13 Memoirs Every Millennial Women Should Read In Her 20s

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I love a good memoir. Something about sinking my teeth into the behind the scenes of someone else's life has always appealed to me. I believe there are certain memoirs to read in your 20s to help you navigate the ups and downs of adulthood. The mix of female memoirs below are both dark and humorous. Well mostly funny, since I think we all need a good laugh to get us through this decade.

13 Memoirs To Read In Your 20s:

Growing up as an only child with overly protective parents, I often found myself escaping into television and books. I love how they exported me from my relatively mundane life, into another realm.

1. Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas
smashed millennial women books to read

Okay, I know most other people would recommend “Drinking A Love Story” by Caroline Knapp, but for me Koren Zailckas does a much better job of tapping into what it truly felt like to start drinking in high school and see that play out into young adulthood. The book follows her journey from her first drink at 14 into young adulthood. She published the book at only 24 years old! This book was a gamer changer for me. I laughed, I cried, and I totally related to Koren in her memoir. It's a good reminder that friends need to stick together and look out for each other.

2. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

I loveeee Mindy Kaling. Seriously she just gets me. Her memoir is no different. It's more random musing about friendship than life per se, but a great beach read nonetheless.

3. #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

Sophia Amurouso's journey from homeless and dumpster diving to running a multi-million dollar company. A great reminder that dreams just don't happen, we have to work for them.

4. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's “Learned” by Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham is basically an artistic, expressive genius in my eyes (#RIP Girls). Seriously, no one can quite capture the existential crises of our twenties like Dunham does. I loved learning more about her personal experiences in life. It's hilarious and wise beyond it's years.

5. Pretty Is What Changes: Impossible Choices, the Breast Cancer Gene, and How I Defied My Destiny by Jessica Queller

Ugh this book is riveting, heart wrenching, and a total page turner. Jessica Queller is a former writer for TV hits like Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, Felicity, and more. In this book she shares the experience of losing her mother, discovering she is a carrier of the BRCA gene, and how that knowledge plays out in her life. I always knew about the different diseases and issues ashkenazi Jews (which I am) are susceptible too, but didn't know about this one. It was a great call to action to get myself checked out by the doctor and learn more about my family history.

6. Bossypants by Tina Fey

This book covers SO many stages of Tina Fey's life. It's literally laugh out loud hysterical (I would read it at the gym and almost fall off my elliptical!). Both wildly insightful and inspirational.

7. My Horizontal Life: A Collection Of One Night Stands by Chelsea Handler

Truthfully, anything by Chelsea Handler is the perfect summer read. Wildly funny, and easy to pick up and put down (most of her books are a collection of short stories). My Horizontal Life has always been a favorite of mine. So after that rough night out, pick it up and remember, at least you didn't do that. Also, her latest one, Life Will Be The Death Of Me, is fabulous and kind of different from her previous ones! It's a must read!!

8. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

As they say in the Gilmore Girls revival, “the book is more pure.” Nothing is more comforting in your twenties than reading about someone else hitting rock bottom then leaving it all behind to find themselves in nature.

9. “Orange Is The New Black” by Piper Kerman

I read this book back in 2010 and it spoke to my heart then. Put aside what you think about Piper Chapman in the Netflix version of this story, and remember that Piper Kerman is a real person. Who went to real prison. For a real crime. While the book and show have a lot of foundational concepts the same, they are also different (the show is more #drama). Kerman's story is a great reminder that the things we do in our youth, can impact us in ways we never thought possible.

10. Becoming by Michelle Obama

I mean, it's Michelle Obama, need I say more?

11. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

So I won't lie, I actually debated putting this on here; but a reader convinced me to. The book is definitely motivational, and not a traditional “memoir” while it does have loads of personal stories. It's more self help-y. My issue with it, is that it pushes the hustle mentality, which I don't agree with (more on that here). However, it is a good, thought provoking, motivational book that many women LOVE. She also has a sequel, which I haven't read, “Girl, Stop Apologizing.”

12. Educated by Tara Westover

I first heard about this book on Ellen and let me tell you, it's WELL worth the read! She grew up isolated from mainstream society in the mountains as the daughter to survivalists preparing for the world to end. She never stepped foot into a classroom until 17 years old. There's violence, seeking, and transformation. It looks at education and family dynamics and so much more.

13. The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

I love Tiffany Haddish. She shares her story from foster care, to sexual abuse and loads more, all with her comedic flare. It's like that phrase, “I laugh to keep from crying” coming to life.


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174 thoughts on “13 Memoirs Every Millennial Women Should Read In Her 20s”

  1. Shannon @ Lady's Little Loves

    Tina Fey is Hilarious! I am sure I would love hers! Thanks for the list!

  2. I don’t think you have to be in your 20s to appreciate this list! I’m in my 30s and there are some great reads on here. I love this post!

    1. For sure!! I think all of these are actually timeless, it was more for branding the content, and that young women struggling with a quarter life crisis should read these to stay grounded and motivated! Have you read any of these?

    2. I have an MFA and my husband and I are both writers. He just finished his PhD in Creative Writing here in TN. So yeah, I’ve read some of these. Until I had my baby last August I read a book a week. Now I’m a little slower but I still read voraciously. SO yeah, I’ve read Wild of course (it’s practically required reading for adult women these days isn’t it? 🙂 But also Lena Dunham, and Tina Fey – and I have Mindy Kaling, but I am saving it for when I need to be reading something uplifting 🙂

      I like to read a wide variety of things. I think you branded and curated this list perfectly 🙂

    1. Haha love it! they are really great for anyone! I struggled with the title since I was like “anyone could really read these and most of hilarious” – but since they were all female others I decided to target the title for women haha! Thanks for reading it anyway! hope you found some more to check out!

  3. I just turned 31 and haven’t read any of these books! But Mindy Kaling’s book is definitely high on my list I love her!

  4. I’ll have to check some of these out that I missed, but I’d add Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” to the mix! Especailly if you liked Mindy & Tina’s memoirs (which I loved)

  5. Id definitely be interesting in reading and finding out the REAL story behind Orange is the New Black.

    1. oh the real story behind it is the one in the show! She really had a lesbian lover and a fiance and smuggled drugs without totally knowing the full picture! It just focuses more on the women in prison (also similar to the show) and the broken system.

  6. Love this! I don’t think there’s a better way to reach your goals than to literally pick the brains of people who’ve been through your struggles before and learn about how they overcame them…. and the BEST way to do that is to read.

  7. Corey Wheeland

    I haven’t read any of these other than Bossypants — which I loved! I need to check these others out!

  8. Mallory Middleton

    I’ve been wanting to read #Girlboss, Lena, & Tina Fey’s book for a long time! At such a critical time in my career journey, I could really use the inspiration. I also love reading memoirs – it’s like those people are having a conversation with you sharing some of their most valuable life advice and lessons learned. Who wouldn’t want to soak that in?!

  9. Kristen Rodriguez

    These all look amazing! I have been wanting to read #Girlboss for SO long. I actually just finished watching the Netflix series. I’m more of a tv watcher than reader, but now that I’ve seen the first season, I really want to get the book.

  10. I read GirlBoss and loved it!! I have to check the others out – definitely going to try and read some of these over the summer!!

  11. I definitely need to read these! The only one on this list I have read is Tina Fey’s book. I’m always looking for something new to read so this is a great compilation!

  12. If you liked Wild, you should also read Tiny Beautiful Things – it’s Cheryl Strayed’s collection of responses when she wrote an advice column as Dear Sugar! Poetic, heart-wrenching, devastatingly honest, and a total page turner.

  13. Claire - StartACraftBlog

    Not just in their 20’s! I’m going to read a few of these. I loved the Mindy Kalig book and the Flow Mindfulness magazines (Claire from HeartHandmadeUK)

  14. I haven’t read most of these but I’m so excited you did this post because I’ve been in need of a new book. Especially now that its hammock weather! I had no idea Orange Is the New Black is a book. I think I’m gonna start with that one!

  15. Breyona Sharpnack

    Girl boss is a very very good read. I recommend that one as well. Your list is awesome I will be sure to check out the others because I am always on the hunt for a good book

  16. So I have read all of these but 1. I was so sad during most of smashed but it was so interesting. I love OITNB!

    1. Yeah, Smashed hit very close to home for me and I think I cried a few times. She captured EXACTLY how I felt at that age SO well though. Which is the one you didnt read??

  17. Most of these I have either read, or are on my to-read list!
    Girlboss was so inspiring & perfect for anyone trying to pursue a more entrepreneurial lifestyle!

  18. Mihaela Drăgan

    Oh wow, I didn’t read any of these. Thanks so much for the inspiration 🙂

  19. Mindy is the best! I’ve heard a lot about #GirlBoss but haven’t read it yet. I tried to watch the show on Netflix but couldn’t get into it so I’m hoping the book is better!

  20. We have such similar tastes, there’s only two I haven’t read! I’m really interested in #1! I didn’t start drinking until I was out of my teens so I think that one would be so fascinating.

  21. I don’t know how I haven’t read Girl Boss yet but ya on my list! I also love that you have Bossy Pants and wild on here too! Great list, Rachel!

  22. So many good books on this list! Chelsea Handler’s book was one of the first books I actually laughed out loud while reading. I’ve been dying to read Bossypants by Tina Fey, that one’s definitely on my list 🙂

  23. I love #Girlboss of course, but I think I need to add all the rest of these to my reading list! Smashed and Bosslady really pique my interests!

  24. So many of these are on my list to read. I read both of Mindy Kaling’s books and I agree, I just love her so much. I honestly was NOT impressed with Wild. I just felt like she was whiny and not prepared for what she set out to do. Maybe that’s just me being married to someone who’s super outdoorsy. Loved the movie but not the story.

  25. Okay, I’ll admit – I clicked over here thinking I would have read most of these books. I love memoirs. I want to write one myself one day – just gotta get interesting enough that it would sell. 😛 But I haven’t read ANY of these! Some of them are on my list – but I was shocked I hadn’t read any. Thanks for bringing these to my attention. I can’t wait to get reading!
    xoxo Lauren | Glitter & Grandeur

  26. Alissa Carpenter

    I’m OBSESSED with Mindy Kaling’s book. I love the double meaning of the title and it’s such a good read.

  27. I LOVED Tina Fey’s book and Mindy Kaling’s books. There is so much wisdom in both! And Chelsea Handler’s book made me giggle the whole way through. She is such a funny person.

  28. Elizabeth Johnson

    Love this roundup! I love Mindy Kaling too. I am going to have to check out her book. several years back I read a Chelsea Handler book, can’t remember which one, but it had me in tears I was laughing so hard! I definitely saved this the later reference!!

  29. I’ve read a handful of these (Orange is the New Black, Not that Kind of Girl, #GirlBoss and all of Chelsea Handler’s books). I absolutely adore Lena Dunham’s book and I really thought Orange is the New Black was eye opening (I have’t looked at the prison system the same way since reading it).

    1. OITNB is so good, and real. I have a personal connection to the criminal justice system and that book hit so close to home. And I basically want Lena Dunham to be my mentor in life haha

  30. OurCookery Com

    Always fun to have a reading list. I like Tina Fey a lot too. I need to get back into reading for pleasure 🙂

  31. Jennifer Schmidt

    Sadly I have not read any of these! I think I found my summer reading list.

  32. April Kitchens

    I just left my 20’s a couple months ago, but I still would like to read a few of these books. Girl Boss has been on my list for a while now. The book Smashed looks good too.

    1. Haha you should still read these! Smashed is definitely geared towards younger adults, but I think it’s so good for women to read about supporting each other.

  33. what a great list! rarely do i see a list where i haven’t read one of the books. will be adding some of these to my reading list (:

  34. I’ve never read any of these, but I would definitely either grab Mindy’s or “Smashed” first. I like Mindy a lot and I have always wondered if I would like her book, but I always gravitate towards fiction so I never actually bought it. lol

  35. Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

    I love love love this list! I haven’t been much of a reader and there’s no excuse for it! So I might have to try a few of these books to get myself into a reading mood!

  36. Lacey Anne Douthat

    Girl boss and not that kind of girl are so good! need to read the rest! You should watch the netflix series for girlboss that just came out!

  37. I’ve read quite a few of these. I am glad I read OITNB before watching the series because I would have a different lens of Piper! I’ll add the others you have suggested to my Goodreads list.

    1. Totally agree! It’s wild she let them paint her the way they did in the end! But I guess she doesn’t care since the book is out there and I believe she is an activist for the prison system today

  38. I can’t wait to start reading these! Bookmarking this in my computer right now to read 🙂


  39. Kaitlynn Charalambopoulos

    I’ve never been a big memoir reader, but I think I should start. I love Mindy Kaling, I will probably read her book first if I had to choose. I’m trying to read more often so this is a great start 🙂

  40. I looove this list! I have only read “Girlboss” so far. Since I live in Europe, I never really notice all those books coming out! I feel like Europeans don’t read as many auto biographies etc.?!
    Love from Austria,

    1. Maybe! The first memoir I ever read was Zlata’s Diary of her time in the genocide in Bosnia. I was in elementary school. IT was really good and hooked me on memoirs

    2. Sounds great! I think I only ready “Anne Frank’s Diary” and that was it for a long time. Now I’ve read “Girlboss” and also DvF’s memoir and I loved that one!

  41. I recently said I was going to start reading more books. I am at the latter end of my 20’s but would love to read some of these on the list. In particular I am going to pick up Tina Fey’s Boosy Pants and Girl boss. Thank you for this list!!

  42. I love this list! I actually just started Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and I love it so far. Mindy is my FAV! (If you don’t watch “The Mindy Project” on Hulu, you should totally start!!) Thanks so much for the great list! I will definitely be adding these to my book list.

    xx, Taylor (thesprinkle.tayloramead.com)

  43. I absolutely loved Bossypants! Great list – I’ve been looking for some summer reads so this couldn’t have come at a better time 🙂

  44. These are all really great suggestions!! I haven’t read BossyPants so maybe I’ll put that next on my list! Great list gf.
    xo, G

  45. I LOVE Tina Fey and I’ve been considering picking up her memoir for a while now, thanks for the nudge!

  46. I’m so glad that I’ve already read “Bossypants” and “Wild.” They were both amazing books! Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham’s are both on my list as well. Have you read Amy Poehler’s memoir? I highly recommend it!

    1. I havent whic his why its not on this list! Everyone says they love it though and its on my to-read list!

  47. Kristine Circenis

    I finished Tina Fey’s book in a day and it was every bit as hilarious as I wanted it to be. I JUST finished Wild and freaking loved it. It made me want to throw all of my things away and hike, great read!

  48. Great list! I’ve read a few of these, including Smashed, which I remember really appreciating back in the day. It wasn’t one that I identified with, necessarily, but I appreciated it just the same. I’m reserving a couple of these at the library (trying to get back into the library instead of buying every book I read). I’m especially interested in Pretty Is What Changes. I have a family history of breast cancer, including my mom. Everyone in my family has survived and it’s something they’ve gotten later in life. I haven’t been tested for the BRCA gene, but having watched my mom go through cancer, but it’s something that I considered doing and even without having been tested for that, I’ve definitely thought through what my family history means for me as I live my life, so that would be an interesting read.

    1. You’re the first one who else read Smashed! Happy to hear that it was still appreciated even without the personal connection. And I basically only go to the library! If check ebay and amazon to see if I can get it for under $4, but if not, library it is! – the book is really good IMO, but I’d love to hear your thoughts! I haven’t met anyone else who has read it other than my mom (who also loved it).

  49. I read Orange is the New Black back in 2010 too, and I absolutely LOVED it! It inspired me to take several criminal justice classes in college, as the book Gang Leader for a Day (HIGHLY recommended if you liked OITNB!) inspired me to add a double major in sociology to my psychology major. I’ve never watched the show because I’m worried that it won’t hold up to Piper Kerman’s personal account!

    1. Oh I have to read it!!! – Honestly, the show is REALLY good IMO! It obvi has teh TV drama aspect, but they held true to sharing womens stories of both injustice and adversity. and season 4 ended with a bang. I am so excited to start this new season!

  50. I have SO many books on my reading list for the summer and you just made it worse! hahahahah I really want to read the Girl Boss one, but heard so many conflicting opinions. I’ll just have to get it and make an opinion in my own! (:


    I need to read GirlBoss! I watched the show on Netflix but it would be interesting to actually read her words since the show didn’t necessarily paint her in the kindest light.

    1. I think the book is more positive than the show, since obviously shes a biased narrator – its more inspiring – the show i think is more realistic though based on things I’ve read/heard about her

  52. Great post, I”ve read a lot of these, but am adding the remainder to my GoodReads!

  53. I have yet to read so many of these sadly. I LOVED bossy pants (omg Tina is my souls sister)!

    If you loved Wild I really recommend “tiny beautiful things” which is a compilation by Cheryl Strayed from when she was an advice columnist. I blogged about it a few years ago in a rare book review for me. Anyway, she shares stories of her life and responds to gut wrenching questions from readers. It’s the ultimate “perspective” book, it was awesome and one of the best things I’ve ever read.

    Laura @ http://www.cookwineandthinker.com

    1. YASSS! Loved Bosspants! That’s on my list! I listened to a podcast with Cheryl Strayed and she convinced me to read it. It sounds even better than Wild!

  54. Hmm very cool, I honestly get so busy I used to love reading memoirs and now I have lost that I need to get back into it!

  55. Kelsie Kleinmeyer

    Mindy and Tina’s books are the BEST! I’m looking forward to reading the others. Thanks!

  56. I’ve read all but three of these! Guess I should finish up the list. 🙂 Mindy Kaling’s books are amazing. Also, I think you would love Anna Kendrick’s book Scrappy Little Nobody! It’s one of my favorites ever.

    1. OMG Thank you!!! As I was writing this, I kept thinking, “there is another memoir I’ve been dying to read” but couldn’t think of it – and it’s Kendrick’s! Definitely hitting the library today! thank you!

  57. Ashley Vickney

    Saving this post so that I can buy all these books later! I love Mindy Kaling, Bossypants, and Girl Boss! Such GREAT recommendations Rachel!

  58. I’ve read so many of these, but adding the remainder to my list!

  59. I Love this, not normally books that find their way onto my list but they sounds like great reads! I’ll definitely have to hunt them out

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