Buzzfeed's 65 Books to Read in Your Twenties

Guys, I'm not sure if being a twenty-something just feels trendy right now because I am a twenty-something and therefore all the twenty-something articles seem relevant to me, or if it is actually trendy, but either way, I feel there has been an EXPLOSION of content for, by, about, and catered to twenty-somethings in the last few months. Just me? Anyone else?

Perhaps one of my favorites of these posts so far has come from Buzzfeed, famous curator of llama pictures and cat memes and baby-animals-doing-cute-things gifs (which is apparently pronounced "jiff", but that's a whole different story). They compiled a list of 65 books you need to read in your twenties, full of a ton of books I've mostly never even heard of.

Image from Buzzfeed.

Anyhoo, because I am a twenty-something with a penchant for reading and a slight obsession with reading lists, I thought I'd share the list here along with notes on which I've read. (And also because Alley at What Red Read did this and I'm not feeling particularly original today, so this post is posted with apologies to Alley).

Since I've read so few of these books, perhaps this will be my new reading challenge after I get to my 26th birthday and realize I've failed to read all of Hemingway's works and/or complete War and Peace?

Bold are books I own.
Strikethroughs are books I've read.

Great Novels
  1. The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
  2. What She Saw... by Lucinda Rosenfeld
  3. The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies
  4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  5. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
  6. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  8. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
  9. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
  10. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  11. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  12. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  13. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
  14. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  15. Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman
  16. The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
  17. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  19. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  20. A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
  21. The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman
  22. The Group by Mary McCarthy
  23. Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen
  24. Pastoralia by George Saunders
  25. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  26. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  27. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  28. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  29. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  30. Generation X by Douglas Coupland
  31. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  32. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  33. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
  34. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  35. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
  36. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami
I've read a whopping four of the novels above (seven if you count the His Dark Materials as three books instead of one), and of the unread ones, only have a few on my to-read list. Well, only had a few on my to-read list, because now I've added more.

Great Memoirs
  1. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  2. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  3. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young
  4. The Dirt by Motley Crue and Neil Strauss
  5. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
  6. Just Kids by Patti Smith
  7. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn
  8. Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey
  9. I Don't Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner
  10. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  11. Lit by Mary Karr
  12. I'm with the Band by Pamela Des Barres
  13. Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin
Only two memoirs, but at least my percentage is higher here...

  1. The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton by Anne Sexton
  2. Actual Air by David Berman
  3. The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch by Kenneth Koch
  4. Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins
  5. The Collected Poems of Audre Lord by Audre Lord
No surprise here, since I rarely, if ever, read poetry that isn't Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein.

Essays That Will Make You Think And/Or Laugh
  1. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  2. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
  3. My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum
  4. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  5. Up in the Hotel by Joseph Mitchell
One. Still, that's a 20% rate, which might make essays my best category so far.

General Life How-Tos
  1. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
  2. How's Your Drink? by Eric Felten
  3. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
  4. Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
  5. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
  6. He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo
Two general life how-to books! Well, two if you count How to Cook Everything, which I confess I've never read cover-to-cover but do own and reference with fair regularity. And I read He's Just Not That Into You in high school, not as a twenty-something, and honestly, I think most of it went over my head, but I'm counting it here anyway.


  1. Some of these seem very strange. Though I didn't read most of them in my 20s (a good number weren't even published when I was in my 20s!), I did read 15 of the books on this list, and frankly I think some of them are CRAP. I'm a little surprised to see Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World, for example on this list when it was so painful to get through when his lovely book, The Hours, didn't make the cut.

    1. I was amazed at how many I'd never even heard of -- some seemed intriguing, some... not so much. I've actually never read anything by Cunningham so glad to hear The Hours is a better pick!

  2. Interesting list! I own several, have read a few, and don't really have any interest in others. Am totally ignorant of some. I do love a good list, though.

    1. I always love lists that include titles I'd not heard of before, even if I don't necessarily want to read *all* the books on the list.

  3. I think it's so presumptuous when these sorts of lists pop up. Who has created it? And with what qualifications? I'm wary when anyone says "____ should/must read _____" because I think reading is so subjective.

    Anyway, sorry for being ranty, but there are so many many good books out there, and I could compile my own list that I think "should" be read, but then I know there are lovely, apt books I've not even heard of yet. I say read what you like.

    1. I see what you're saying -- there's definitely a question of authority -- but I really enjoy lists like this precisely because they get me thinking about whether anyone should/must read anything, and introduce me to books I've not always heard of yet. Plus they take books I might not have thought to group together around a common theme and present them differently.

      But when the lists get judgy or start implying that if you DON'T read their lists, you are doing it wrong, then I start to take issue.

  4. Nooo need to apologize to me for going through this list as well! Um also, agreed about the poetry stuff! Because really, Seuss and Silverstein are the best. Really though, most of these books just make me scratch my head.

    1. I just have such a hard time with poetry for some reason. It's like my brain doesn't know how to read it. I wonder if I need training?

  5. I love a good book list too. Too bad I'm not in my 20's anymore. Hell, I'm not even close, lol.

  6. I'm such a sucker for these lists. As I'm nearing the end of my 20s I need to get on it!


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