It’s graduation season, and in honor of all the new graduates, here are five excellent guides to figuring out to do with the rest of your life.
But first, a caveat. Books are not the greatest graduation gift. If you’d like a gift for a grad, try these recommendations at the Art of Simple. But readers everywhere—grads or not—will enjoy these reads on work and career.
If you just have to give a book as a graduation gift, make it The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need by Dan Pink. This pithy career guide is written in the Japanese comic book style manga—so you know they’ll read it.
2. Lean In for Graduates, Sheryl Sandberg
I’m usually not a fan of gift books, but I’ll make an exception for Sandberg’s game-changing bestseller about making the choices necessary for long-term success early in your career. This edition has been updated with specific advice aimed squarely at new college grads.
3. Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, Penelope Trunk
Penelope Trunk dispenses career advice aimed at Generations X and Y at her popular blog (not always work/family safe). Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success is aimed at this 18-40 age range. Trunk focuses on how these generations should actively manage their careers, all the way from starter job to dream job.
I love this book for its practical advice on schooling (don’t short extracurriculars), getting a job (“There are stupid questions, so don’t ask them”), and finding truly meaningful work (“Forget the soul search; just do something”).
4. In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition, Hugh Hewitt
An excellent choice for the younger graduate. Hewitt writes with high school graduates and college entrants in mind, covering topics such as choosing college courses, building your resumé with extracurricular activities, finding mentors, and forming your character.
Hewitt offers more general life advice than the other books listed here: don’t get a tattoo, do study history, don’t go deeply in debt. I like this book because of its specific, practical advice I’ve not encountered elsewhere:
- “When you graduate, move to one of the three major cities.”
- “Do not obtain your graduate degree from the same university as your B.A.”
- “Avoid courses where the reading list is dominated by titles published within the last three decades.”
This book is targeted to a Christian audience, and contains chapters on choosing a church and entering into the adult Christian life.
5. Maybe You Should Fly a Jet!, Dr. Seuss
When I graduated in the ’90s, Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was a clever, quirky pick for the new graduate. No longer. This classic has been marketed to death: don’t even think about buying this (unfairly) tired-out book for your graduate. Instead, try this lesser-known Dr. Seuss classic. It’s out of print, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find a copy–and it’s well worth it. (Warning: brace yourself for a terrible ending. It’s worth reading anyway.)
Books may not be at the top of the graduates’ wish lists, but we can all enjoy dreaming about what we want to be when we grow up. These books will help you do just that.
What’s your favorite book for grads, and—if it’s different—your favorite book on figuring out what you want to be when you grow up?