Let these 15 books guide you through every major milestone of life
Like fog lights on a smoggy Delhi road
Start your first job by 21 or you’re a loser. Get married before 30 or you’re a spinster. Buy a house by 40 or you’re a failure. We’re often lectured on the milestones we’re supposed to have achieved by a certain age but have you ever wondered how a milestone becomes one? According to Jeffrey Arnett, a senior research scholar at Clark University in Massachusetts, “It’s this aggregation of millions of people thinking about things and making decisions and talking to each other.”
Comfortingly, he adds, “Nobody’s really in control of it.”
Humans just picked an age by which they needed to achieve something of significance some 10,000 years ago and stuck to it for no real reason other than everyone else was doing it. Then COVID-19 projectile vomited on everyone’s timeline, with many people (including this writer) graduating undergrad, doing their masters and starting their first job from the
confines comfort of their childhood bedrooms. Now how do you make a tasty aloo paratha out of the horribly mashed-up aloo that your life may have become? Often, when we’re looking for an adult to give us the answer, only to realise to our dismay that we’re the adults, we take a left turn and turn to the gurus who’re yet to disappoint us. Books.
If you’re one of those people struggling to fit into life’s timelines or wondering what to do when you reach a certain milestone, let these books guide you through like fog lights on a smoggy Delhi road.
When you’re entering adulthood
Am I Overthinking This?: Over-answering Life’s Questions In 101 Charts by Michelle Rial
For those of us sailing in an anxiety-ridden boat (have you heard that Gen Z is slowly becoming Generation Dread), Am I overthinking this? by Michelle Rial acts as a lifeline.
Adulthood is full of choices. If you’re always second-guessing, nay thousand-guessing yourself before you arrive at a decision or you feel paralysed by your manic overthinking before making a choice, this book with its art, humour, and answers will show you how it’s done.
My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag…And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha by Jolie Kerr
Learning how to clean is a rite of passage to adulthood. What do you do when there’s a wine spill on your brand new couch or the detergent you used for your sheets made your lingerie disintegrate in magnificent fashion?
If one of your resolutions this year is to deep clean your apartment like a true-blue adult, this book with its levels and levels on how to clean the many parts of a house will help you do just that in a fun way without having you tear your hair out as you try to determine where the mouldy smell is coming from after you’ve cleaned everything.
When you’re starting over in life
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Ever catch yourself wondering what your life might have looked like had you been born in a different place and time? Protagonist Ursula realises that wish, but the catch is that she has to keep dying and being reborn again on a loop. One wrong decision and she could be roadkill.
For those of us who are starting over in a new city, job, or even a relationship, this book will give you a tantalising peek into the world of endless second chances and what would’ve happened if you didn’t make the decisions that have led you to where you are today.
The Unlikely Adventures Of The Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal
How do you start over from a fresh page when you’ve lost someone in your life? Answering this question for you is The Unlikely adventures of the Shergill sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal.
With three sisters undertaking a journey to India in the name of their late mother, the book reads like the Indian version of The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants but one where the sisters are wrestling with forging a new identity within the confines of grief.
When you’re going through a breakup
The Madwoman In The Volvo: My Year Of Raging Hormones by Sandra Tsing Loh
A breakup in any form is painful but what do you do when your divorce has been tumultuous, to say the least, while you bring up teenage daughters and care for an elderly father, all while going through menopause? You write a book, like Sandra Tsing Loh did.
If your life has been turned upside down by a breakup or divorce, Loh’s Madwoman In The Volvo will make you laugh and wince along while filling you with the strength to keep marching on forward.
The Lost Friendship by Taksh Bamnawat
What do you do when the dosti you never thought would break has disintegrated into dust? That is what The Lost Friendship by Taksh Bamnawat explores. (Here are some other ways you can cope if you’re going through a friendship breakup.)
Sometimes, the pain of losing a friend is more powerful than losing a partner. From coming to terms with the impact of a friendship breakup to learning how to function without your parasitic partner in crime, this book will be a balm to heal the soul.
Chinese Cinderella: The true story of an unwanted daughter by Adeline Yen Mah
How do you cope when your own family casts you aside like you were a kankad in their shoes? Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah is the story of a daughter who was discarded and treated worse than a piece of soiled tissue.
The experiences of Mah in this autobiographical book will fan the fires of your undying hope in the possibility of healing and becoming your own person despite a life of intense abuse and neglect.
When you’ve decided to get married
Gardens of Love: Stories of A Marriage by Meera Godbole-Krishnamurthy
Deciding to get married is a big turning point in everyone’s life. But it is important to make that decision with your eyes wide open and armament in your arsenal to fight any upcoming battles, for battles there surely will be. Gardens of Love: Stories of a Marriage by Meera Godbole-Krishnamurthy paints a (visually beautiful) picture of a modern-day marriage and the know-how to fight its battles.
The age of innocence by Edith Wharton
Okay, now you’re married but how do you keep the spark alive through the years? The age of innocence by Edith Wharton will make you feel a little less alone if you’ve been grappling with this question in your marriage.
Everyone goes through moments of doubt but being in a marriage is as much about an equal partnership as romantic passion, or even more, some might say. This book will show you that marriage is a marathon, not a 100m race so you have to keep at it with the determination of a triathlon winner, even if you don’t feel like one on some days.
When you’ve decided to bring new life into this world
Like a mother by Angela Garbes
If you’ve decided to bring a new life into this world, Like a mother by Angela Garbes is the feminist treasure trove of scientific and cultural explorations you need to dive into.
Often many pregnancy guides can be condescending and didactic but Garbes turns that notion on its head with her refreshing candour in Like a mother, from what in the world actually constitutes a placenta and if you should abstain from the best sushi in your life to that dreaded post-partum poop.
All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
From under-disciplined kids who are over-powering their parents to the kids who know more than their parents do, modern-day parenthood seems ridden with potholes that look too big to be crossed over but All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior is here to tell you that might not be the case.
When it comes to becoming parents or reading books about it, what is often lacking is the day-to-day lived experience of actually raising kids which this book talks about in abundance that will help those of us with kids or even the ones who are contemplating having them.
When you lose someone you love for the first time
Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani
When we talk about the milestones of life we often forego grief, the silent killer. But it is inevitable you shall face it, in the form of a dead parent, sibling, or any other person in your life so how do you cope with it? Christa Parravani’s Her delves into how you can learn to live again when you lose the other part of you: your identical twin.
The line between your personhood and someone who’s so important to you can be blurry, and even more so when that person is no longer in this world. This book seeks to answer what it is like to lose a part of yourself and how, rather if, you can even come back from that.
All my rage by Sabaa Tahir
If you’ve had to compromise your identity for the comfort of others, All my rage will speak to your soul. Your grief and rage of having to hide your identity for you’re living among people who don’t look like you will be reflected in Tahir’s words.
You will be crying your eyes out as you trudge through this book but the weight on your chest will finally be gone.
When the days of your retirement are close
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Often your days of retirement are viewed in popular culture as the stage between your life and death as you wait for the latter to arrive but Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf will show you that is far from the truth.
At an age where the world thinks love has no place in your life, this book is a gorgeous rendering of how love can transform your very being, even if you’re a senior citizen.
What Will I Do All Day? Wisdom to Get You Over Retirement and on With Living! by Patrice Jenkins
For anyone who is just beginning their retirement journey, What Will I Do All Day? by Patrice Jenkins will be the perfect companion to prepare you emotionally and mentally, with its in-depth analysis of the deeper issues that come with retiring.
When you’ve spent your entire life working, the prospect of retirement can make you feel useless and alone but this book will help you understand your unspoken fears so you can develop a plan that feels right for you.
Whatever the age you’re achieving the things you want, these books for the milestones of life will show you a way forward.