Holiday Gift Guide

A millennial therapist shares the 11 best books to give young people this year

Lelia Milaya | Twenty20

Millennials have hugely varied interests, which can make holiday shopping for them quite the challenge. But as a therapist who has worked primarily with patients in their 20s and 30s, I've found one common interest shared by many millennials: Books.

In fact, when I meet with a young patient for the first time, I always say, "There will be homework, and reading is included." And so far, the titles I've assigned have been well received.

So you're looking for a life-changing book for the millennial on your holiday list (one they'll actually read from start to finish), here are my top recommendations:

1. 'The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do'

By Jeff Goins

Here's the typical career trajectory we've been taught since we were young: Get good grades, graduate from college, get a job, work your way up and then retire. But it's not that simple; the journey is difficult, risky, scary — and very few end up finishing it.

Luckily, this book will teach millennials who are stressed about their career learn how to connect their interests with the needs of the world, so that they can finally start living for a larger purpose.

2. 'The Compound Effect: Multiply Your Success One Simple Step at a Time'

By Darren Hardy

Forget what you've been told about success and what it takes to achieve it.

"There is no magic bullet, secret formula, or quick fix," writes Darren Hardy, a personal growth coach who previously served as editor of SUCCESS Magazine for eight years.

"The Compound Effect" is a short and easy read that will teach readers how to identify and eradicate the bad habits that hold them back from becoming unstoppable.

3. 'Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life'

By Susan David

Emotional agility allows us to navigate life's twists and turns with self-acceptance, clarity and an open mind. Drawing from 20 years' worth of research, Susan David, a psychologist on faculty at Harvard Medical School, shows how anyone can thrive in an uncertain world by becoming more emotionally agile.

Written with wit and empathy, "Emotional Agility" offers the perfect road map for making the behavioral changes that will help readers reach their highest potential.

4. 'Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear'

By Elizabeth Gilbert

From the best-selling author of "Eat, Pray, Love," this book offers deep insight on how we can benefit from embracing the challenges we're too afraid to face.

Elizabeth Gilbert's writing simply delightful. Her positivity is infectious, and she gives a lot of great advice about how to overcome the fears that prevent us from living a life of creativity.

5. 'Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love'

By Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

Psychiatrists Amir Levine and Rachel Heller reveal how a strong understanding of the attachment theory can help us find and sustain love.

According to the attachment theory, every person behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways:

  1. Anxious: Often worrying about their partner's ability to love them back.
  2. Avoidance: Equating intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly trying to minimize closeness.
  3. Secure: Comfortable with intimacy (usually warm and loving).

This book will help readers determine what attachment style they and their partner follow in order to build a stronger, more meaningful connection.

6. 'Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less'

By Tiffany Dufu

Tiffany Dufu is a highly sought-after speaker and consultant to Fortune 500 companies. After spending many years trying to be the perfect employee, wife and mother, she eventually realized she just couldn't do it all. That's when she learned to "drop the ball."

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and best-selling author of "Lean In," writes: "We won't reach equality in the workplace without equality in the home. 'Drop the Ball' shows how everyone benefits when men work towards equality — and how our relationships and our lives are richer when we lean in together."

7. 'The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity'

By Esther Perel

Infidelity is the ultimate betrayal, but it doesn't always have to be. Relationship therapist Esther Perel takes a look at why people cheat and why affairs are so traumatic.

"The State of Affairs" isn't just for anyone who has ever been cheated on, but millennials who simply want a new framework for understanding relationships will also find it helpful.

8. 'Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead'

By Brené Brown

After spending nearly two decades studying vulnerability, shame, empathy, and courage, Brown offers a powerful new vision for what it means to "dare greatly."

There isn't a single book from Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston, that I haven't enjoyed reading. But this one is by far my favorite.

9. 'Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think'

By Dave Gray

"Liminal Thinking" will challenge readers to step outside of the beliefs they've been clinging to their entire lives.

Leadership consultant David Gray, whose area of focus is the human element of change and innovation, argues that in order to clarify our own thinking and make powerful connections with others, we need to identify and reframe the beliefs that hold us back.

10. 'The Surrender Experiment: My Journey Into Life's Perfection'

By Michael A. Singer

In "The Surrender Experiment," best-selling author Michael Singer tells an extraordinary story of what happened when, after a deep spiritual awakening, he decided to let go of his personal preferences and let life call the shots.

Singer's journey will challenge readers to rethink their deepest assumptions about life, inspire them to look at things in a brand new light and simply stop trying to control the things they meant to embrace.

11. 'The Defining Decade: Why Your 20s Matter'

By Meg Jay

This is the quintessential book about how to make the most of your 20s. Psychologist Meg Jay does a great job explaining why 20-somethings have been caught in swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.

"'This book helped me figure out what I value, what I believe in and how to make decisions that I feel good about," one patient in her mid-20s told me after I recommended this book.

Tess Brigham is a San Francisco-based psychotherapist and certified life coach. She has more than 10 years of experience in the field and primarily works with millennials and millennial parents.

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