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5 Books Every 20-Something Needs to Read

books to read

The media is dead wrong.

Nearly every article I read about millennials makes it seem like they are superficial, party-everyday generation.

But you know what? Sure, every now and then we like to turn up (if you don’t know what that means, google it) — but at the same time, we also are the generation of Malala, standing up for the rights of girls to go to school. We also are the generation of Jack Andraka, developing an early detection test for pancreatic cancer. I’ve learned that success in your early-career is not measured by how far you make it on the path, but rather by which path you chose in the first place.

Did you chase the dollar or did you chase the dream? Did you do what seemed safe or did you do what felt right? Did you try to survive, or did you try to thrive?

The 5 books below will reframe your thinking and guide you toward the path you were meant to take. Remember: this isn’t just about your age, but rather about your stage. So if you are in the stage of life where you are choosing which path to take, do yourself the favor and check out the following 5 books today.

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

Coehlo’s masterpiece continues to be a seminal read for people of all ages, but especially for 20-something seekers. It’s a fictional tale, but it carries the truths that those of us who are searching for answers can learn from. If you were one of those kids who loved mythical stories of wonder and personal transformation growing up, this book will help guide you into the adult you hope to become.

2. The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun

You simply cannot read this book and look at your life the same way after you turn the last page. Braun captures the restless voice within every 20-something and clearly explains how to craft your life into a story worth telling. His true tale of turning $25 into more than 200 schools around the world will inspire you beyond belief, and each chapter is titled with an actionable, guiding step to create your own life of success and significance.

3. Do Cool Sh*t by Miki Agrawal

This book was written for the new generation of people who don’t want to follow the traditional paths of investment banking, management consulting, medicine, or law. Agrawal wrote this book to remind you that you have a backbone, that you are inherently strong, that it’s cool to care and be excited about ideas, it’s cool to be proactive, to mess up, to work your ass off on something that is meaningful to you and it’s cool to keep trying when the odds are stacked against you.

4. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

This book is half business book, half memoir — and the first few chapters changed my life. Tony Hsieh was in his early twenties when he was confronted with an unusual decision: does he follow his head and take the millions of dollars being offered to him, or does he follow his heart and walk away? The answer, and the way Hsieh explains how he thought through the dilemma, has forever changed the way I approach life.

5. Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz grew up in the projects of Brooklyn, NY. He worked hard and by his late twenties he was a highly-paid corporate exec in Manhattan. Then, he threw it all away. He packed up his bags and moved to Seattle, heading out to work for a little store that sold coffee beans. As he left New York, his mother cried out to him, “You’re doing well, you have a future. Don’t give it up for a small company nobody’s ever heard of.” But still, Howard felt it was the right move, so he marched on. Sure enough, that “small company” turned out to be Starbucks. Howard Schultz, still the company’s CEO, recounts his early journey in this inspiring book.




Comment below with the one book that has helped you most in finding your calling. Write what lesson you learned from that book, so we can learn from your experiences, too.

So, which book do you recommend we read?



Alex Banayan is an associate at San Francisco-based venture capital firm Alsop Louie Partners and the author of a highly anticipated business book being released by Crown Publishers (Random House, Inc.). For more, sign-up for Alex Banayan’s newsletter here.

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