Book Gifts for Graduates

Hey all! (or all five of my followers so far – hello!)

So graduation is upon us. I know at least four people graduating from college in about a month. And if you’re hesitant to just dole out cash or gift cards (which is completely and totally acceptable and wonderful – speaking from experience, they’re coming from a broke college kid life to a broke graduate’s life. Except for those lucky few who managed to find employment before they graduated. Jerks), then might I suggest some awesome books?

Note: most of these are applicable to college graduates (the career books mostly), but high school graduates could dig them too. If you want more suggestions/more apt suggestions, drop me a message or comment below!


Words to give you pause – famous speeches of advice to graduates.

This is Water by David Foster Wallacewearsunscreenmakegoodart

This is Water by David Foster Wallace:
The speech titled the same was a commencement speech for Kenyon College in 2005. It was recorded, then posted on YouTube and became a HUGE hit (The kinetic typography used in the video is AMAZING – watch the 9 minute video here and be changed). The book version has the full text of the recording, arranged plainly on the page. But it makes the message that much more impactful. Plus it was written by a famous author – perhaps one your grad is a fan of?

Wear Sunscreen by Mary Schmich:
It’s a similar case for Schmich’s advice. Although it was posted online in 1997 as an article and became hugely popular, for a time everyone thought Kurt Vonnegut had written it instead. She was later correctly identified, and the advice is still apt and touching today.

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman:
A commencement speech for University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Gaiman’s speech is obviously tailored toward graduates looking for a career in the arts, but the advice is applicable for many reasons and desired occupations. Best quote? “Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art.”

Some other great commencement speeches are assembled together here. Some of which have been made into books!

CEO Advice

Books written by CEO’s/Presidents of famous companies – advice on management, being a contributing employee, as well as insight into these unconventional workplaces

Creativity Inc. by girlbossStart Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull:
Written by the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, this book is marketed as a Business/Management book, but it also has clues on how to be a good employee. Plus, it’s an awesome look into Pixar and Disney as companies and how they run things (apparently a rare look – they’re like the mafia, those companies…)

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso:
CEO of Nasty Gal, a cool vintage clothing and shoe website. It’s an unconventional rise to fame for Amoruso, and she has an unconventional management style. For that “cool” graduate on your list. Or maybe one who just likes vintage clothing 😉

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie:
The guy who started a little company called TOMs Shoes. If you know a graduate already involved or looking to be involved in the charity/non-profit sector, this is a solid choice. Also good for those looking to start something completely new – entrepreneurs (boy, is that a weird word…)! Plus, when you buy a copy, a book gets donated to a child in need, following TOMs “One for One” policy.

Funny Stuff

Want to subtly give advice to your graduate? Give them a collection of hilarious essays or practical life tips peppered with nice little pencil drawings!

Adulting by Kelly Williams Browndontworryitgetsworsefckiminmytwentiesgraduatesinwonderland

Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown:
I LOVE this book! Practical advice delivered cheekily, and it’s GOOD advice. I got a copy for myself and a friend who claimed she was having a “quarter-life crisis.” She’s incorporating some of the advice into her financial life now and says it’s going well!

Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent:
Drunken adventures post-college life. That’s the summary of this book in a sentence. Written by a Tumblr blogger with a nice sense of wit, this is a collection of essays immediately following Nugent post-college-graduation, through a scary place called Craigslist, and that fickle friend called money.

F*ck! I’m In My Twenties by Emma Koenig:
I mean, a title doesn’t get any better than that! Along with the most popular posts from her blog of the same name, Koenig includes graphs and checklists in her stories – you gotta love a flowchart!

Graduates in Wonderland by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale:
As I’m writing this post, I am also reading this book (not simultaneously – haven’t mastered that particular brand of multi-tasking!) before I give it to my best friend who just happens to be graduating college next month AND is obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. Perfect match. This is a series of real-life e-mails between two friends who go very different directions after college, namely China and New York. It’s a great testament to friendship, honesty (brutal honesty, sometimes. Mostly about a guy the other friend wants to date), and the complete black hole that post college years can feel like.


DISCLAIMER: I hesitate to recommend these books, simply because it can be a slap in the face, as if you’re saying to your graduate: “Hey! You don’t have a job! YOU BETTER FIND ONE SOON! AND IT BETTER BE THE RIGHT ONE!” So proceed with caution. Know your graduate real well before you put one of these in their hands. Not everyone is a personality quiz junkie like me…


Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger:
A huge tome outlining career advice by Personality Type. Take the Myers-Briggs Personality Quiz (outlines whether you’re Extroverted or Introverted, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving, and take in information by Sense or Intuition), then read what occupations prove most rewarding, your typical strengths and weaknesses, etc.

Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath:
Strengthsfinder is a 200+ online questionnaire that tells you five  of your core leadership strengths. I’ve taken it twice for various leadership roles in campus organizations, and it’s proven very helpful to see what areas you are successful in and what roles you’re more suited to take over. The book outlines the 34 strengths and what makes them mesh together, what areas each strength falls into, etc.

What Color is Your Parachute? 2014 by Richard N. Bolles:
Oh, the Parachute book. Re-released every year since the 1920’s, this is the quintessential career book. You take a series of quizzes, listen to Mr. Bolles talk about finding your passion, your message, and fill out what your ideal job would look like (as well as desired/required salary).


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