9 Indispensable Books for College Grads

gradcollageIt’s that time of year. All around the world, college grads are stepping out into the real world, squinting in the sunlight, and wondering “What NOW?!” While toaster ovens and clean towels always make thoughtful gifts, books that can soothe the soul, dispense a little wisdom, and offer some practical how-to advice are especially appreciated. Here are 9 that do just that.

Cook With Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook, by Jamie Oliver
Everybody’s gotta eat. And at some point, everybody’s gotta cook. No one makes the world of food more fun, young, and accessible than chef Jamie Oliver. This book belongs on everyone’s kitchen bookshelf, particularly that of the fresh-from-college grad who’s tired of ramen and beans. Cook With Jamie teaches basic culinary skills and shopping and entertaining techniques, and features loads of simple, mouthwatering recipes.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed, the acclaimed author of Wild, was once an anonymous online advice columnist at The Rumpus. Her way of looking at life, and her suggestions on how to best live it, are all compiled here, in a must-have collection of whip-smart guidance—okay, brilliance—that never falls into the realm of platitude.

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, by Studs Terkel
Pulitzer Prize–winning author, historian, and broadcaster Studs Terkel brings together a wealth of interviews with men and women from all sorts of vocations in his rich and varied Working. Touted by the L.A. Times as “a deep penetration of American thought and feeling,” Working is a valuable read for those just heading out into the world of work.

Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus
This sunshine-yellow, hand-written and hand-drawn feel-good book from the 1970s is a lovely and timeless addition to any library. It tells the tale of two caterpillars who get caught up in the race for more, before finally gathering the courage to enter the cocoon and “risk for the butterfly.” Full of imagery and symbolism about the human condition, this is sure to be a comforting favorite for any graduate.

The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces, by Kyle Schuneman with Heather Summerville
Anyone who’s fresh from a dull dormitory can use a little interior design help. The problem is, most decorating books don’t take into account tiny budgets and tinier spaces. This gem is full of inexpensive solutions, hip inspiration, and real-life examples of 10 incredible little apartments. Filled with great photos and 30 doable DIY projects, this book will help any grad make a hovel into a home.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, by Anne Lamott
No matter your religious or spiritual leanings in life, Anne Lamott has a way of inspiring almost everyone. Maybe it’s because she’s so hilarious, so honest, and so self-deprecating that you just can’t help but trust her, but more likely it’s because she has SEEN and DONE and FELT so much in her time on earth. This book details the three types of prayer that can help get us through life: those of appeal, those of gratitude, and those of awe. (For what it’s worth, Anne Lamott makes her way onto a lot of essential reading lists. Read just one of her books and you’ll understand why.)

Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World, by Lonely Planet Publications
The world can be a scary, overwhelming place to a new grad. Why not remind them how gorgeous it is? This beautiful photographic collection of our planet’s most glorious places belongs on every 20something’s IKEA coffee table. (Warning: may cause wanderlust.)

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers
Renowned scholar and beloved professor Joseph Campbell spent his life retelling the ancient myths of yore in a modern context. This classic book on ancient fables and how they relate to our lives today is a must for anyone trying not only to make their way in the world, but to make sense of it.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
One of the most adored comic strips of all time, Calvin and Hobbes always tackled the philosophy of life in the most hilarious, touching, and laugh-out-loud ways. This complete set of Bill Watterson’s life’s work is outrageously silly and smart at the same time. Any grad could learn a lot from this comic masterpiece.

What books would you recommend for college graduates?

  • http://www.goodreads.com/joeleoj Joel Cunningham

    Thank you for not including “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

  • SoCal5

    William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways.

  • devbost

    The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander.

  • Joel Davie

    An essay rather than a book, Joseph Brodsky’s ‘In Praise of Boredom’ has proved invaluable to me.

    ‘Reprinted’ in full here: http://relembramentos.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/in-praise-of-boredom/

  • salexander42

    I really like “What Now?” by Ann Patchett, based on her graduation speech.