — the things I’ve joy-purchased — actually bring me joy when I use them.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Book via Amazon

Speaking of Amanda Palmer, one of my heroes and an all around bad-ass musician/artist/activist (check out There will be no Intermission, it is my favorite record of the year so far), one of my all-time favorite books is her memoir The Art of Asking.

In this book, Amanda explains how she became an artist and her approach to radical vulnerability, compassion, and not going it alone. She speaks openly about abortion, sex, motherhood, love, family, making art and being a political activist, and I cannot tell you how many times I cried while reading it.

If there is one thing I take through my life now, when I don’t know how to respond to something or someone, I ask myself this one question; am I being authentic? Vulnerable? Compassionate? It hasn’t let me down yet. I cannot recommend this book enough.

What do you think?

What books have helped you be a better adult? Let me know in the comments below!

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