There are fewer things as of late that make me happier than chilling in my bed with a book and reading right before I go to sleep. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my goals this year was to read one book a month, every month. While I can’t say I’ve managed to do that…I am pretty close to having read 7 books so far this year. I decided instead of just reading these books, taking notes, and going on the next book, I wanted to start sharing the books I really liked with my readers by starting a new series dedicated to reviewing books I’ve read. My main focus will be books I believe twenty-somethings should read. That being said, it is more than fitting my first book review is on one of my favorite reads this year “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter—and how to make the most of them now” by Meg Jay, PhD.
The thing I enjoyed about this book was how much applicable advice it has for twentysomethings going through the post-grad struggle. From finding a job, to relationships and marriage, and even family planning, this book touches on topics that many of us like to put off as some abstract thing in the distant future when really…the future will be here before we even have time to blink. Okay, I’m being dramatic but that’s only because the author does such a great job of making the reader come to the realization that future is not as far off as we believe (or try to convince ourselves) it to be. Now is the time for us to not get caught up in going with the flow but to actually make plans and lay the foundation for the rest of our lives while we have the least amount of strings (read: life partners, spouses, children) attached, according to Jay. She is a therapist and discusses her various twentysomething year old clients, their struggles, and solutions to the common twentysomething year old’s problems. I like this book because for once, there is a book talking to twentysomethings instead of about us. In this review I will share my three favorite quotes, two criticisms, and one overall review of the book and who I think should read the book.
1. “Shoulds can masquerade as high standards or lofty goals, but they are not the same. Goals direct us from the inside, but shoulds are paralyzing judgments from the outside. Goals feel like authentic dreams while shoulds feel like oppressive obligations.” pg. 47
I particularly enjoy this quote because in the social media age everyone is guilty of comparing ourselves to our peers based on what they are uploading on their profiles, the new job they just got, their engagement announcement, etc. However, as Jay reminds us, thinking we should have these things based on what we see on social media (in the book she is actually talking about Facebook but I think it can apply to all social media we use) is detrimental to our well-being. I really enjoyed the chapter this quote is from.
2. “More and more twentysomethings are careful not to rush into marriage at a young age, yet many do not know what else to consider.” pg. 73
When talking about twentysomethings and relationships (or meaningless hookups) Jay holds no punches. She gets really real about random hookups, cohabitation (living with a partner before being married), and actual marriage. I enjoyed this section because even now I am still guilty of putting off marriage in hopes that it will make for a better marriage but that is not realistic. The chapter on love was a good gut check for me and I’m sure it will be for any twentysomething “living in the moment” when it comes to love and relationships. It also offers suggestions of traits/values that partners should have similarities on before deciding to take the next step, and other stats (which she provides citations for) in regards to loving together before marriage, a list of other things that come up in relationships.
3. “Most twentysomethings can’t write the last sentence of their lives, but when pressed, they usually can identify things they want in their thirties or forties or sixties—or things they don’t want—and work backwards from there.” pg 198 (last page before the epilogue)
I think this was a great quote to end on before the epilogue. Many times the idea of the future can be daunting and overwhelming. However, the beautiful things about our twenties is that we can get really honest with ourselves and decide what it is we truly want our lives to look like and make the changes/take the steps towards doing those things and stop our behaviors that are getting in the way of that. We may not know what our twenties have in store but with some deep reflection and introspection I’m sure we can decide what we at least want our lives to look like when it’s all said and done and Jay reminds us of that.
Criticisms of the book:
Although I honestly love this book very much and it has been one of my favorite reads, that’s not to say the book doesn’t have some flaws. I will be discussing two of them.
1. This book is aimed towards a very specific type of twentysomething: non-married college grads with no kids.
While non-college grads twentysomethings who may or may not have kids could probably take the meat of what is written in Jay’s novel, the novel does work around the fact that our twenties are the best time for us to do x, y, and z because we don’t have children (yet) or aren’t married (yet) and thus doing certain things to advance our careers and lives, etc are easier. I don’t think much of the advice would be as relatable to me if I wasn’t a college grad or at least in college right now. However, the overall theme of the book would be: the twenties set the foundation for the rest of your life. Because let’s face it, they do.
2. This book assumes that every twentysomething wants a (heteronormative) monogamous relationship with children to come soon after marriage.
The times are changing and I know many people, especially women who don’t want children, ever. Even for those who may struggle with fertility, the section on getting older and fertility doesn’t even suggest adoption or anything of the sort, only being mindful of not putting off having children when you are too old. Either way, there is a specific lifestyle in mind when Jay is writing which I think is fine, people should stick to lakes and rivers they’re used to but for those who may not adhere to these things, especially the desire to have children, a good section of the book might be useless. That’s not to say the rest of the book is useless. I’m sure all twentysomethings can find a piece of advice in this book that is relatable, but a only a certain type of twentysomething will be able to relate to all of it.
Overall Rating: 8.5
I really enjoyed this book but as I have mentioned, I very much fall into the intended audience demographic. For those who find themselves in the post-grad struggle, unsure about their current non-career related job, love and relationships, and exactly when they should entertain the idea of children this book is a MUST READ! I do think ALL twentysomethings could stand to read it and learn a thing or two that relates to the uncertainty that comes with our twenties and “making the best” out of them.
What do you think is are MUST READS for twentysomethings? Let me know in the comments!
One thought on “Book Review: The Defining Decade”
Thanks for the great review. I was looking for an Xmas present for my 21 year old nephew and you gave a more thorough review than can be found elsewhere. If I may give a more whimsical answer about book recommendations for 20somethings, how about Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe by Steven Novello, Sex on Six Legs by Marlene Zuk, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies by Roy Peter Clark.Well, Skeptic’s Guide is really hard dense reading (but brilliant). Here’s a more leisurely approach to the same topic ART OF THINKING CLEARLY by Rolf Dobelli. My publishing company recently published a book SECOND DEATH OF E.A. POE
By the way, I’m a blogger, publisher, author and it’s good to see you blogging away. No need to blog regularly — just do it when the urge hits you. I’ve blogged for 20+ years (idiotprogrammer blog) and I go in phases. It’s funny, my lawyer friends almost write more than I do! One great thing about keeping a blog is that you can refer to it later on — or even be reminded of what was going on in your head at a particular time. Personally, I find that most friends and acquaintances don’t read mine. I’ll throw this thought out. I avoided law school for various reasons, but I do so many things in my publishing business for which a law degree would be immensely helpful. Take care.