10 Books to Inspire Graduates

Graduation is thrilling—and sometimes scary. Fortunately for today’s graduates, some very smart people have written down their thoughts on how to navigate what comes after the cap and gown. Here are seven books that will guide, support, and inspire your graduates on the next stage of their exciting journeys.

Educated, by Tara Westover
This breathtaking memoir will have readers thinking deeply about the value of education and what it truly means to be educated. After being raised by survivalists, Westover entered school for the first time at 17 and went on to earn a PhD from Cambridge. Her graduation into “the real world” was a unique experience, and her account will inspire others as they make their own transitions.

Exceptional You!, by Victoria Osteen
This book is essential reading for readers who want to look beyond the to-do list and urgent present to a more meaningful future. Osteen shares simple practices designed to help anyone who isn’t sure where to spend their time and energy. By opening your heart to God’s purpose, choosing gratitude, and setting intentions, you’ll gain clarity and confidence for meeting the future.

The Path Made Clear, by Oprah Winfrey
If your graduate is looking for a roadmap, who better than Oprah herself to guide and point the way? In this book, she’s gathered wisdom from everyone from Jay Z to Ellen Degeneres to help readers young and old understand if they’re on the right path. With milestones and guideposts clearly marked, inspirational quotes and gorgeous photographs, this book makes it easy for new graduates to navigate an uncertain world.

Becoming, by Michelle Obama
In this book, Mrs. O shares how she became the woman so many look up to. From her college years to life in the White House, her standard of excellence and generous spirit will inspire a new generation. This is a memoir that graduates, professors, and professionals alike will be proud to have on their bedside table.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson
After 20 years of being trained to give a lot of f*cks in school, graduates may find themselves spending the next 20 years unlearning neurotic habits and thought patterns. This book can help jumpstart the healing with lessons on resiliency, prioritizing your energy, and embracing your faults. It’s wisdom that both graduates of universities and the school of life will appreciate.

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Joel Holland
Very Good Lives is an illustrated version of J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard University commencement speech, in which she spoke less about success and more about failure: “Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.” She also dwells on the importance of imagination, and of taking responsibility for your own actions. This is a great book for graduates, and a great book for almost anyone else, too.

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, by Frank Bruni
College admissions are rough these days, and there are a lot of soon-to-be high school graduates who could use a reminder that, as the title of this book suggests, where you go is not who you’ll be. Bruni, a columnist for The New York Times, goes beyond just reminding readers that the Ivy League is not the only game in town: he also wants to talk about how to make the most out of your education, no matter where you end up. This is an energizing and enjoyable read, reassuring for students and parents alike.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe
Written by the guy behind xkcd, this is the perfect book to give to graduates who know that the fun is in the learning. What If? is comprised of Munroe’s impeccably researched answers to the tough and bizarre questions his fans ask him: for example, can you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns (clearly one of the most important questions of our time)? And just what would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? The lively and informative text is illustrated by Munroe’s trademark stick figures.

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion, by Elle Luna
Here’s a crossroads familiar to most of us: follow your passion or do what others expect of you? The Crossroads of Should and Must guides those facing that decision through both the inspirational questions (how do you discover your passion?) and the practical ones (but what about money??) in an accessible, beautiful, and inspiring fashion. Recommended by people as varied as author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter and the founder of Medium, this is the perfect gift for anyone who has some important life decisions ahead of her.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg
This mega-bestselling book from Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg proposes a simple answer to a whole host of complicated problems: habit. Want to produce more, work smarter, lose weight, be more successful? Harness the power of habit. Named a Best Book of the Year by both The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, and praised by publications ranging from Wired to The Economist, The Power of Habit delves into the scientific explanations for why people do the things they do, and proposes that once we understand how habits work, we can successfully use them to achieve our goals.

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