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7 Books That Will Teach You About Real Life

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High school is the time to learn. If you’re taking a challenging course load, you’re probably already learning advanced foreign language skills, the nuances of a well-structured five-paragraph essay, the electronic structure of atoms, and all there is to know about higher order derivatives. But in the grand scheme of life, are you learning all you’ll need to know?


For example, do you know how to balance a checkbook? Have you ever filed taxes? How many meals can you cook?


While some high schools still offer classes that cover some of these basic life skills, many others have shifted away from this type of curriculum in order to provide a more challenging academic track. If you’re busy learning L’Hôpital’s rule and the fundamental theorem of calculus, you might not have the time to pause and consider how to iron a dress shirt.


But not to worry. In this post, we’re going to outline seven awesome books that will help you on your way to adulthood. These books are all quick, engaging reads with valuable information on everything from taxes to relationships. If you’re interested in some casual reading to up your “adulting” game, these books are for you. Keep reading for seven super reads to help you ease into life as a grownup.


For Balancing Your Budget and Planning Investments

Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By by Cary Siegel


If you’re looking at attending a four-year college, you probably haven’t thought much about finances beyond the cost of funding your education. After all, those four years of tuition, plus room and board, are not usually a nominal amount of money. It may be hard to think about finances beyond this point.


But planning a budget, knowing how to manage your money and make smart investments, and understanding when to use credit vs debit are all important life skills. In this book, you’ll learn all about personal money management in a tone that’s easy to digest. The format of the book includes a comprehensive table of contents, so that you don’t necessarily need to read it cover-to-cover but can easily find relevant tips whenever you need them.


Consider reading this book if you’re thinking about creating a budget, saving money, or getting out of debt. It’s a great read for anyone who has little experience managing their own money but hefty goals of achieving financial freedom.


For Gaining Perspective

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make by Sean Covey


If the name Sean Covey sounds familiar to you, it’s because he’s the author of the successful series “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” he outlines how to prioritize your life by eliminating unhealthy, negative thought processes and identifying what is truly important. In this more recent book for teens, he goes one step further to address six common obstacles faced by many teens today.


Covey breaks the book down into six sections, each based on a difficult choice you might be faced with. The universal themes include: school, friends, parents, dating and sex, addictions, and self-worth. While it’s true that not everyone will ultimately face obstacles in each of these areas, it’s always best to be prepared. By arming yourself with the insight and knowledge to frame your choices safely ahead of time, you know you’ll be ready should you ever face such a tough decision.


This book is written in a conversational tone, and it includes stories of many first-hand experiences to help in framing the concepts explained. It’s a great read for anyone who might be feeling uncertain about how to react in a tricky social situation or for anyone who feels up for a little soul-searching.


For Making Dinner

Teens Cook: How to Cook What You Want to Eat by Megan Carle, Jill Carle, and Judi Carle


Once you’re out on your own, you won’t be sitting down to mom’s home-cooked meals every night, and you probably won’t have the budget to order your favorite takeout sushi as often as you’d like. This cookbook, written by teenaged sisters and their mom, gives you all the basics you’ll need to prepare a variety of 75 healthy meals for any time of day.


The cookbook includes both vegetarian and omnivore options, has pictures paired with every recipe, and includes directions so simple that you’ll never be left wondering what it means to julienne the carrots or baste your meat. Indeed, this book goes beyond a typical cookbook to offer in depth explanations of all those obscure cooking verbs you rarely encounter.


This book is a great choice for anyone just getting started in the kitchen, particularly if you have limited budget or time for cooking. If you can master just a handful of simple, well-rounded meals, you know you’ll never be without options when the dining hall is closed.


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For Paying Taxes

Teen Guide to Jobs and Taxes by Stephen Currie


Getting your first job isn’t easy, but we at CollegeVine have lots of ideas to help you get started. Our posts 5 Ways to Spin Quirky, Non-Traditional Work Experience to Land Your First Job and How To Navigate Your Job Search in High School are both great places to start.


But once you have that job, how do you ensure that you keep moving onward and upward? How do you spin one work experience to gain other, more professional work experiences? And, what’s the deal with taxes anyway?


This book does a good job of walking you through the process of building a career responsibly and handling all the associated responsibilities, like taxes. It’s written specifically for teens so the format is easy to read and the tone is conversational.


You should definitely pick this book up if you’re facing filing your own taxes for the first time and have no idea where to start, or if you’re considering how you’ll build your career from ice cream scooper to investment banker.


For Keeping Organized

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo


You’ve probably heard of this one before, as it has become fairly popular in the mainstream media over the past two years. The good news is that its popularity is rooted in its effectiveness. Here, a professional organizer offers tips for how to declutter and organize your space so that it’s functional, calming, and inspiring.


While this might seem irrelevant at this point in your life, consider this—your dorm room is likely to be very small, and even if you don’t live in a dorm, it’s unlikely that you’re going to afford an expansive apartment space. The key to keeping your belongings organized and accessible is bound to be at least some amount of minimalism. Kondo offers recommendations for purging things you don’t use and for identifying what sentimental belongings are worth keeping. That high school yearbook? The old newspaper clippings from your freshman-sophomore track meet? Do they stay or do they go? Kondo’s advice will help you make smart decisions while also honoring your sentimental attachments.


Read this book if you work best in a well-organized, crisp space and want some guidance on how to go about decluttering your existing stuff.


For Maximizing Your Performance

Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina


Did you know that learning is a cognitive function that can be maximized by understanding the brain functions that underlie it? In this book, John Medina outlines how we learn and thrive, and offers advice for capitalizing on your potential.


He divides the book into twelve sections:  Survival, Exercise, Sleep, Stress, Wiring, Attention, Memory, Sensory Integration, Vision, Music, Gender, and Exploration. While some of his tips might be old news to you, he does a great job of explaining the science behind them in a way that’s relatable. He also intersperses his advice with real-life anecdotes to keep the reader engaged.


This is a great book for the student who’s interested in neuroscience and wants to get a better idea of how your various brain functions impact learning and performance. With Medina’s tips, you can be certain that you’re getting the most out of your study and prep time. 



Just For Fun (And a Little Bit More)

Show Me How by Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith


This. Book. Is. Awesome.


It’s mostly just for fun, but it covers 500 how-to topics ranging from useful (how to perform CPR, how to sew on a button, how to meditate) to the fun (how to make your own sushi rolls, how to make origami roses, how to braid challah bread) to the absurd (how to fight a shark, how to tell time with a potato, how to read your date’s love line). All this and more are presented in fun infographics with very few actual written instructions.


Though we can’t guarantee that you’ll successfully fight off a shark attack after reading this book, we can guarantee that you’ll have plenty to talk about at a party, and that you’ll glean at least some useful, practical information too. Plus, this book is just fun to browse at your own leisure.


“Show Me How” makes a great coffee table book to inspire conversation and learn a little something along the way. Interested in throwing a fastball or escaping from a straight jacket? Look no further.


You will learn many important things in high school, and the knowledge you gain will serve you well in college and in the real world beyond. But learning shouldn’t end in the classroom. There are many more real world skills that you will need to become a successful and organized adult. From cooking to filing taxes to painting a room, there are plenty of things you won’t learn in high school that you’ll still want to master.


By reading these books, you’ll gain perspective and learn more about the practical skills you’ll need to become an independent adult. Head to your local library now to get a head start on on all those random day-to-day tasks you’ll need to know about as an adult in the real world.


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


For more information about getting a job, going away to college, and transitioning towards independence, check out these CollegeVine posts:


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.