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We know life as a 16 to 24 year old can sometimes be tough, so we've created How to navigate life as a young adult and beyond: a survival guide in 42 brilliant books, full of recommendations that will inspire you, give you life skills, or make you happy! And don't forget to nominate yourself to win £1,000/€1,200 of National Book Tokens (ask your family and friends to nominate you, too!), so you can choose the books that are right for you. 

Go directly to the categories:

What's going on in the world

Let's create an inclusive society

Life hacks for uncertain times

Look after your mental health

Live a life you love

Take a break

 

What's going on in the world

Good News: Why the World Is Not As Bad As You Think by Rashmi Sirdeshpande

Good News: Why the World Is Not As Bad As You Think written by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and illustrated by Adam Hayes

Pandemics, war, terror, natural disasters – the world seems to be full of bad news and it can all feel, well, a little bit scary. But this is just part of the story. There are in fact tons of great things happening, from robots improving health care and trees healing the planet, to everyday people helping their community with acts of kindness and the businesses fighting for good in the world. Empowering, reassuring and confidence-boosting, this book is a positive antidote for testing times.

Breathtaking by Rachel Clarke

Breathtaking: The UK's Human Story of COVID by Rachel Clarke

Rachel is a palliative care doctor who looked after the most gravely unwell patients on the Covid-19 wards of her hospital. Amid the tensions, fatigue and rising death toll, she witnessed the courage of patients and NHS staff alike in conditions of unprecedented adversity. For all the bleakness and fear, she found that moments that could stop you in your tracks abounded.

Outraged: Why Everyone is Shouting and No One is Talking by Ashley 'Dotty' Charles

Outraged: Why Everyone is Shouting and No One is Talking by Ashley 'Dotty' Charles

An exploration of the state of outrage in our culture, and how we can channel it back into the fights that matter, from presenter and DJ Ashley 'Dotty' Charles.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

Humankind makes the argument that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good. The instinct to cooperate rather than compete, trust rather than distrust, has an evolutionary basis going right back to the beginning of Homo sapiens. By thinking the worst of others, we bring out the worst in our politics and economics too. Rutger Bregman takes some of the world's most famous studies and events and reframes them, providing a new perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history.

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

Frederick Joseph offers powerful reflections on his own experiences with racism. As a former "token Black kid", he now presents himself as the friend many readers need, touching on topics including cultural appropriation, "reverse racism" and white privilege. It features interviews with figures such as writer Angie Thomas, content creator Toni Tone, and April Reign, founder of the #OscarsSoWhite movement.

99 Maps to Save the Planet

99 Maps to Save the Planet

Presenting a wealth of innovative scientific research and data in stunning, beautiful infographics, 99 Maps to Save the Planet provides us with instant snapshots of the destruction of our environment. At one glance, we can see the precarious state of our planet – but also realise how easy it would be to improve it

How To Change Everything by Naomi Klein

How To Change Everything by Naomi Klein, with Rebecca Steffof

From the Great Barrier Reef to Hurricane Katrina to school environmental policies to Greta Thunberg – climate change impacts every aspect of the world you live in and you have the power to lead the way by enacting change.

Naomi Klein and Rebecca Stefoff give a powerful picture of why and how the planet is changing, providing effective tools for action so that you really can make a difference.

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Let's create an inclusive society

Silence is Not An Option by Stuart Lawrence

Silence is Not An Option by Stuart Lawrence

Stuart Lawrence is the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence, the young man who, on 22 April 1993, at the age of just 18, was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack.

From role models to self-control, failure to imagination, Stuart's aim is to use his own experience to help young people – to help all people – harness the good in themselves and in the world around them, using that fire of positivity to create change in their lives.

Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis

Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis

Ranging from the age of slavery to contemporary injustices, this history of race, gender and class inequality by the radical political activist Angela Davis offers an alternative view of female struggles for liberation.

Disability Visibility by Alice Wong

Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong

Activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent collection of contemporary essays by disabled people. This anthology gives a glimpse into the rich complexity of the disabled experience, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community.

I Am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell

I Am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell

In this stylishly illustrated biography anthology, meet 34 artists, thinkers, athletes and activists with disabilities, from past and present. From Frida Kahlo to Stephen Hawking, find out how these iconic figures have overcome obstacles, owned their differences and paved the way for others by making their bodies and minds work for them.

We Can Do Better Than This: 35 Voices on the Future of LGBTQ+ Rights edited by Amelia Abraham

We Can Do Better Than This: 35 Voices on the Future of LGBTQ+ Rights edited by Amelia Abraham

We talk about achieving 'LGBTQ+ equality', but around the world, LGBTQ+ people are still suffering discrimination and extreme violence. How do we solve this urgent problem, allowing queer people everywhere the opportunity to thrive? In We Can Do Better Than This, 35 voices explore this question.

 

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Life hacks for uncertain times

You Are a Champion by Marcus Rashford

You Are a Champion by Marcus Rashford and Carl Anka

Marcus Rashford MBE draws on stories from his own life to show you that success is all about the mindset. Written with The Athletic UK journalist and broadcaster, Carl Anka, you'll find out how positive thinking can change your life, build mental resilience, learn how to navigate adversity and discover the unstoppable power of your own voice. You already have the tools you need to achieve your dreams; you just might not know it yet.

How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers by Tim Harford

How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers by Tim Harford

When was the last time you read a grand statement, accompanied by a large number, and wondered whether it could really be true? Statistics are vital in helping us tell stories – we see them in the papers, on social media, and we hear them used in everyday conversation – and yet we doubt them more than ever.

Using ten simple rules for understanding numbers – plus one golden rule – this book shows how, if we keep our wits about us, thinking carefully about the way numbers are sourced and presented, we can look around us and see with crystal clarity how the world adds up.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

This is Alison Bechdel's deeply layered, personal story about selfhood, self-sabotage, mortality, addiction, bliss, wonder, and the concerns of a generation. A laugh-out-loud chronicle of the conundrums we all grapple with as we seek our true place in the world.

Live Well Every Day: Your plan for a happy body and mind by Dr. Alex George

Live Well Every Day: Your plan for a happy body and mind by Dr. Alex George

What can you change today, and not put off until tomorrow?

Live Well Every Day addresses the very modern health challenges of todays world – anxiety, social pressure and mental health, immune system health, how to be fit, flexible and eat well in a sedentary world, sexual health, gut health and more... 

The Uni-Verse: The Ultimate University Survival Guide by Jack Edwards

The Uni-Verse: The Ultimate University Survival Guide by Jack Edwards

From university applications to socials, Jack (a real student!) provides helpful tips and tricks, real advice and fun anecdotes – the book is perfect to turn to for any questions you have about university!

The Quick Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer

The Quick Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer

75 recipes that take less than 10 minutes to prepare and a maximum of 30 minutes in the oven. For anybody wanting delicious home-made food which is wonderfully quick and easy. Simply add your ingredients to a tin, pop it in the oven and hey presto: 30 minutes to yourself, a delicious meal, and minimal washing up!

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Look after your mental health

How to Be Sad by Helen Russell

How to Be Sad by Helen Russell

Sadness is going to happen, so we might as well know how to 'do it' right. Positive psychology may have become more accepted in mainstream culture, but rates of depression have continued to rise. We're trying so hard to be happy. But studies show that we could all benefit from learning the art of sadness and how to handle it, well.

Five Minute Therapy by Sarah Crosby

Five Minute Therapy by Sarah Crosby

From Instagram sensation @themindgeek

Who am I? What does that dreaded phrase 'just be yourself' even mean? What does it mean to be 'authentic'? These big questions can feel overwhelming; in Five-Minute Therapy, psychotherapist Sarah Crosby helps you to find the answers with psychological explorations, exercises and guidance to apply to your own life, one step at a time.

Including chapters on attachment, boundaries, self talk, triggers, reparenting and more, this book will help you to find long-lasting happiness, confidence and calm in yourself and your relationships.

F**k, I Think I'm Dying: How I Learned to Live with Panic by Claire Eastham

F**k, I Think I'm Dying: How I Learned to Live with Panic by Claire Eastham

Award-winning blogger and author of We're All Mad Here, Claire Eastham, is an expert on panic. She's not a doctor or an academic, but over seven years, she experienced 371 panic attacks, and learnt a thing or two along the way.

Part memoir, part guide, F**k I Think I'm Dying is an exploration into panic attacks. Claire covers the crisis points where panic can hit: job interviews, social situations, attacks at night. With a little work and understanding, panic attacks do not have to control you.

Home Body by Rupi Kaur

Home Body by Rupi Kaur

A collection of raw, honest conversations – reminding readers to fill up on love, acceptance, community, family, and embrace change. Illustrated by the author, themes of nature and nurture, light and dark, rest here.

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A devastating essay on loss and the people we love from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Notes on Grief is at once a tribute to a long life of grace and wisdom, the story of a daughter's fierce love for a parent, and a revealing examination of the layers of loss and the nature of grief.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Soothing balm for the soul in these turbulent, polarised times, Charlie Mackesy's tender illustrations have already become an online phenomenon.

The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse are four friends who share a deep, unshakable bond. Through a series of brief but profound conversations, Mackesy teases universal truths and rich wisdom from the mouths of his characters, celebrating warmth and empathy in all its myriad forms.

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Live a life you love

How to Go to Work: The Honest Advice No One Ever Tells You at the Start of Your Career by Lucy Clayton & Steven Haines

How to Go to Work: The Honest Advice No One Ever Tells You at the Start of Your Career by Lucy Clayton & Steven Haines

Careers experts deliver the indispensable guide to surviving and thriving at work. Whether you've just begun working your first Saturday shift, you're about to start an apprenticeship, or you're already climbing the leadership ladder, it's chock-full of the vital advice you need to jump-start your professional life.

Back on Track: Find Hope. Get Motivated. Succeed in School. by Matthew Burton

Back on Track: Find Hope. Get Motivated. Succeed in School. by Matthew Burton

From ways to manage the tough times and solve even the biggest problems, to skills for beating school stress and tapping into your potential, this is a guide for those who are in need of a bit of hope, some soothing words of advice and a good old pep talk to get them going in school again.

The A-Z of Careers and Jobs

The A-Z of Careers and Jobs

From accountant to zoologist, The A-Z of Careers and Jobs is a one-stop shop for insightful guidance on more than 300 different career areas. This book is designed to help identify what personal strengths fit to what kinds of work, what skills you should highlight on a CV and what you need to know about each job.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman

Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman

We're obsessed with our lengthening to-do lists, our overfilled inboxes, the struggle against distraction, and the sense that our attention spans are shrivelling. Still, we rarely make the connection between our daily struggles with time and the ultimate time management problem: the question of how best to use our ridiculously brief time on the planet, which amounts on average to about four thousand weeks.

Drawing on the insights of both ancient and contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers, Oliver Burkeman sets out to realign our relationship with time – and in doing so, to liberate us from its tyranny.

Dare to Be You by Matthew Syed

Dare to Be You by Matthew Syed

What would you dare to try if you stopped worrying about fitting in?

Drawing examples from sport, science and even business, Dare to Be You empowers you to follow your own path, love what makes you different and question the world around you. With a mix of hilarious text, stylish illustration, personal insights and inspiring real-life examples, including Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, Matthew Syed introduces you to the power of diverse thinking.

Lost in a Good Game: Why We Play Video Games and What They Can Do for Us by Pete Etchells

Lost in a Good Game: Why We Play Video Games and What They Can Do for Us by Pete Etchells

Pete Etchells, a researcher into the psychological effects of video games, journeys through the history and development of video games – from Turing's chess machine to mass multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft – via scientific study, to investigate the highs and lows of playing and get to the bottom of our relationship with games – why we do it, and what they really mean to us.

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Take a break

Reputation by Lex Croucher

Reputation by Lex Croucher

A classic romcom with a Regency-era twist, for fans of Mean Girls, Bridgerton and Jane Austen.

Abandoned by her parents, middle-class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who lives a life Georgiana couldn't have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana falls in with Frances and her unfathomably rich, deeply improper friends. Georgiana is introduced to a new world: drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely arresting hands, and the upper echelons of Regency society. But the price of entry to high society might just be higher than Georgiana is willing to pay...

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel series about life, love, and everything that happens in between – perfect for fans of The Art of Being Normal and Love, Simon.

Charlie and Nick are at the same school, but they've never met... until one day when they're made to sit together. They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn't think he has a chance.

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is more interested in Charlie than either of them realised.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this story about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of book publishing.

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she's thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They've only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling. Then the notes begin to appear on Nella's desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. It's hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career.

The Black Flamingo written by Dean Atta and illustrated by Anshika Khullar

The Black Flamingo written by Dean Atta and illustrated by Anshika Khullar

For fans of Sarah Crossan and Elizabeth Acevedo, Dean Atta's fiercely told coming-of-age story, told in verse, is about about a Black gay teen reclaiming his identity as a drag artist.

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

For fans of Lovesick from the author of The Flatshare. 

Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend's wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.

But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie's ex, Dylan, who she's avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.

Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they've totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with four-hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can't avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship...

Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly, is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

From the author of Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, this novel tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is the heart-stopping story behind Shakespeare's most famous play.

On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the cafe's time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer's, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the cafe, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold...

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

If you loved the BBC miniseries, the original novel, Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love, is one of the funniest, sharpest novels about love and growing up ever written.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams – but he can't pull it off alone.

This is one to read if you loved Shadow and Bone on Netflix, set in the Grisha universe. 

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

In the wake of the 2011 tsunami, Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home in British Columbia. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes, heartbreak and dreams of a young girl desperate for someone to understand her. Each turn of the page pulls Ruth deeper into the mystery of Nao's life, and forever changes her in a way neither could foresee.

Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink

For as long as she can remember, Cathy Rentzenbrink has lost and found herself in stories. Growing up, she was rarely seen without her nose in a book and read in secret long after lights out. When tragedy struck, it was books that kept her afloat. Eventually they lit the way to a new path, first as a bookseller and then as a writer. No matter what the future holds, reading will always help.

Dear Reader is the ultimate love letter to reading and to finding the comfort and joy in stories.

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