Book Review: The Defining Decade

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.

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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

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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

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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)

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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 of 2018, 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.

Do you think you will be giving “The Defining Decade” a read? What do you think is a good book for twentysomethings to read? Let me know in the comments!

3 Books I’m Re-Reading For A More Fulfilling Year

One thing I have enjoyed in my post-grad life is the being able to go back to leisurely reading. When I was a kid I absolutely adored reading for fun. As I got older school started assigning me so many books that reading for fun just wasn’t a priority anymore. After I graduated I started reading more and I actually made it a goal to read 2 books a month in 2017. While I underestimated how difficult that would be working 2 jobs and studying for the LSAT I was able to read 10 new books! Some of these books had a greater impact on me than others so I decided I would re-read them this year to refresh myself on what they taught me or what I liked about them.

My current favorite genres are self-help/self-development and poetry so the books on this list will be fall into one of those categories.

  1. Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy

This book is one of the shorter books I read last year but make no mistake, it teaches you a lot in less than 200 pages. What I really enjoyed about Tracy’s book is that it does not have any fluff and gets straight the point. Often times in self-development books they take many many words to say something that could be effectively understood in less words. Tracy does this and that’s why I decided I must re-read this book again just because it was so good at teaching me something. I honestly couldn’t put the book down and finished it in only 2 days. It’s based on careers and business but you definitely can take the concepts and apply them to any area in life. If you need help to leave procrastinating as a thing in the past, check this book out!

2. Salt by Nayyirah Waheed

This was my favorite poetry book that I read this year. My only regret reading this book was that I hadn’t read it sooner. This book was on my wishlist for quit sometime and I barely got around to reading it sometime in the middle of last year. I was severely late to the Nayyirah Waheed party but now I have seen the light. Her style of writing is beautiful and I especially enjoy how her poems are simple yet contain so much emotion that we can feel as readers. The topics range from relationships to self-love and white supremacy and she tackles all of these artistically and with raw emotion. If you only have time to read one poetry book this year I would recommend Waheed’s Salt and I can’t wait to re-read it this year.  I’m also excited to pick up her other book, Nejma.

3. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

I really enjoyed reading this book. I think Sincero does a good job of making herself appealing to younger aged millennials like me by writing about self-help in a very relatable and basic lanuage. I found her book hilarious because she has a knack for cursing and anyone who knows me knows that’s my MO as well. I found this book a little bit more exciting than other books of its genre. Sincero is very good at narrating her life experiences and teaching concepts from them. While there were some parts of it that I didn’t necessarily agree with, (I do not like the way some modern self-help books discuss things like depression) the overall concepts of the book were extremely helpful for me during my post-grad journey last year. This is definitely a book to pick up if you want to get into self-help books and have a wild sense of humor!

Honorable Mentions of Books I Might Re-read

  • The Alchemist
  • The Four Agreements
  • The Fifth Agreement

These are books I would recommend for everyone. I will probably re-read The Alchemist and only skim through The Agreements Books, only because I re-read them last year and reading them once. Reading a good book can truly be therapeutic and good for the mind. Just because you aren’t in school anymore doesn’t mean that you can keep learning and expanding your mind. This year I hope to expand out of my self-help/self-development and poetry comfort zone and truly expand my horizons.

What are some books you are re-reading this year and highly recommend? What are some books you’ve never read before and plan to read this year? Let me know in the comments!

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