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How to Grown-Up: Books That Will Teach You To Be An Adult

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Raych Krueger

Staff Writer

Raych has so many kids (like, two, but they’re super young, which makes it seem like there are more of them) and this really cuts into her reading time. She’s using her degrees in Early Childhood Education and English Literature to teach the toddler to read to the baby so she can get back to her trashy Victorian sensation novel, or whatever. She’s also teaching her kids to travel and eat broadly, mostly through example (Do As I Do is super important, you guys), and hasn’t gone a year without hopping on a plane since she was a teenager. She recently moved from the Canadian coast to the Canadian prairies, where it gets hella cold, and if not for the internet, she’d surely be dead. Blog: Books I Done Read Twitter: @raychraych

While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Monday, January 11th.

This post originally ran July 13, 2015.

I’m 33 and I still don’t totally know how to laundry.

tumblr_nnnfpilMM21qz4w1go1_500Scarily accurate.

For some people this is a weird area of pride, like being a helpless scatterbrain is somehow attractive. Not knowing how to boil water is the fainting onto a chaise longue of the 21st century, and I blame the Manic Pixie Dream Girl for this. But I’m of an age now where I don’t actually want to hilariously shrink my favorite sweater and adorably wear it as a crop top, I just want to wash my damn clothes. I want to hang a picture on the wall. I have DEPENDENTS now and I want them to know how to cook a square meal.

There are so many components to (to steal Kelly Williams Brown’s term) ‘adulting,’ and so few of them are taught in schools. I 10000% believe in the power of education, but high school kids need to learn less about the Pythagorean Theorum and more about wtf is a bond and how do you RRSP.


Like arch support.

So if you’re fresh out of college and you’re like, Wait, what? Or you’re 33 and you have kids now and you’re like, Wait, what? Dude, if you are 54 and struggling to launder your garments, have I got some book recs for you.

How To Be Just Like A Basic Adult Person

AdultingI’m including Brown’s Adulting because of its obvious on-point-ness, even though I was kind of disappointed by its narrowness of audience. The section on how to be poor is like, how to be white, middle-class poor. Go to fancy restaurants for lunch instead of dinner! Buy one really good, expensive winter coat instead of five cheap, shoddy winter coats! I DO love that her attitude is very Take Care Of Your Shit, Be It A Car Or A Purse Or A Relationship, You Are Not A Toddler. Learn how to sew on a button! Learn how to make a proper apology! Adult things.

Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up is another one I feel like I should include here because duh read the title, but it’s pretty, like, Oh hey there, Millenials, I’m a Youtube star and here is my book with a bunch of pictures of me doing quirky! things! and ‘Salt, pepper, tobacco sauce, and ranch dressing are the only condiments you need,’ which I feel is the hungover-frat-boy opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here, BUT there are some motivating and fun little bits.

tiny beautiful thingsTiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed is a compendium of hard truths and compassion and ughhhhhh I want her to move in next door and dispense wisdom at me.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer is a weirdly affecting memoirish thing on finding your tribe and trusting them to hold you up. LIFE IS LIKE CROWD-SURFING, basically.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People I KNOWWWWW IT’S A HORRIBLE CLICHÉ BECAUSE IT’S SUPER PRACTICAL AND SENSIBLE AND EFFECTIVE. I’m sorry, that’s so boring. But nothing helps me work shit out or sort shit down like a re-read of the old Covey.


How To Make Food So You Don’t Die – The Length of This List Suggests Its Importance To Me

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman does what it says on the tin.

The Joy of Cooking is a checkerboard mainstay of, like, every kitchen I know.

julia childs kitchen wisdonJulia Child’s Kitchen Wisdom is SHORT and HILARIOUS and will teach you how to make aioli and why it’s important to dry your chicken before you toss it in the pan.

If all you know how to do is make ramen in a coffee pot and open a beer with a boot, then congratulations, you are truly living the college experience, and Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen will teach you to make garlic bread and a basic stir-fry.

If you already know how to make garlic bread but cannot afford to take the next step into making garlic scape and butternut frittatas with free-range eggs because MONEYS, The Working Class Foodies Cookbook (IS THERE SUPPOSED TO BE AN APOSTROPHE IN THE TITLE BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE ONE) actually has great tips on eating delicious hipster meals for cheap(ish).

How To Take Care of Your Material Goods And/Or Place of Habitation

my boyfriend barfed in my handbagI wish My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag was less female-and-gay-male-specificly titled because it’s actually a concise, hilarious guide to cleaning basically everything in your house. What you should clean and why! How often! It’s the Unfuck Your Habitat of books.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is all the rage these days, and I don’t LOVE it (because I love my clutter, so help me) but people are singing its praises all over, and there’s something to be said for mass appeal.

The Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. How do you run cable? How do you strip wallpaper? When should you just call a guy? You can play Google Roulette and hope you get some solid advice, but Reader’s Digest always got your back.

How To Not Be Broke-Ass All The Time

Investing is one of those things, like good dental hygiene, where nothing beats an early start, but PEOPLE IN THEIR 20s DO NOT KNOW THIS and also stocks and bonds are scary. I Will Teach You To Be Rich is readable and comprehensive and smart and not scary.

As the title perhaps suggests, author of You’re So Money Farnoosh Torabi does kind of write very


BUTTTT she also says some good stuff about how to prioritize your finances to live the life you want.

How To Not Be Living In A Soap Opera

There’s something fun about collapsing on your roommate’s bed in a puddle of melodrama because your boyfriend done you wrong, and about having frenemies and a super-fraught relationship with your brother, and then eventually there’s nothing fun about it, and you have other shit going on in your life that you want to do and you want to maybe dial back the emotional drama.


See, this is exactly the kind of shit I am talking about.

How To Be A Grown-Up In Relationships is about getting your head on straight and treating your friends, your family, and your One In Particular like you are all a bunch of sane and respectful people deserving of sanity and respect.

 How To Be Just Like A Basic Decent Human Being

A major (and oft undiscussed) part of being a grown-up is not being a bigoted, tiny-minded piece of shitty garbage. THERE IS A WORLD OUTSIDE YOUR SKIN and it’s your responsibility to familiarize yourself with it. A loose understanding of some of the major movements for human rights is an ok place to start, as well as memoirs by people who are Not Like You (especially if you are straight and/or white and/or male because so much media representation is alllllll abouuuuuut youuuuuuu).


Nor can you wear super inappropriate headdresses without fear of reprisal.

Do you know all about the Dudes of History but like nothing about the womens? There’s a picture book for that (ok, the American portion of that).

full-frontal-feminismI wish Jessica Valente’s Full Frontal Feminism wasn’t so directed at ladies. Feminism is FOR EVERYONE. So my dudes, if you can handle being addressed as though you were a girl, FFF is a basic primer on what feminism is and why it’s so damn great. Also a super good gift for any starlet you know who has recently begun a sentence with the phrase ‘I’m not a feminist, but…’

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston is a fun and sometimes obliquely heartbreaking treatise on how to…um…I feel like I’m stating the obvious here. Anyway, if tongue-in-cheekiness is your jam, Thurston will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about e.g. ‘How To Be The Black Employee.’

There’s no jokey gif I could post that would pull the gut-punch thrown by How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others In America, nor should there be. The titular essay is posted here, and speaks most powerfully for itself.

I’m actually rill embarrassed by how sparse this last section is. Help a cis white girl out with recs in the comments. What books made you see outside yourself? And what books have helped you put away your toys and become a card-carrying adult?