Curing a quarter-life crisis with 9 books that know more than you do
So that you don’t go into a tailspin
Over the past decade, since Taylor Swift released her wildly popular single 22, it’s become a rite of passage to ring in your 22nd birthday by blaring the song as loudly as you can. So sing it I did, when I turned 22 last year. Except… I was feeling 102. The lyrics were an apt description of my emotional state for the past year or so, “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.” A full-blown quarter-life crisis.
It’s common for people on the verge of adulthood to find themselves questioning everything. Turmoil is on the horizon, with the pressure to find a gratifying, yet steady job, balance personal commitments, while also building a meaningful existence. The pandemic simply exacerbated the complications, bringing on the dreaded quarter-life crisis, the anxiety of trying to get your life together without the foggiest idea how.
Even if you’re receiving help from a therapist or talking things over with your friends, coworkers, and family, there will be times when you’re alone with the enormous weight on your shoulders, in need of a distraction. And we believe nothing is more distracting than a good book. (Okay maybe a McDonald’s meal is, but let’s not go down that road.)
From titles that teach you how to sit still and breathe, to the ones that address the questions head-on, to those that’ll make you cry happy and sad tears, the books on this list are cathartic and engaging enough to help get you through the quarter-life crisis blues. They serve as a reminder that everyone is ad-libbing their way through life, so you don’t have to have it all figured out at 8 am in the morning.
9 books to help you work through a quarter-life crisis
For the ones who need a reminder to sit still and just breathe
I was recently watching this K-drama when the protagonist said, “People who are always rushing also get tired very fast.” When you’re in the middle of a quarter-life crisis, mic drops like this resound through the panicked halls in your mind. So if you’re someone who also needs a reminder to slow down every now and then, this book deserves its place on your bedside table.
There are sloth facts strewn throughout, as well as sections teaching us how to be our best sloth selves. My favourite was the one about sloth-ifying our wardrobe, the perfect thing to learn as another lockdown rises on the horizon.
We live in a world obsessed with hustling, and The Little Book of Sloth Philosophy is the polar opposite — a reassuring read that rationalises the need to slow down and helps to put into perspective that it’s acceptable to take a break from this mindset now and then.
For the ones who have made being down in the dumps their lifestyle
If you’re someone who doesn’t know why you’re sad half the time, this book by Allie Brosh will make you feel seen in the most wonderful of ways. This is not your regular LOL-kind of funny, it’s the snort-Pepsi-out-of-your-nose, tears-flowing-down-your-face funny except sometimes the tears flowing down your face will actually be real.
Allie Brosh’s visual memoir, which began as a comic strip and blog, will remind you that you’re not alone. Feeling low? Brosh has been there, and she has the ability to make you laugh, weep, and laugh again as you connect with her. Having suffered from depression herself, her work will give you the words to articulate your feelings. Her matter-of-fact demeanour, paired with the humorous illustrations, make her hard facts startlingly digestible.
For the ones who do stupid things on the regular
Being an adult woman who regularly makes childlike mistakes, I truly identified with Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, considering half of the things in my life, I want to pretend have never happened.
Maybe you’re heading out every night and making decisions you’ll regret the next morning, or maybe you’re just not doing anything and feeling guilty about it. Jenny Lawson will make you laugh, both at her and at yourself, no matter what it is.
This memoir is daring because the author opens up about her issues with social anxiety, depression, anorexia, infertility, and miscarriages in a raw and honest way. She speaks with unabashed honesty and razor-sharp wit about things that are frequently taboo to touch upon, and she injects her unique brand of humour into them.
FYI, if you’re someone who’s not comfortable with cursing, and a woman who talks about her vagina wayy more than she should, this book isn’t for you. But if you are, I guarantee you that you’ll want to get a drink with this author every other page as I did, and help you feel better about that dreaded quarter-life crisis you’re dealing with.
For the ones who are always FOMO-ing hard
I first fell in love with Mindy Kaling when I watched her namesake show The Mindy Project. I remember thinking Kaling has one of the most conversational, delightful voices. And she proves it again, in writing with her book.
If you know Kaling’s humour, you’ll know sometimes she can come across as vain but the best part is that she knows it too. She’s in on the joke. Combining humour with heart, reading the book often felt like I was sitting in a cafe opposite Kaling and listening to her recount her stories.
Some of my favourite essays have to be her Revenge Fantasies While Jogging and Failing at Everything in the Greatest City on Earth because only she could make failing sound so hilarious. Most importantly, her words will inspire you to embrace yourself, flaws, oddities, peculiarities, and insecurities and all.
For the ones who want to abandon everything and run away
If you’ve found yourself yearning for a long stretch of hibernation because the act of staying alive seems exhausting, My Year of Rest and Relaxation will hit you right in your feels. The nameless narrator of Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel is perennially indifferent, recently jobless, and fed up with life. After the loss of her parents—a cancer-stricken father and an alcoholic mother—at the age of 24, the already opiate-addicted narrator decides to go into a year-long pill-induced coma. The narrator, accompanied by a young art student who volunteers to document her experiment, goes to sleep in the hopes of waking up altered.
Moshfegh’s characters are either disgusting to the audience or repulsive to themselves. We’re horrified yet we’re laughing. It’s the kind of mix that results in diamond-hard entertainment. And, despite the fact that the story takes place nearly two decades ago, it seems contemporary. The prospect of sleeping through this specific time in world history holds massive appeal as my quarter-life crisis wrecks me like Miley Cyrus on that wrecking ball.
For the ones who are in the ‘everyone is getting engaged’ stage of their lives
You’re not alone if you’re the only single one left in your group as everyone around you rushes to get married. You have Keiko Furukara, who has spent 18 years working at the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart, outlasting supervisors, colleagues, and patrons.
Keiko is content with her life and finds value in her work as a cashier at a convenience store. Her friends and family, on the other hand, wish for her to live a more “normal” existence (normal meaning having a husband and two children in tow).
This is a fascinating novella about a 36-year-old convenience store clerk who can’t imagine herself doing anything else. But it’s also about a woman who does not know how to be human in the manner that others do and expect her to. It’s humorous at times, sad at others, but always gripping. It cracked me up that Murata actually works as a part-time employee in a convenience store. Talk about real-life inspiration.
For the ones who don’t know where their life is going
From Queen Noor of Jordan to fashion designer Eileen Fisher, 41 famous women pen letters to their younger selves, the women they once were and the things they wish someone had told them. If you often feel confused about where your life is going, this book could help put you at ease.
What I Know Now: Letters to my younger self will inspire and encourage you by providing you with a glimpse into the thought processes of 41 successful women who, like you and me, were struggling with their lives at one point in their lives. Follow along and heed what they have to say. Alternatively, if you can’t or don’t want to, take solace in the idea that you’ll be able to look back on yourself now with compassion and kindness in 20 years.
For the ones who know getting help can be incredibly hard
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Did you watch The Shape of Water and cry ugly tears into your pillow? If you can’t get enough of cross-species steaminess, The Pisces will catch your fancy but hold it for a long while because of its thought-provoking introspection.
Lucy has spent over a decade working on her dissertation. She is already depressed due to her lack of academic achievement, but she sinks even further when her ex-boyfriend begins seeing another woman. She moved into her half- sister’s Venice Beach house in the hopes of healing her broken, affection-hungry heart. After a string of bungled group therapy sessions and subpar Tinder hookups, she finds the perfect man—one who lavishes her with attention, fulfils her sexually, but has a fishtail. Every romance, after all, has its problems, right?
To say Lucy is a jerk is an understatement, so The Pisces is for readers who don’t need to like their female protagonists in order to enjoy a book. For anybody who seeks the catharsis of reading on paper that obtaining mental health care isn’t always the shining beacon of love, acceptance, and healing that some people portray it to be.
For the ones questioning their sense of self and their existence on this planet
Who are we, exactly? What brings us here? What is the dilemma of the self, and how do we fix it? If these are some of the questions that have clung to your mind like a leech throughout your quarter-life crisis, Lost in the Cosmos is the book for you.
The book grapples with spiritual and metaphysical concerns staying unresolved in modern society, but it does not give answers, and it does so in a distinctive and alternative style, with a hint of sarcasm and elbow ribbing. Its main purpose is to make the readers smile.
It provides no answers, but I enjoy how this book sarcastically pokes fun at people that ask the questions while also answering the question “why do we ask questions?” Part of the point is that it’s all a bit absurd, intellectual, and annoying. We’re not expected to stop asking, though.
This book is a joke, but it’s a serious, Kafkaesque kind of joke. The joke is ultimately on the reader, with the book, like the abyss, enjoying the final and eternal laugh.
Want to turn your little one into a reader? Join the Tweak India Children’s Book Club. We’ve launched our first subscription box, a gift for your child (but really, for you)