One of my writing professors once said that every story was a coming of age story– that there was really no other story that could be told. I think she was right. Even if a story isn’t about coming of age in the traditional sense, it is about learning, developing, and adapting. A coming of age story is really just a human story.
While I was thinking about this, I realized so many books I loved shed light on big decisions that twenty-somethings (like me) make.
So I made a reading list.
If you’re the kind of person who likes a good book to provide support through difficult moments, here are some reading recommendations for you.
If you’re deciding where to go to school.
Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld– When Lee, a middle-class girl living in the Midwest, decides to go to a prep school on scholarship, she feels alienated by all wealthy students. She struggles to do well in her classes and make friends, but despite all her efforts, her relationships with her peers and family become even more strained. Through Lee’s eyes, Sittenfeld dissects what it means to not fit in. If you’re about to make a big decision, whether you’re thinking about where to go to school or where to pursue your career, this book will remind you that nothing is guaranteed. Just because you succeed once doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful, and just because you screw up once doesn’t mean you’re doomed.
If you’re thinking about taking time off school.
Joyland, Stephen King– After a messy breakup with his first love, Devin decides to take a break from college and work at an amusement park, Joyland, to recollect. While he’s there, he sets out to find the murderer of an unsolved case in the theme park. His friends and ex-girlfriend return to college and continue their studies, but Devin is the one who does the most growing up. Through Devin’s experiences, King shows how some of the biggest lessons can be learned outside of school.
If you feel like you really messed up this time.
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen– Franzen’s Freedom is an epic story of a couple, Patty and Walter, struggling to raise two kids, maintain a marriage, and find their own identity. What makes this difficult is that both Patty and Walter consistently mess up, over and over again. By the middle of the novel, it seems as though the whole family is pulling apart and that it’s completely impossible that they’ll be able to salvage their relationship. Franzen shows how people can drift and wander and still find their way back.
If you’re afraid of being forever alone.
This is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz– After you read Díaz’s hilarious, vulgar, tragic collection of short stories, you’ll feel a little less alone. Through a colorful collection of characters, these stories explore what it means to be in love. Even if the messy break-ups, the serial cheaters, and the dysfunctional relationships aren’t exactly the same as your situation, the way Díaz portrays the pushes and pulls of human relationships rings true. The arc of the collection could be summed up in the last line of the book: “The half-life of love is forever.”