Finding a good fiction book to read as a twenty-something year old sometimes feels like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, consider this post your needle! I’ve rounded up a list of 20 fiction books you must read in your 20s.
These books are on my short list not because they’re classics or famous or have three movies about them, but because they’re about the adventures of people our age and in our stage of life. Even more, they’ve all been recommended by 20-somethings who love to read.
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Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s
Perhaps like me, you loved YA in high school and some in college, too. But now when you pick up a YA novel, all you think about is how whiny the main character is. Then you go to the adult section and are overwhelmed because you don’t know if you’ll pick up a book about a couple going through a mid-life crisis, a parent having his/her first child, or someone with grown children who is trying to reconnect with them.
On top of that, your desire to read about any of the said stories is zero because you’re just a young woman navigating the adulting struggle. You’re looking for a good read about where you’re at.
If that sounds like you, then I certainly sympathize, and you’ve come to the right place. I’ve included in this article my favorite books and authors who write secular fiction, Christian fiction, and the unclassified fiction in between.
20 Books to Read Before 30 – Fiction Edition
This list of books to read before 30 includes secular books of all genres and some of my favorite Christian books, too. I’ve read most of these books, but also received curated recommendation from twenty-something friends who love reading, too.
But every book might not be right for you. We all have different preferences, tolerances for mature content, triggers, and personal convictions. Check Good Reads reviews, blog reviews, or bookstore reviews to see if a book fits your interests before purchasing.
With all the disclaimers out of the way, here’s a short list of books you must read for your 20s, hand-picked by yours truly or recommended by friends.
Top Picks – Books to Read in Twenties
My favorites top the list:
Cozy mystery & contemporary romance series. The first book Engaged in Trouble will have you laughing, crying, and on the edge of your seat as the mystery is solved.
Mystery & Thriller. A standalone novel exploring memory and brotherhood in a new way.
Romantic Suspense. A five-book series about a family living on the coast of Alaska and five unique and strange mysteries to be solved. You won’t want to put these books down.
A trilogy where you’ll be immersed in another world on our world. Funny, interesting, and unlike anything I’ve ever read. If the movie piqued your curiosity, this book is a no-brainer.
Now that you’ve seen my top picks for books to read in your twenties, let’s hop into some different genres.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books for 20-year-olds
A recent fantasy pick and the first book of the Dancing Realms series.
Check out this EPIC fantasy, packed with all the elements you love about fantasy and more.
At first, this book seems to be a masterful Beauty and the Beast retelling. Until you get to the second half, and everything you thought you knew is flipped on its head.
A steampunk fantasy novel with magic in the Victorian Era. Part of The Soul Chronicles duology.
Magic meets the British aristocracy in this fantasy novel where magic is in danger.
Former Superhero Aiden takes up his cape again in the race against time and supervillains to save his mother. This book is a winner of a Realm Award in 2022.
YA Books for 20-year-olds
If you didn’t have much time to read in the past, you can consider this section as an opportunity to catch up on the YA (young adult) fiction you missed. Some of these are Older YA titles so are more relatable than traditional YA, too.
Even as a twenty-something year old, these books are still enjoyable for me. Maybe it’s because they’re in one of my favorite genres, fantasy and sci-fi.
A fantasy story about a bond between sisters, games, and love in a unique world.
The first installment of the Ravenwood Saga Series. A fantasy set in an old-timey setting with themes around secrets, family, and dream walking. Older YA.
A five book dystopian series. Think The Bachelor but hundreds of years in the future. Who will be the next princess?
If you love fairy tales, you’ll love this Sci-Fi twist on these familiar stories in the six-book series, The Lunar Chronicles.
This captivating story got me on page one, and I devoured it in one sitting. This is the tale of a captive healer and an outcast prince and their journey to finding each other. It has so many levels and threads about mental health so that it can be enjoyed by YA or adult audiences. The audiobook for Met by Midnight won the Realm Maker Award for audio in 2022.
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Thriller & Mystery Books for 20-year-olds
Romantic Suspense. The first book Cold Shot features a retired sniper and a forensic anthropologist. Her next book series starts with The Killing Tide, which is is riveting, too. I finished it in less than 2 days.
Romantic Suspense & Mystery. A cold case. I’ve read two books from Henderson’s other series and thoroughly enjoyed her fresh take on mysteries and crime. This one is on my bookshelf right now!
A futuristic thriller. By the same author of The Martian, this science thriller brings science in a digestible way and a gripping story.
Historical Books for 20-year-olds
Historical is one of my least favorite genres, but these came so highly rated from my twenty-something friends that I had to include them on this list of 20 books to read before 30.
A novel set in 1714 France—at the start. Get ready to cross centuries and continents with this historical read.
An adult pick from the historical section intertwining a present-day story and a historical story (1791) in London.
Another book about sisters, this time set in France and the backdrop of World War II.
Romance Books for Twenty Somethings
Featuring a college student who studies abroad in Ireland to honor her brother’s memory. You can catch the movie version, too: Finding You.
Pretending to be someone’s fiancée is always a good idea, right? Find out in this sweet romance story that will have you laughing out loud.
Contemporary romance & lighthearted comedy. You never know who you might cross paths with in a small town. Excerpt of Hooked on You.
Must Read Christian Fiction Books
If you’re used to the conventional Christian fiction, then these Christian fiction books will surprise you in a good way. Check out the great Christian authors of these books to read in your 20s.
Shifting Realities. New worlds. Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Fantasy – this series seems to have it all.
A romantic thriller and suspense novel where the characters must find out whose framing them for the latest crime. Excerpt of Aftermath.
The line between love and hate is thinner than you thought. Heartwarming romance story between neighbors.
Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense Novel. Unlikely alliances drive this story forward as the countdown to a world-wide disaster commences.
Another nail-biting, romantic mystery novel where two childhood lovers are separated by an old murder case involving their fathers. One father was murdered; the other has spent over a decade in prison for the crime.
Now that you have the list, I hope you’ve picked a couple to explore more. As you’re deciding what to tackle next, here’s some reader advice to help.
What books should 20 somethings read?
Out of college and on your own, your days of completing a summer reading list or are over. As a 20 something on her own and adulting, what should you read? What you’ve missed out on during school days.
Most people who scrunch their noses as soon as they hear the word reading probably didn’t get a chance to read what they were interested in during school. Perhaps they had to stick to the classics or a certain genre, but none of these options were particularly interesting.
Now is the time to dive into new adventures and pick up the books that you want to read just because.
Explore new genres, try new authors, and don’t be afraid to hop around until you find a book that grabs you and doesn’t let go (metaphorically, of course).
YA and NA Books
Where can you find books to read in your twenties? Fiction that interests you may be in the YA (Young Adult), NA (New Adult), Adult sections or all three. As you browse books to read in your 20s, here’s a quick review of the classification terminology.
- Young Adult (YA): books where the main characters are usually aged 14-18. Characterized by a fast-paced story and writing style.
- Older YA: these are books get categorized as YA, but they have older main characters (18-20). Most people consider the cut off at twenty.
- Adult: This classification covers so much, it’s easier to define by exclusion—Anything that’s not children, juvenile, middle grade, and young adult fiction. With adult fiction, you don’t know until you pick up a book what to expect from the characters or the style of writing. But there’s a new category that mighttake the guess work out for you.
- New Adult (NA): novels where the main characters are usually aged 18-25. Similar to the fast-paced story and writing style of YA books but includes some of the heavier topics of Adult books.
Watch out for NA Books
Quick warning about this new category, NA books. Speaking from experience trolling bookstore’s NA section, writers conferences, and articles about the new adult category, you have to be careful what you pick up. Some NA books are written simply as YA novels with sex and more foul language.
Not your style? Me either. As Anna Nelson puts it in her article about NA books, this is not what women like you and me are looking for.
“YA dystopian, sci-fi, futuristic, fantasy, and action books are often so much more fun that the adult versions. Neo-Adults want those types of stories but speaking to our experience. We want Perks of Being A Wallflower in college.”~Anna Nelson, New Adult: What should twenty somethings be reading?
Some really great books for people our age are masquerading as Older YA or NA or Adult. Confusing, but necessary until the NA category sorts itself out. That said, the list of book suggestions to read in your twenties includes some YA, NA, and Adult books.
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A Plug for Unconventional Christian Genre Books
Lastly, as you’re looking for your next read, there’s a misconception about Christian fiction to watch out for. It may seem like there are only three types of Christian fiction: Amish, romances, and stories set in Bible times. If you don’t like those three categories than you are out of luck right?
Wrong! As a Christian fiction writer who is currently penning a fantasy novel, I assure you that couldn’t be farther from true!
There is Christian fiction in all genres and great Christian authors who write secular fiction, too (like yours truly).
At the same time, I’ve gone to my library many times, browsed the “inspirational” section and found books only in the 3 categories listed above. This is one of the reasons why I started to write fiction. There wasn’t any Christian fiction that I wanted to read!
Thankfully, I discovered that was simply a library stock issue. There are many more Christian genre books out there and with a wide range of spiritual heaviness. Some of them are diving deep into Christian topics, some of them are allegories, while some just contain Christian characters. You will find some of my favorites sprinkled throughout this list.
Bottom line: Even if you’ve sworn off Christian fiction, try some of these good Christian novels to read. You’ll be surprised in how varied Christian genre books can be.
20 Books You Must Read in Your 20s
So, whether you’re an avid reader or new to the reading pastime, I hope these books take you on an adventure. I hope they give you an escape. I hope they teach you something new. Above all, I hope you enjoy them, free of worry that they will be unrelatable or super boring.
New adult, young adult, baby adult or somewhere in between, there are books out there for you!
Fiction Books to Read in Twenties
Feel free to ask me questions about my recommendations or tell me what you liked and didn’t like by leaving a comment on this post. I often review and talk about books on my Instagram for KJL Co. so check there for the latest about what I’m reading, too.
This list of books included a mix of secular and Christian fiction so choose whatever suits your fancy and tastes. But truthfully, the only 20 books to read before 30 are the ones you want to read. Those are the books you must read in your 20s. Happy Reading!
What books have you enjoyed in your 20s? I want to hear your best reccs!
Leave me a comment below!
Don’t miss this! More posts in the Living & Adulting Category
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- 9 Simple Ways to Unwind after Work (without alcohol)
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