White Ceramic Teacup With Saucer Near Two Books Above Gray Floral Textile

10 Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s

Your 20s are a time of exploration and heartache and feeling lost. It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. But everything can be made better with a good book. 

Being at the very end of my twenties — and said twenties being the best reading years of my life — I have read many books that have helped me cope or just find peace. This is why I compiled a list of my favorites, in no particular order of quality or my preference. 

Please be aware that this list doesn’t contain any non-fiction books. When I was browsing through similar lists online, most of them consisted solely of non-fiction. And while knowledge is important, I believe that finding compassion in books is more important. Enjoy!

1. Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

Pub DateMarch 27, 2018
PublisherSimon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Page Count394 pages
GenreYA, Romance, Contemporary
Goodreads Star Rating3.64
My Star Rating 4.5
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: emergency contact

This is a good book to read in your very early twenties. The main character, Penny, is just starting college and her love interest (and the other main character) is only two years older and on a completely different path. 

It’s about coming out of your teens, and growing up, building your first almost-adult friendships and first awkward adult relationships. A lot of it is also about feeling different but same to others, insufficient in some way or like you’re not doing enough. There’s a good bit dedicated to understanding your parents, and more. 

So, I’d definitely recommend it to people just entering their twenties, though I’ve enjoyed it just as much when I recently read it. Here’s my full review. 

2. Normal People by Sally Rooney

Pub DateAugust 28, 2018
PublisherCrown; Faber & Faber
Page Count273 pages
GenreLiterary Fiction, Contemporary, Adult
Goodreads Star Rating3.81
My Star Rating 5
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: normal people

Sally Rooney is, in my opinion, one of the hallmark authors for people in their twenties. I’ve been lucky enough to sort of grow up with her books, and Normal People came at just the right time for me, when I was about 22 or 23. 

It’s a story about two people who love each other but can never seem to stay in each other’s lives. They affect and change one another, help each other grow, and more. This book is about intimacy and what it means, classism and elitism of universities, self-harm, how we perceive ourselves, mental health and so much more. 

Normal People is quite short, so give it a go if you haven’t already because it’s a perfect book for your early to mid twenties (and works just as well later). 

3. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Pub DateJuly 5, 2022 
Page Count401 pages
GenreLiterary Fiction, Contemporary, Adult
Goodreads Star Rating4.16
My Star Rating 4.5
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

If you’re a creative person or want to work in a creative field, this book is the perfect choice for you. It follows a group of friends who work together on a game and all the trials and tribulations they go through before, during and after. You’ll read about Sam, Zadie and Marx as they grow up and change, as they become more than friends or fight. 

It’s truly an amazing novel and a lot of it is about the creative process, the treatment of women in various fields, but especially tech fields, grief and loss, mental health, disability and more. I highly recommend it, and be aware that it will break your heart. 

4. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

Pub DateFebruary 9, 2021
Page Count352  pages
GenreLiterary Fiction, Contemporary, Adult
Goodreads Star Rating4.10
My Star Rating 5
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: sorrow and bliss

Sorrow and Bliss is full of dark humor and love, and it’s a perfect book for your mid to late twenties. The main character suffers a traumatic event in her teens which seems to awake in her an unnamed mental illness which affects her entire life, for years to come. 

The story is not told linearly, but rather in snippets and scenes from different times in the main character’s life. It covers family and family dynamics as we understand them as children, and then later as grown ups. It’s about love and sisterhood and romance too. 

I would highly recommend giving it a read no matter your age, though it’s been a marvel to me in my twenties. See my full review of Sorrow and Bliss here.

5. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Pub DateSeptember 7, 2021
PublisherFaber & Faber
Page Count337  pages
GenreLiterary Fiction, Contemporary, Adult
Goodreads Star Rating3.54
My Star Rating 5
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: beautiful world where are you

Here’s another Sally Rooney, because why not? Beautiful World definitely earns its spot on this list honestly because it tackles so many important topics and themes — relationships, friendships, class (though less so than Normal People), and so much more. 

It follows two friends as they email each other and live their lives — one is a popular writer, one is an editor at a small publishing house. They live entirely different lives and have different opinions, yet they love each other deeply. Both of them have their own romantic troubles too — Elaine with her lifelong friend and Alice with her new casual boyfriend Felix. 

This book was written and published during the pandemic, and you can definitely tell. In between everything else, it describes ordinary, simple life with such beauty that I underlined almost the entire book. 

6. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Pub DateFebruary 4, 2021
Page Count145  pages
GenreLiterary Fiction, Contemporary, Adult
Goodreads Star Rating4.04
My Star Rating 4
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: open water

A lyrical, wonderful story of a romance, yet so much more. This is another incredibly short read with wonderful passages throughout, some of which still haunt me. This book is about masculinity and grief, and falling in love with the right person at the wrong time. 

You’ll love it if you love music — it’s a very important part of the book — and even the writing itself has a rhythm and feels like a song. Please be aware that it’s told in the second POV which might not be for everyone. 

But if you don’t mind the second POV, I would highly recommend reading it at any point in your twenties

7. Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados

Pub DateSeptember 8, 2020
PublisherFlying Books
Page Count280  pages
GenreLiterary Fiction, Contemporary, Adult
Goodreads Star Rating3.50
My Star Rating 4
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: happy hour

Happy Hour perfectly captures the joy of youth. In it, two girls work odd jobs by day just so they can party and be glamorous by night. It’s beautifully written and perfect if you’re feeling lost, like you’re not doing enough or just want to read about some fun escapades. 

It’s also about friendship and that feeling of being lost, but it’s filled with so much fun and hope and light. I’d highly recommend this book for your early to mid twenties. 

8. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Pub DateJune 12, 2018
PublisherGrove Press
Page Count163  pages
GenreLiterary Fiction, Contemporary, Adult
Goodreads Star Rating3.69
My Star Rating 4
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: convenience store woman

If you’re feeling like society expects so much from young people, like it expects us all to do great things and if we’re not, then we’re not enough — read this book. It’s bizarre at times and definitely weird, but I found so many passages where I related to the main character or at least her thoughts on the world. 

Again, it’s definitely weird — it’s Sayaka Murata after all — but well worth your time. Plus, it’s really short, so it’s great as a way to break out of a reading slump. In Convenience Store Woman, the main character works in a supermarket and loves her life, but her friends (and everyone else) believe she needs to do more. Things unravel from there. 

9. Love in The Big City by Sara Young Park

Pub DateNovember 16, 2021
PublisherGrove Press
Page Count240 pages
GenreContemporary, Queer, Lit Fic
Goodreads Star Rating3.65
My Star Rating 4
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: Love in The Big City

This is a glittering, lovely book about Seoul nightlife, going out, having fun, and the misery of the morning after. It follows Young as he bounces between going out and sleeping with random people, going to class and spending time with family. He lives and parties with his best friend, Jaehee — but when she leaves him to settle down, he’s left with the burden of real life all alone. 

Just like with Happy Hour, I would recommend this to anyone in their early to mid twenties. 

10. In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Pub DateNovember 5, 2019
PublisherGraywolf Press
Page Count251 pages
GenreMemoir, Queer, Contemporary
Goodreads Star Rating4.43
My Star Rating 5
Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s: In The Dream House

This is a story about abuse, abusive relationships and getting out of them. It’s written in short passages, scenes, etc. but it’s very poignant and if you’ve ever experienced a relationship like that, it will speak to you. 

It’s a great book to read in your twenties so you can learn to recognize abuse and its many different faces, but also to help you get through it and heal. 

Bonus: More Great Books to Read in Your 20s

  • I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman. This is an incredibly short but important read, dystopian and dark, yet hopeful. 
  • Young Mungo by Douglas Stewart. This book is about two queer boys that come from different background but still find each other. 
  • A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. This book gets a place on this list simply by the merit of being one of those books I always think about. It might just be my favorite book I read in my twenties, though it has nothing to do with that period in your life. Either way, read it, love it, watch the Colin Firth movie (the book is still better). 
  • On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. A man writes letters to his mother in which he talks about queerness and life and so much more. It’s beautifully written
  • Boulder by Eva Baltasar. 
  • Severance by Ling Ma. This one is very short and dystopian, but handles some very important topics. 
  • Betty by Tiffany McDaniel. A fictionalized memoir of the author’s mother, this is incredibly sad and beautiful. 
  • Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors. This is about messy relationships and mental health and nightlife too. It’s a social media sensation, but don’t hold it against the book!

I would also recommend checking out some classics in your twenties. At least in my opinion, it’s the perfect time to understand them and enjoy them while not being forced to (like in school). If you’ve never tried classics before, here’s a list of some short and easy ones you can enjoy even if you’re not a fan of classics. 

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *