No matter the occasion, avid readers are likely to think a book is the perfect gift. And with graduation season looming on the horizon, it’s no wonder we’ve received myriad requests for an updated list of graduation gift books that graduates will actually appreciate.
Graduation season may be upon us, but it’s a different kind of graduation season this year. It’s hard to wrap my mind around what it must feel like to graduate with no formal ceremony—and I’m not the one graduating so I can only imagine how they feel. For those of us with graduates in our lives, we can still acknowledge and celebrate their achievement by sending cards and gifts, and we’ll look forward to celebrating in person in the future.
We readers love to give books—which is always fabulous, but especially now, when bookstores could really benefit from your business—but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly which books will actually be appreciated by the people we’re giving them to. We’re here to help: we’ve gathered fifteen titles that high school and college graduates are likely to actually read, enjoy, and maybe even apply to their lives.
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Roosevelt penned this book—part memoir, part advice manual—in 1960, when she was 76 years old. It's striking how fresh and wise her insight seems today, over fifty years later. Roosevelt offers an interesting perspective on history, unique insights into her life (which contained a surprising amount of personal tragedy), and a good bit of wisdom you might just apply to your own life. More info →
For years, Cheryl Strayed wrote an advice column for TheRumpus.net called "Dear Sugar." Strayed wrote anonymously—to her readers she was only "Sugar"—and she answered likewise anonymous letters about love and romance, grief and loss, money and family troubles. To call these "columns" seems to sell them short: these are beautiful, heartfelt, brutally honest essays that go in directions you don't expect. Strayed gives them gentle advice while not pulling any punches, but says her real mission isn't to tell letter writers what they "should" do, but instead reveal a third way by presenting a perspective that those who write can't see on their own, or to explore what's really going on in their life and situation. Heads up: this has a hefty f-bomb count and triggers galore. More info →
This inspirational memoir's epigraph bears quotes from Maya Angelou and Christina from Grey's Anatomy, which gives you a good idea of what you'll find inside. Rhimes is the queen of Thursday night tv, creating and producing smash hits like Grey's and Scandal. This time she's telling her own story of how her sister issued her a six-word wake-up call—You never say yes to anything—and the year of YES that followed. I saw parts of myself all over this and absolutely loved the last chapter when the author discovers what her big year was really about. More info →
You can't beat this lavishly illustrated compendium from Design Sponge founder Grace Bonney for creative inspiration. The book profiles 100 women of diverse ages, races, and industries—restauranteurs, chefs, potters, television hosts, designers, photographers, choreographers—photographing them in their workspaces, and sharing stories from their lives and businesses. The best kind of career inspiration, in a display-worthy volume. More info →
This book brings readers into a conversation between longtime friends Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, both of whom are known for being infectiously happy. They discuss finding joy and happiness in the face of suffering and grief and how we can bring that joy to others. Wise, touching, and insightful. More info →
This is the rare find that is entertaining, funny, and super practical for a college graduate. Brown offers tips and advice on everything from what to check when renting an apartment to how to maintain meaningful relationships as an adult to how to fix a toilet. More info →
992 pages, 1000 destinations, tons of inspiration, whether you're planning or daydreaming. TIME.com said "[1,000 Places to See Before You Die] has joined the canon of classic reference tomes that earn cozy homes on the bookshelf next to the thesaurus." I especially like that many of these destinations aren't typical tourist locales. More info →
Whether you're approaching twenty, are in your twenties, or have ever been twenty, Jay provides a fascinating look at what's so important about these years. High school and college grads alike will want to pick this up because Jay makes it clear she's on their side, and she's telling them things they need to know. Well-written, heavily researched, story-driven, and absolutely inspiring. This is one of my favorites, and would also make an excellent gift for the parents of grads. More info →
My essay collection will delight the book lovers on your list, and it’s size and price point make it a perfect gift for friends, teachers, or your book club pals. I'd Rather Be Reading leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today. More info →
Kelly talks in depth about how after her friend Liz was diagnosed with cancer, they both pushed past the surface stuff to forge a powerful and enduring friendship. Her twelve phrases give us a good starting point for figuring out how to improve communication skills with loved ones. Personal, heartfelt, and really really good. More info →
This fun doorstop of a collection (and I say that with affection) will help people of all ages ensure they have a well-rounded reading life. It includes titles I expected (all six Austen novels) and titles I didn't (Make Way for Ducklings, Into Thin Air, The Hunt for Red October). There are numerous shorter reading lists, thorough indexes, and a checklist so you can see how many on the list you have read. I chatted with Mustich in episode 165 of What Should I Read Next?. More info →
Lin-Manuel Miranda has long tweeted short, inspirational messages to his followers at the beginning and end of each day. This collection pairs the best of his greetings with illustrations by Jonny Sun. It makes for a great pick-me-up. From the publisher: "Before he inspired the world with Hamilton and was catapulted to international fame, Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspiring his Twitter followers with words of encouragement at the beginning and end of each day. He wrote these original sayings, aphorisms, and poetry for himself as much as for others. But as Miranda's audience grew, these messages took on a life on their own. Now Miranda has gathered the best of his daily greetings into a collection. Full of comfort and motivation, Gmorning, Gnight! is a touchstone for anyone who needs a quick lift." More info →
Toni Morrison might be known for her fiction but her nonfiction is just as worth reading. This collection includes meditations, her takes on much debated issues, and commentary on other works. It offers a new perspective on an esteemed writer but also invites readers to see the world in a different light, leaving them better for it. More info →
This isn't exactly a color-coded handbook for life, but it's as close as I'm going to get. Packed full with lofty ideals plus practical examples of how to show up—always imperfectly—in our own lives and engage with the world from a place of worthiness. Everyone should read this once. More info →
What books here have you read and loved?Do you enjoy giving books as gifts? We’d love to hear what books YOU are planning to give to the graduates in your life. Please tell us below!