Happy birthday to me! Today is my 23rd birthday, and in true Libra fashion, I am going to write a blog post masquerading as advice that’s actually all about myself. Four years ago, I perused a series of 20 books to read before you turn 20 lists, and I hadn’t read any of them so I decided to create my own. This year, I’m taking it up a few notches, given that I am a whole four years older, and I’m going to make a list of the 23 all important pieces of media that I’ve already read/watched/listened to, in my opinion. They’re in no particular order, because ranking things is hard.

Let me know in the comments how many you’ve also consumed, and what I left off that you would absolutely include!


Books

1. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is my favorite classic of all time, and I will stand by that until the day I die. Mr. Darcy is just too iconic, the love story practically pioneered the slow burn. While this (contrary to most of the rest of the list) is on every “books you need to read” list, my personal list would not be complete without it.

2. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Read my Review

I loved The Hate U Give, and I think it’s one of the few YA books that is actually good when you read it even as an adult. All of Thomas’s books are great, but this one stands out because of the way it forced people to confront the institutional racism of our country. I honestly hope that they start teaching this book instead of the (white savior) To Kill a Mockingbird in schools, but either way you should definitely read it.

3. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

Read my Review

The Glass Castle is the best memoir I’ve ever read to date. It so incredibly captured this section of Wall’s life, and to this day I aspire to write something as beautiful. It was also interesting, since Walls lived a life incredibly different from anything I’ve personally experienced. It’s a short read, but it’s definitely worth it.

4. The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory

Read my Review

When I say you need to read The Other Boleyn Girl, I do not actually mean that you need to read the book. What I mean is that you are required to find a book series that takes place in a historical era, and become absolutely obsessed with it. Read the entire Plantagenet era of books by the same author. Embody a time period so completely that you feel like you know everything about it even though you’ve only ever read fiction. Find your happy place and stay in it.

5. Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde

Read my Review

Audre Lorde is one of the most iconic, powerful voices of all time. This collection of essays perfectly encapsulated what she stood for. I learned so much from reading this book, both about Lorde as a person and about new ways to think about society as a whole. Lorde is such a magnificent writer and if you haven’t read at least one of her nonfiction essays by the time you’re 23, what are you doing.

6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is a staple in serious fiction. I’m not quite sure if it’s considered literary fiction yet, but it did get the “classics” tag on Goodreads, and that’s how you know it’s a good book. Khaled Hosseini is an incredibly talented writer, and this book

7. At Least 1 Now Debunked Inspirational Memoir

Whether it be A Million Little Pieces, Under the Same Stars, Heaven is For Real, or something else entirely, this is a life experience you need to have. Pouring your heart and tears into a novel that leaves you deeply inspired and grateful for your life, only to have it debunked a few months later, is nearly a universal experience at this point. If you’re looking to live the experience authentically, I recommend reading some of the most ridiculous and yet popular memoirs you can find immediately when they come out, because at least one of them will be proven a lie a few years from now.

8. Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult

This book makes the list not just for the number of times it made me cry, but also because it’s about an important topic to society right now- school shootings. Picoult is so talented at showing the human side to oft-politicized tragedies, and this book is one of her best.

TV Shows

9. Friends

No show has so fully infiltrated the American dialect than Friends. There are references to this show that I didn’t even realize were references until I watched it. I’m not saying it’s good (in fact, most of it aged pretty poorly) but watching it in your early 20s is a fun experiment in what life in New York City is in fact NOT like.

10. Seinfeld

The precursor to Friends, Seinfeld aged better in my opinion, and at the very least had more relatable characters. You should at least watch a few episodes of this show to understand just how thoroughly Friends copied Seinfeld in its structure and even many of the punchlines. Plus, it sets you up to follow Julia Louise Dreyfus straight from her days as a NYC girl…

11. VEEP

…into the white house as the vice president in VEEP! In my humble opinion, VEEP is one of the most underrated television shows of all time. It’s such a witty political commentary that doesn’t wade too deeply into the actual politics of the matter- the inditement here is not on a specific party, but on the system at large. The characters are lovable while also been deeply deeply hatable, and its finale will stick with you longggg into the future. This is one of my favorite shows to date, and I didn’t even know to watch it until years after it finished airing.

12. Sex and the City

We’re back on the fake New York City track with this one. Look, there’s a reason why all three of these shows (along with Cheers, How I Met Your Mother, and others that were left off this list) were so successful, and it’s because the format works. While there’s slightly less pop culture references in this show than the ones before, it is still quintessential to the culture of millennials and older Gen-Z. This is why we all romanticize New York and relationships. This is why we can describe ourselves equally well by our astrological sign and our SATC character. Bonus points that the reboot is hilariously bad and you can watch that too.

13. Orange is the New Black

If you’re still a teenager and reading this right now, you may be confused why I consider Orange is the New Black such an essential TV show to watch. While the show is actually just downright good (especially in the first four seasons), it was also groundbreaking in a way that I think is hard for people to appreciate if they weren’t there at the time. OITNB was the first truly big Netflix Original, meaning that it was one of the first shows to drop all of the episodes at the same time. Nobody knew what to expect, and suddenly they were thrown into an opening scene of lesbian sex, open non-sexual nudity, and a cast that actually reflects real life diversity. The show was incredible, and that becomes even more so when you put it into cultural context.

14. A Cancelled Cliffhanger

We’ve all watched a show that ends the season on a cliffhanger only to not get renewed but if you haven’t, you need to make sure you do. The experience of being left wondering, of being forced to turn to fanfiction to wrap up your favorite character’s arcs– it’s heartbreaking. If you’re looking for some places to start, I can recommend Santa Clarita Diet and The Wilds, which both broke my heart earlier this year.

Movies

15. Matilda

I know that Matilda is also a book, but the important thing here is that you’ve watched the movie. I feel like nearly everyone has seen this movie in school when they were younger, and it’s become part of the cultural lexicon for our generation. Miss Honey is an icon, and Matilda was the girl with powers that everyone wanted to be. If you didn’t try to move objects with your mind for weeks after watching this movie, were you even really living?

16. The Princess Diaries

Princess of Genovia Mia Thermopolis is the only royalty that I respect. Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews are both incredible actresses in their own right, but when they come together in this film, it’s true magic. Not only do we get a full makeover scene (RIP all my fellow curly haired girlies who started straightening their hair because of media like this) and a chance at love, but we get the original girlboss dynamic. Somehow this movie is just as good on the rewatch. If you haven’t seen it, get on it.

17. Pitch Perfect

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love Pitch Perfect. I’m ordinarily not one for musicals, but when the music is sung for a reason rather than people just randomly breaking out into song, it’s pure art. Plus the cast is incredibly funny, Anna Kendrick is the perfect amount of awkward, and the songs are bops. This is the movie I’ve seen more than any other, and it’s certainly a must watch.

18. All 3 Drew Barrymore / Adam Sandler Movies

Blended. 50 First Dates. The Wedding Singer. All three of these are absolute masterpieces that need to be watched by everyone. Although Adam Sandler is a bit annoying in and of hisself, once you add Drew Barrymore to the mix they make some of the best romcoms of all time. They have this sort of goofy comedy that’s hard to replicate.

19. Enough Leonardo DiCaprio Movies to Get Over Your Crush

Start with Titanic and fall in love with young Leo. Move on to Catch Me if You Can. Watch The Wolf of Wallstreet and feel your attraction slowly fading. Finish up with The Revenant and Don’t Look Up, take a look at the dating age chart that shows he’s never dated a woman over 25, and you’re cured! They’re (mostly) all great movies, so you’ll enjoy yourself and live a full lifespan of the Leo crush.

Music

20. Learned at Least 1 Song From Each Boyband

No, I’m not talking about One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer (although that works too) I’m talking about the boy bands that boys don’t want to admit are basically just boy bands– Pink Floyd, Nirvana, etc. etc.– the bands that men feel extraordinarily pretentious about. It’s crucial that you learn at least one song from each of these bands so that when men go “you’re not even a real fan” you can prove them wrong.

21. The Full Taylor Swift Soundtrack

Taylor Swift has gone through SEVERAL eras of music. She has 9 full albums, nearly all of which are different genres of music. It’s important that you’ve gone through every song in every album at least once in your life and then picked out your favorite era, as well as your favorite song from each album. Taylor Swift doesn’t just make music, she makes culture and to participate in the conversation you need to have done your research.

Internet

22. An Entire Early 2010s Youtube Channel

In this day and age, Youtube has become an integral part of our lives. People watch Youtube almost as much as they watch Television, and so I would be remiss not to include something about that here. By the time you’re 23, you should have found a favorite Youtuber who blew up in the early days of Youtube, and watched all of their content from start to finish. No skips. This is not about the content being good, this is about basking in the completeness of the parasocial relationship that you can form. Immerse yourself. (And then come to and remember that you still don’t actually know these people at all)

23. Something You Really Didn’t Want To

The final item on the list is vague because it’s different for everyone. By the time you’re 23, the internet should have shown you at least one video that you wished you’d never watched but will be stuck in your head forever. Maybe it’s a viral TikTok sound based off of a viral Reddit post. Maybe you’re scrolling through Twitter replies and for some reason someone posts something appalling. Maybe you heard the phrase “2 Girls, 1 ***” and Googled it innocently before regretting everything. Either way, this is something that has surely happened to you before 23.