By Brenna Sarantides
We all can agree that times are weird right now. In the midst of quarantining, existential dread is abundant. For those in their 20s, panic was already on the horizon. These conditions have merely exasperated the effects.
On the brink of adulthood, many people find themselves questioning all the uncertainty. Will I ever get a good job? Does dating get any easier? What am I doing with my life?!? All these questions press on, ultimately leading to an inevitable quarter-life crisis. The fear and panic of trying to get your life together without a clue in the world how to do so. In times of uncertainty, I turn to books. I compiled a list of light reads to get you through a quarter-life crisis. They’re a reminder that no one really ever knows what’s going on. Especially now.
* This list is admittedly more female-driven, but can be enjoyed by anyone!
Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Two friends, Jessica and Rachel, vowed to stay in touch after they graduated college. While Jess moves to Beijing post-grad, Rachel heads to New York. This memoir weaves together the weekly emails they sent back and forth as they tried to figure out the world and themselves. Their correspondence, originally just meant for one another, is refreshingly candid. As they move to new cities, fall in and out of love, and experience their personal highs and lows, they report it back to one another with admirable honesty. We’re all a little lost, but this book proves that having someone just as lost as you makes it a little easier.
Favorite Quote: “You won’t be able to do this ten years from now—just leave everything behind and go.”
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s sophomore novel depicts the intricate relationship between Marianne and Connell, two unlikely friends. Marianne, a loner by default, and Connell, the sweet, but popular jock keep their unlikely kinship in hiding. Through the span of high school, college and beyond, their lives continue to reconnect. The book shifts narration between the two, creating a glimpse into the painful misunderstandings we have with one another. Rooney’s authentic dialogue and multidimensional characters create this page-turner that tackles class, gender, and magnetic intimacy.
Favorite quote: “Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t know if she would ever find out where it was or become part of it.”
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
While Carrie Fisher is most widely known for her portrayal of space princess turned general in Star Wars, her ability as a writer is unmatched. Her debut novel, Postcards from the Edge, mirrors her personal life as a Hollywood star, Suzanne, is released from rehab. Her half-fiction, half-memoir approach makes way for her brutal honesty about show business, addiction, and simply trying to navigate life with all the monsters in your head. Fisher has long been known to take something tragic, and make it funny. Her unmatched wit is in clear view throughout this entire novel.
Favorite quote: “I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Dolly Alderton’s memoir has the ability to depict the uncertain navigation of early adulthood. With each personal essay, the reader can find themself in Alderton. Through her snippets of disastrous dates, job failures, and drunken mistakes with her best friends, Alderton does a lot of growing up. If Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City was actually a gifted writer, this is the book she would’ve written. It goes from heartfelt to humor with the flipping of pages, all while focusing on the nuances of finding her way into adulthood.
Favorite quote: “Nearly everything I know about love, I’ve learnt from my long-term friendships with women.”
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
This posthumous collection of non-fiction and fiction short stories encapsulates hope and grief all at the same time. The author, Marina Keegan, tragically died in a car accident just five days after her graduation from Yale University. But in her short time, she was able to understand more about life than most people. Her essay for Yale Daily News “The Opposite of Loneliness” went viral shortly after for its ability to describe the magic and uncertainty of being in your 20s. Her work continues to inspire for its rawness and realness, but also as a reminder of the fragility of life.
Favorite Quote: “I want enough time to be in love with everything . . .”
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Author Lori Gottlieb, a therapist, uncovers many truths when she herself goes to a therapist. In a personal crisis, she realizes that it is time for her to seek help too. She finds herself asking the same questions as her own patients in her practice. This book threads together each of her client’s journeys with her own through therapy. She finds connections with her patients in the most unlikely places. Gottlieb uncovers the beating humanity within us all.
Favorite quote: “But part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself—to let go of the limiting stories you’ve told yourself about who you are so that you aren’t trapped by them, so you can live your life and not the story you’ve been telling yourself about your life.
Brenna Sarantides is the Long River Review marketing director and a poetry panel reader. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.