5 books everyone should read to navigate a Quarter-Life Crisis

Feeling trapped. Bewildered. Apathetic.

When you find yourself in the midst of a Quarter-Life Crisis, it is intensely disruptive. You suddenly don’t feel like “yourself” or “normal” anymore, and it can be downright terrifying.

It can be characterized by a jarring confusion and a loss of meaning. It’s as though the solid structure of your life: what you once knew, wanted, and worked towards has suddenly turned to sand, disintegrating as the tide of life has risen and pushed the waves of life smash down on your life.

If that sounds like where you’re at, then you’re not alone. I know how you feel, because I’ve been in those same confusing straits.

Here were 5 books that were instrumental in helping me to navigate my own Quarter-Life Crisis. While it was a dark and stormy time, the encouragement and insights from these books helped empower me to swim through the murkiness and to greater clarity. The acts of reflecting and making meaningful changes — both internally and externally — are the keys to navigating your own QLC.

Take this 8-minute Quarter-Life Crisis survey, which can give you tips on how to navigating your own QLC.

Inward, by Yung Pueblo

In a time of intense mental pressure when hope is hard to find, what we sometimes need most is to see just a glimmer of possibility, to know that healing and progress are still possible.

Inward satisfies that need, provided through a form of minimalist prose that is half story, half poetry. I have re-read this book several times as it is so short, and I always come away inspired and uplifted.

Diego Perez, AKA Yung Pueblo (young people) passed through his own dark night of the soul, and transformed because of it. Inward is one of the great guides that can steward anyone else who is passing through their own storm.

Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

The Quarter-Life Crisis is the collapse of a bubble of expectations of life we blew up as we grew up, either popped by the jagged needle of some major disappointing life event or deflated over time by many minor disappointments. In the wake of this collapse, our most likely reaction is to beat ourselves up about it and shame ourselves for not being able to prevent or fix its collapse. Especially in this time, we offer ourselves no measure of kindness or acceptance. The pressure inside our own skulls is far, far greater than that from the outside.

Like Inward, Daring Greatly offers wise words, full of compassion and healing that help to re-inflate our punctured sense of self. Yet, Daring Greatly goes beyond encouragement, adding in real life world examples and tips on how to navigate to a space of stronger and sustainable self-worth. This book stems from Professor Brown’s work as a shame, vulnerability, and leadership researcher.

The Middle Passage, by James Hollis

The Middle Passage is a fascinating and illuminating read that packs an incredible amount of information about the human psyche and how it changes throughout 4 key life phases, into a small package.

You may have an inkling about what dynamics are going on beneath the surface, but reading this book will shed far more light on what’s really going on, and what to do about it. Learn about how our childhood-learned habits of projecting our inner insecurities about life onto our work and relationships prevent us from maturing.

Without consciously understanding how the dynamics of psychological projections work, you will be blocked from maturing beyond the first adulthood, which began in your teenage years, and into the second adulthood, which is knocking on your door right now. Through the door is the freedom to begin your most meaningful phase of life, with a renewed sense of possibility and purpose.

The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer

This book is both a fantastic companion and sage, spiritual sherpa for your journey through the storm.

Reading this book is like taking in a breath of fresh air, beyond the suffocating smog of mental patterns that have settled over the years. It’s filled with plenty of anecdotes and examples, too, that viscerally illustrate how entrapping our thinking can become, and how freeing it can be when we learn to let go.

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

This deeply profound book details some of the harrowing accounts of Austrian psychologist, Viktor Frankl’s life in the Nazi concentration camps. The catch is that, no matter how horrible these experiences became, Frankl managed to stay encouraged that life was still worthwhile, and managed not to give up hope. Frankl’s reflections proved that life is always meaningful, even in times of intense suffering. This book is not only about his story, though. It goes on to explain Frankl’s method of psychotherapy, called logotherapy, which includes 3 paths, down which we can find meaning in life: through our work, relationships, and in situations of unavoidable suffering.

Continue your journey to navigate your own Quarter-Life Crisis via this essay and explore the resources on this page.

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Gabe Kwakyi

A curious mind and a passionate personal development coach, specializing in life, career, and business coaching for people in the technology and business fields