The Ultimate Book List for Adults Who Know

Book List for Adult Who Know

What if, like a college syllabus, you got a reading list for life? I am going to do my best to create one with this Ultimate Book List for Adults Who Know.

Even if one is not a big reader, having some tools and information in his or her arsenal for life is a great advantage. As we grow, we need new insights and as we know better, we do better. I hope that in this list you will find the books that mold lives to be the best they can be.

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Books about adulthood

There is so much to learn and so much I wish I had learned earlier. Some books will change your life, or at least offer a new perspective on yours. Many lessons can only be conquered with experience, but how many times have you thought, “why did no one tell me about this??”

happy ethnic woman sitting at table with laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

As we interacted with the students, it reminded me of all the lessons I wished I had known when I was starting out. They would ask questions about money, boundaries, relationships, self-care, career, and how to know what they are good at.

I know this well because we lived and worked on a college campus. It was a blast to mingle among all that life and youthfulness! Though I was obviously a young adult myself at some point, it’s easy to forget how everything feels and all the things I have learned (sometimes the hard way) since then.

If I knew then what I know now

As an adult with a family, education, and a decade (or, ahem, more) ahead of adolescents I have a brand new appreciation for what I wished I had known sooner. The students I lived and worked with reminded me of what many young adults face as they are learning the ropes of adulthood.

Based on that experience, I started making a list of books (that I have read) that would help any young adult.

So many books, so little time

This is NOT an exhaustive list. For integrity, I listed only books that I am familiar with, so there could be so many more – so many books, so little time.

First, decidedly missing from this list are books about personal physical and mental health and fitness. Honestly, I could not find a comprehensive basic human health book (yet).

There are health textbooks and an abundance of diets, health protocols, an exercise method, or losing weight, but not just a basic normal maintenance manual for the typical person. I am still on the search.

I also did not include any books about filing taxes, grocery shopping, homeownership, balancing a checkbook/banking, caring for a vehicle, or a baby, for example, and for similar reasons.

There are important life skills not covered in my list and I recognize that. If I find the right books that cover these important subjects well, I will add them.

Link to Buy Kindle Oasis Device


Secondly, I did not include any fiction books. I think that fiction is important for everyone to read, but for the purposes of this list, I have included only non-fiction titles.

Third, I did not include any books about race and its role in our culture. It is very important to me, but I have not chosen a specific book that I am prepared to include in this list. I am confident that one will be added soon.

Biblical Literature?

Lastly, even if one does not choose to follow the Bible’s principles to guide their life as a religion, all educated people should read it at some point.  So much in our culture has foundations in biblical literature. It is an important book to be familiar with due to the strength of influence it has on so many people for so many years. Cultural references that we may not have realized were from the Bible (link). Did you know “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” was borrowed from the Bible?

Books about “adulting”

There are going to be books that are important that I did not include, but I believe this will be a great start to prepare a young person for many of the decisions and obstacles that people face as they enter into the next chapters of life and career.

If you have a book to suggest that isn’t included, please send me a message. 

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The Ultimate Book List for Adult Who Know

Books About Life Skills

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondo
Ms. Kondo came to us from Japan to teach us how to fold our T-shirts and decide how to keep our home filled with only the things that spark joy. It is a quick read and a great guide to managing all of our stuff. I wish I had thought through all of my belongings much younger and had the KonMari method to walk me through.

How to Cook Everything: The Basics
by Mark Bittman
Getting started with a cooking book, because who doesn’t eat? Exactly! This title speaks for itself. How to Cook Everything is a comprehensive guide offering the basics of the techniques and the skills needed to cook, well, just about everything. Cooking at home has seen a renaissance in recent years. Possible due to innovative food entertainment, the Internet, and other media, the aspiring home chef needs a guide and this could be it.

Simple Classic Chicken Soup Recipe

The Martha Manual: How to do (Almost) Everything
by Martha Stewart
I have been following Ms. Stewart since I was a teenager. She and her team are the reigning authorities on all things domestic. This book offers tips on everything from hosting a dinner party to starting a campfire.

Make Your Bed: Little things that can change your life and maybe the world.
by Admiral William H. McCraven
In 2014 Admiral McCraven delivered the commencement address at the University of Texas (link). This powerful speech turned in to a phenomenon and eventually a book. His powerful advice emphasizes the idea that little efforts over time can make a big difference.

Books About Productivity and Life Management

Getting Things Done: The art of stress-free productivity.
by David Allen
Mr. Allen claims that when we get ideas, plans, and appointments into a system we trust and out of our heads, it frees up the head space we need to be energized and productive. This book tells us how to do it.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful lessons in personal change
by Stephen R. Covey
This classic business and personal growth book has stood the test of time since it was published in 1989. One of the powerful lessons he teaches is to make sure that each person becomes aware of his or her principles and personal values, so he or she may align their everyday habits with them.

How to Win Friends and Influence People: The only book you need to lead you to succeed.
by Dale Carnegie
This classic book from 1936 is said to be the first business and self-help book ever. The principles and advice this historic business mogul gives us and timeless and stand true today.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
James Clear
From “If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Here, you’ll get a proven system that can take you to new heights.”

Audible Gift Memberships

Books about Personal Development and Self-Awareness

Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
By Rick Warren

From “

The Purpose Driven Life is far more than just a book; it’s the road map for your spiritual journey. A journey that will transform your life.

Designed to be read in 42 days, each chapter provides a daily meditation and practical steps to help you discover and live out your purpose, starting with exploring three of life’s most pressing questions:

  • The Question of Existence: Why am I alive?
  • The Question of Significance: Does my life matter?
  • The Question of Purpose: What on earth am I here for?

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

From “Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Brené Brown PhD, LMSW, dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.”

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)
by Gretchen Rubin

After surveying over 600,000 people, Mrs. Rubin has divided the population into four tendencies: Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. This one aspect of analyzing human nature helps us understand how people respond to internal and external expectations.

Strengths Finder 2.0
by Don Clifton

This book pairs with the Strength Finders assessment, individuals can determine their top five talents, or strengths. Armed with this information, people can use their strength to find growth and fulfillment in their work and life.

The Road Back to You
by Ian Crohn

This book offers a great introduction to the Enneagram, which is an ancient study of human personality with 9 types. This powerful, Christian-based study offers to self-awareness and an enhanced connection to God. Enne=9, Gram=Chart.


Boundaries: When to Say Yes and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Like the old idiom, “good fences make great neighbors” Boundaries help us learn to set and enforce healthy limits with those around us. Henry Cloud teaches not only when to say yes and went to say no, but also how to do with both respect your others and yourself.

Boundaries is a must-read for young adults as they navigate relationships, jobs, and the stuff of life.

The 5 Love Languages
by Gary Chapman

This classic, best-selling book has been teaching people to communicate better in love for more than a decade. Dr. Chapman teaches that we each “speak” in love languages.

Whether it is Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Touch, and Quality Time, each person gives and receives love best in these ways. Communicating one’s primary language and understanding one’s partner’s primary language and using it can have a powerful effect on relationships.

Success, Business, and Finance

Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
by Spencer Johnson

Life is ever-changing and our joy and success rely largely on how each person responds to the inevitable string of changes.

Using mice to illustrate this allegory, the reader watches them adapt to the challenges or freeze in fear in their maze of life. Experts suggest that resilience could be a key deciding factor in success in life and this book helps gives the tools to build resilience.

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters
by Jon Acuff

From “There are only two paths in life: average and awesome. The average path is easy because all you have to do is nothing. The awesome path is more challenging because things like fear only bother you when you do work that matters. The good news is Start gives readers practical, honest, and actionable insights to be more awesome, more often.”

Total Money Makeover
by Dave Ramsey

This book finishes out my book list for adults who know. Though last on the list, to me, is the most important. This simple powerful guide to getting and staying out of debt has been influential in our wealth-building journey.

Dave Ramsey has reached celebrity status in the personal finance world with his no-nonsense approach to money management. It is a must-read for all young adults to start out in life strong financially.

How do you read so much?

In conclusion, I often get asked how I read so much. No, our governess is not caring for the children while I sit in our three-story library reading and eating bonbons. (Funny image!) I have none of those things, but what I do have is cheap Bluetooth headphones and a 5-year-old iPhone and audiobooks.

I listen during my workout, while I do dishes, laundry, grocery shop (if I have the luxury of shopping alone), clean the house, and when I am in the car alone.

Lastly, where do I get my books? I currently do not have Audible or another service. I borrow my digital/audiobooks through an app via my local public library. Many titles are not available and sometimes there is a waitlist, but having access to this service through our tax dollars is so amazing.

My dream is to get an audible subscription (and the governess and butler, but I digress) and listen to the newest stuff on demand.

It would totally make a great gift! You can buy it here:

Link to Buy Kindle Oasis Device

Do you have book ideas?

Which books have you read? Are there any here that are new to you? Any you don’t think should be on a book list for adult who know?

If you have a book to suggest that isn’t included, shoot me a message or comment below. 

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About Jaime, the author

Jaime Ragsdale
Jaime Ragsdale, Founder of Altogether Mostly

Here at Altogether Mostly, you will find grace, compassion, joy, and beauty. I use empathy and a little tough love to bring out the best in people. I live in the Midwest United States with my loving husband and awesome children. For more about me and Altogether Mostly, please visit my about page here.

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