21 Books That Transformed My "New Adult" Years

12 min read
December 11, 2018

21 Books That Transformed My New Adult Years


Are you looking for a book to add to your reading list? As you scroll through the internet lists filled with book recommendations, here are 21 books which helped transform me through the last five years.

These last five years, from 28 to my current age of 33, I consider to be my ‘New Adult’ years. I became motivated to deliberately contribute to life instead of “winging it.” Adulthood felt real and it was exciting to conquer life’s opportunities. I’m still figuring it out but I’ve come a long way in the last five years. 

New Adult years can happen at any time and it begins when a light bulb goes off that life is what you make of it. Some people discover their inner compass in high school, others in college or right out of college, but I was a late bloomer.

These books in this article impacted my life with new information, guidance, points of view, and enjoyment during my most formative years to date.

These 21 books helped me and continue to help me. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did to help transform you – or if you’re a parent of a New Adult, consider gifting one of these books  to someone who wants a little guidance.

Life & Career Guidance

1) Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

Ms. Brown gave one of the most watched TED Talks of all time where she discusses how vulnerability can lead to you becoming a wholehearted person. Her book starts with a Teddy Roosevelt quote and you’ll participate in self-reflection throughout the read.

A Quote for New Adults

“Belonging: Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

2) The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama experienced so much suffering yet he seems to always have a smile on his face. Learn from this Eastern philosopher on his thoughts on how to pursue happiness in your own life.

A Quote for New Adults

“When life becomes too complicated and we feel overwhelmed, it’s often useful just to stand back and remind ourselves of our overall purpose, our overall goal. When faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to simply reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness, and then reset our priorities on the basis of that. This can put our life back in proper context, allow a fresh perspective, and enable us to see which direction to take.” 

3) How to be like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life by Pat Williams

A roller coaster of a life filled with struggles, triumphs, failures, and successes. Walt’s personality led him to accomplish many things as a leader and a visionary. The author shares stories which can influence how you carry yourself to the world.

A Quote for New Adults

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”

As a proud Disney enthusiast, check out one of my favorite articles: 5 Money Lessons I Learned from Disney. 

4) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey

One of the best self-help books for people stuck in a rut. Learn how Stephen Covey learned from other people on how to live an effective life. Loads of practical advice, guidance, and wisdom. 

A Quote for New Adults

“Your economic security does not lie in your job; it lies in your own power to produce – to think, to learn, to create, to adapt. That’s true financial independence. It’s not having wealth; it’s having the power to produce wealth.”

5) Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Everyone listen to Amy Poehler. A comedic read with a dose of inspiration for women and men. This comedian allows her unique voice to make you chuckle throughout the entire book while also learning how to navigate your career as she did.

A Quote for New Adults

“Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.” 

5) How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

One of the all-time classic books to better your relationships with your family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. Learn how to get out of your own head and get genuinely interested in other people’s stories. You already know about you, learn from others! 

A Quote for New Adults

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

7) Dream It! Do It! by Marty Sklar

This author joined the Disney team one month before the first park opened in 1955 and then participated in the creative division called Imagineering – a blend of imagination with technical know-how. Sklar takes you behind the scenes and provides guidance on how to balance creativity, business, company politics, and leadership.

A Quote for New Adults

“There are two ways to look at a blank sheet of paper. It can be the most frightening thing in the world, because you have to make the first mark on it. Or it can be the greatest opportunity in the world, because you get to make the first mark – you can let your imagination fly in any direction, and create whole new worlds!”

Thought-Provoking Reads

8) Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

Remove yourself from the cultures of “Keeping up with the Joneses” – also known as “Flexing for the Gram.” Society changed through the years to see people formerly as ‘fortunates and unfortunates’ to our nowaday perceptions of ‘winners and losers.’ This author shares fascinating research on the history and what you can do to live a life on your own terms.

A Quote for New Adults

“Only as we mature does affection begin to depend on achievement: being polite, succeeding at school and later, acquiring rank and prestige. Such efforts may attract the interest of others, but the underlying emotional craving is not so much to dazzle because of our deeds as to recapture the tenor of the bountiful, indiscriminate petting we received in return for arranging wooden bricks on the kitchen floor, for having a soft plump body and wide trusting eyes.”

9) The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff

Go with the flow and learn about the principles of Taoism through the characters of Winnie the Pooh. Each character has a personality quirk and the author explains how Winnie the Pooh displays qualities of a Zen master.

A Quote for New Adults

“By the time it came to the edge of the Forest the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, ‘There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.’”

10) On Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz

Ms. Schulz delivered one of my favorite TED Talks and her book was equally enjoyable. Our culture has a weird relationship with getting things wrong – which is inevitable for everyone. Learn some bizarre examples in our histories as well as how to shift your thinking to have a different relationship with wrongness.

A Quote for New Adults

“This is the thing about fully experiencing wrongness. It strips us of all our theories, including our theories about ourselves. This isn’t fun while it’s happening – it leaves us feeling flayed, laid bare to the bone and the world – but it does make possible that rarest of occurrences: real change.”

11) The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional & Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

Another favorite TED Talk by an infectious personality. This maestro understands that he needs to inspire his orchestra to play for themselves, not for him as their conductor. These husband and wife authors explain that embracing a curious mindset can influence life to more optimistic and wonderful experiences: inside and out. 

A Quote for New Adults

“On the whole, resources are likely to come to you in greater abundance when you are generous and inclusive to engage people in your passion for life.”

12) Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Need help to focus better? Should you be working right now and you got sucked into this Summer Reading List? This author studied how you can prioritize your life to meet your expectations. This book became a phenomenon because our current technological age allows people to become constantly distracted. It’s time for you to regain focus on your time and energy. 

A Quote for New Adults

“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?”

13) The Go Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg

A short parable explaining the business philosophy: the more you give, the more you get. This philosophy has worked for me in my early career and I encourage you to implement this same mentality. 

A Quote for New Adults

“All the great fortunes in the world have been created by men and women who had a greater passion for what they were giving – their product, service or idea – than for what they were getting. And many of those great fortunes have been squandered by others who had a greater passion for what they were getting than what they were giving.”

Do you want to up your philanthropy game? Read some tips I shared in this article: Be an Everyday Philanthropist by Giving Your Time, Treasure, & Talent.

Understand Money Topics

14) Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton

Did you know that money can buy happiness? The authors explain five proven ways people can spend their dollars to make them a little happier. Read the book and/or get a summary with a blog post I wrote: 5 Ways to Create Happier Spending. 

A Quote for New Adults

“Across the 136 countries studied in the Gallup World Poll, donating to charity had a similar relationship to happiness as doubling household income.”

15) Intentional Wealth: How Families Build Legacies of Stewardship & Financial Health by Courtney Pullen

As a New Adult, it’s uncomfortable to have financial conversations with your family because you’ll always feel like the kid. Yet, there are strategies to bridge communication with your families to proactively address family values and decisions in times of crisis.

A Quote for New Adults

“The journey toward maturity might be seen as a circle. In the beginning, as children, we are protected by our parents and families. At some point, it is important for us to separate from the family in order to follow our dreams and become our true selves. In doing so, we take some of the family’s values and strengths with us. Ideally, those values will support us in creating our separate identities. Once we have learned to be independent and have gained maturity, we come back into the family in a new way. We bring our strengths as whole, unique individual into the family culture and make it stronger.” 

16) The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards 

Richards makes the complex simple with this short book. Make the complicated world of money a little easier to digest with action steps and knowledge to better yourself immediately after reading this book.

A Quote for New Adults

“… our own behavior is all that we can control – and ultimately, our behavior can make a huge difference in our financial success and our personal happiness.”

17) When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women by Farnoosh Torabi

Society is changing where more women are earning higher incomes than their partners. This dynamic involves psychological quirks for both parties. My fiancee worked hard to become a Physician Assistant and this book helped me understand how to best support her (and myself).

A Quote for New Adults

“ It’s not that there’s an inherent asset or trait that women or, conversely, men lack. If you look throughout human history, every time doors opened for women (usually by our own doing), we’ve walked through them with resolve and a sense of fulfillment. But stereotypes have followed us, too. And the same can be said for men as well.” 

18) Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing by Burton Malkiel

Build that compound interest early! This book influenced many of my investment philosophies and it’s a great read for the novices as well as veterans.

A Quote for New Adults

“There is much about investing you cannot control. You can’t do anything about the ups and downs of the stock and bond markets. But you can control your investment costs. And you can organize your investments to minimize taxes. Controlling the things you can control should play a central role in developing a sensible investment strategy.”

If you need help navigating the investment world, please let me know if this service interests you: Investment Management Services. 

19) Financial Planning 3.0: Evolving our Relationships with Money by Richard Wagner, JD CFP® 

Learn how money infiltrates everything in our world and what you can do to confidently handle your relationship with money. This is a must read if you’re considering a career in our Financial Planning profession!

A Quote for New Adults

“… it is crucial for all of us to remember that money skills are not natural either. They do not come in our DNA. Human beings, after all, are products of nature. Other survival skills are both natural and readily accessible. We breathe, eat, drink, excrete, and reproduce without substantial effort or intent on our parts already. On our lists of required survival masteries, money’s demands, alone, remain elusive. All money users require training, education, and skill.”

To Simply Enjoy Reading

20) The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love & High Adventure by William Goldman

Do you want a book to get lost and simply enjoy? Pick up this classic which is filled with nostalgia, adventure, Brute Squad, and comedy. 

A Quote for New Adults

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

21) Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson 

A Quote for New Adults

“Calvin: Hobbes, did you hear? Mom and Dad are taking us camping! We get to live in a tent and go fishing and canoeing! Won’t that be fun?? We’ll be roughing it! Living off the land! No TV or Radio or… uh-oh.

Hobbes: What’s wrong?

Calvin: This sounds suspiciously like one of Dad’s plots to build my character.”

A Personal Note about Calvin & Hobbes 

Five years ago, I didn’t consider myself a reader because I didn’t enjoy English class during my school years. My love of reading changed when my lovely fiancee brought her childhood Calvin & Hobbes books into our shared apartment. Instead of watching tv in bed, these books captivated me where I laughed and loved Watterson’s imagined world.

After reading these charming comics, it dawned on me that reading consists of a personal journey. We don’t need to rely on an English teacher or a New York Times bestseller list to tell us what to read. If something interests you, then find a book to learn more. If a book isn’t enjoyable, then stop immediately so you can start another book. 

Calvin & Hobbes will always have a special place in my heart for kicking off my New Adult years because it started my love of reading. Which book has a special place in your heart because it transformed you in some way? Or have you not found that book … yet?

Happy Reading!


Dan AndrewsAbout the Author
Dan Andrews, CFP®, started Well-Rounded Success, an independent and fee-only Financial Planning firm, as a creative outlet focusing on personal and professional development in 2014. He merged these themes with Financial Planning in 2016, and he now develops processes to help clients with Investment Management, Financial Planning programs, and High Net Worth Planning. His favorite area is helping Millennials and ‘New Adults’ understand financial literacy and personal growth through speaking engagements and private coaching.






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