15 Books for Recent Graduates

6 minute read

The Real Simple Guide to Real Life by the Editors of Real Simple

Oxmoor House

From salary negotiations to apartment decorating, the first year out of college is filled with a lot of new experiences. With this book, your grad can tackle any hurdle that comes up in the home or the office, with timeless-yet-practical advice from the editors of Real Simple. After reading a few pages, you might want this on your shelf, too.

To buy: $19, barnesandnoble.com.

What Do I Do If…? by Eric Grzymkowski

Adams Media

From an attack by killer bees to a clogged toilet to a forgotten anniversary, this tiny book offers solutions for any disaster your grad might encounter when finally out on his or her own. Each sticky situation is marked by how likely it is to happen, how easy it is to prevent, and whether or not you need to respond quickly.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

The Road to Character by David Brooks

Random House

New York Times columnist David Brooks uses this book to distinguish “resume virtues”—skills that might look good to an employer—from “eulogy virtues”—morals and values that help us grow and form relationships. He encourages everyone to focus on the latter, and uses anecdotes, interviews, and psychology to give readers the tools to develop a more “moral character.”

To buy: $17.50, amazon.com.

Way More Than Luck

Chronicle Books

This book has 14 transcribed commencement speeches that encourage recent grads to be creative, be brave, and make their marks on the world. Speakers include Nora Ephron, Ira Glass, Tom Wolfe, and David Foster Wallace, and the book also illustrates the most inspirational quotes from each address.

To buy: $15, amazon.com.

Do Over by Jon Acuff


First-time employees need the right tools and resources to make the most of their desk jobs. Do Over goes over four inevitable transitions: a career ceiling (when you feel stuck), a career bump (maybe you lose your job), a career jump (a possible promotion), and a career opportunity (usually unexpected and scary). This practical advice will help grads take advantage of all four transitions, and succeed in any field.

To buy: $16, amazon.com.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan


The eponymous posthumous essay that spurred this collection circulated quickly amongst college graduates in 2012 because it hit a nerve—everyone was looking for a way to stay connected to their friends when they went off alone in the world after leaving school. Keegan’s work—both essay and fiction—is a must-read for all young writers.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Dey Street Books

Poehler’s funny, honest memoir is filled with nuggets of advice all grads can use, with chapters organized into three sections: “Say Whatever You Want,” “Do Whatever You Like,” and “Be Whoever You Are.” While the move from college can seem intimidating, Poehler’s words remind everyone that the most important thing to do in life is to have fun.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

Edmund Unravels by Andrew Kolb

Nancy Paulsen Books

Consider this children’s book to be 2015’s version of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Edmund, an adorable ball of yarn, sets off to explore the world. He meets interesting people and visits exciting places, but ultimately, finds that he can’t head out into the world alone without a little support from his family.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling

Little, Brown and Company

Rowling’s famous Harvard commencement address has been transcribed into a pocket-sized book of wisdom and inspiration that all graduates will want on their shelves. Rowling encourages all graduates to be creative and embrace failure in order to find post-graduate success.

To buy: $12, amazon.com.

Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg


Sandberg’s Lean In offered valuable advice for women who had spent years feeling frustrated in the workplace, but this graduation edition is targeted at young women who have yet to begin. Her guide equips them with the tools necessary to negotiate, participate, and lead in whatever job they land.

To buy: $19, amazon.com.

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, Ph.D.


This book explores the 20-something years with personal stories from the author’s clients, and scientific data to explain how the body and mind works during this crucial developmental period. For any millennial who feels overwhelmed or misunderstood, Jay’s analysis of young adult issues and advice for achieving success—both professionally and personally—will reassure and motivate.

To buy: $9, amazon.com.

Getting There by Gillian Zoe Segal

Harry N. Abrams

Thirty industry influencers discuss essential career advice for young people about to enter the workforce. Most importantly, they focus on obstacles they faced at work, because those often were essential to their success. Mentors include businessman and politician Michael Bloomberg, trainer Jillian Michaels, and artist Jeff Koons.

To buy: $19, amazon.com.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed


Strayed’s weekly “Dear Sugar” column in The Rumpus is now in book form, with one of her most compassionate, thoughtful columns—titled “Tiny Beautiful Things”—leading the collection. Through a combination of her own experiences and honest advice, this book is filled with one-liners (“Be brave enough to break your own heart”) that all graduates will adopt as mantras.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

A Curious Mind by Charles Fishman and Brian Grazer

Simon & Schuster

Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer has talked to a host of accomplished people—from writers to actors to CEOs—to find out how creativity drives their work. These “curiosity conversations” helped him develop concrete advice for improving your professional and personal life.

To buy: $16, amazon.com.

Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

Broadway Books

Women’s contributions to science and research are often overlooked, so Swaby profiles the achievements of 52 influential and innovative women who have proven that the sciences aren’t just for men. If you know a young woman looking to break into this male-heavy field, they’ll appreciate this book of innovators.

To buy: $19, amazon.com.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

More from Real Simple:

  • 36 Unique Graduation Gift Ideas
  • 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Recent College Graduate
  • 10 Essential Pieces of Advice for Grads (and the Rest of Us)
  • More Must-Reads from TIME

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