The Best Books to Give as Graduation Gifts
We'll always love 'Oh, the Places You'll Go!' but these thoughtful, inspiring graduation gifts will be read and reread, long after the pomp and circumstance have ended.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
If you’re looking for gifts for the recent college graduates in your life, look no further. Filled with wonderful advice about not just success and failure, but also about life in general. Any recent graduate will enjoy reading through these ten books that make excellent graduation gifts. Make sure you also check out these 15 international fiction books that will help you still feel connected with the world.
This Is Water by David Foster Wallace
Perfect for: All grads Here’s why: David Foster Wallace only delivered one commencement address in his career (in 2005, at Kenyon College), and his message was so enduring that the entire speech was published in hardcover. What’s unique about Wallace’s words: Though he warns graduates of the banalities of day-to-day adult life, he reminds them that their newly acquired skills can help them maintain awareness and compassion as they move forward in their quest for success. Quotable quote: “It is about simple awareness—awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: ‘This is water, this is water.'” These three books will also make great treats for book lovers.
Bounce by Matthew Syed
Perfect for: Both artists and athletes Here’s why: In this optimistic guide to success, the United Kingdom table tennis champion Syed combines detailed research with his own anecdotes to backhand the myth that talent is solely based on genetics. In studying the accomplishments of great artists, composers, and athletes, Syed finds they had one thing in common: hours, and hours, and hours of practice—no really, about 10,000 hours each. Quotable quote: “Asked if he was lucky, golfer Gary Player said: ‘Yes, and the funny thing is, the harder I practice, the luckier I get.'” Make sure you also check out these 16 books you must read to call yourself a book lover.
Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media by Aliza Licht
Perfect for: The ambitious recent-grad trying to figure out how to “make it.” Here’s why: This not just a career advice book, but a whole mentor in novel form. Accomplished public relations professional fashion communications executive Aliza Licht shares her secrets for successful personal branding and how to do well as someone just starting their career. It’s just like meeting someone for coffee and career advice but in written form. Quotable quote: “If you get to the top of the ladder by pushing people off, you’ll find that there won’t be a ladder left or people to help you get back down.” Check out these 18 books you can read in a day.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Perfect for: Writers, readers…heck, any word nerd. Here’s why: Part memoir, part craft guide, On Writing is an invaluable invitation into the mind of one of the most successful writers of all time. Assuming they saved their copy of The Elements of Style from freshman composition, your word-minded grads will be hard-pressed to find a book more useful than Stephen King’s deeply personal, endlessly quotable guide to writing, “anything you damn well want.” Quotable quote: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” These really good books to read for adults would also make good graduation gifts.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Perfect for: College graduates moving into their first apartment. Here’s why: You just moved out of your college dorm—this book will definitely make things easier. Whether you’re taking some time living with your parents or moving right into your first apartment, downsizing will definitely make the process much easier. And what better advice on downsizing is there than Marie Kondo’s advice? Quotable quote: “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” Here are books everyone should read before they die.
You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier
Perfect for: The techie. Here’s why: Though often heady and complex, this book about present and future technologies talks about being mindful, moving against the flow, and challenging the world around you so that it can become something better. “You have to be somebody before you can share yourself,” writes the author; those are wise words for any graduate addicted to social media. Because with great (computing) power comes great responsibility.
Quotable quote: “What these critics forget is that printing presses in themselves provide no guarantee of an enlightened outcome. People, not machines, made the Renaissance.”
Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman
Perfect for: The creative. Here’s why: Inspirational commencement speeches really do make a difference. In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivered the commencement address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, and this book is the full text of that speech. It’s a great account of creativity, bravery, and strength. Quotable quote: “Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.” You can also use the 25 bestselling books of the decade when picking out a graduation gift.
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Perfect for: People looking for ways to handle rejection better. Here’s why: Rejection is part of life, but it takes time to learn how to handle it. In this advice-filled book, Brené Brown teaches readers how to make the most out of rejections and failures that inevitably happen. Reading it will make you view rejection emails in a new light. Quotable quote: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
From Graduation to Career Ready in 21 Days: A Guide for English Majors by Alyssa W. Christensen
Perfect for: The English major. Here’s why: Finding your first job after college is not easy—but that doesn’t mean it has to be impossible. From finding the right jobs to applying to job to making your application stand out, Alyssa W. Christensen gives crucial advice on everything a recent grad with an English major needs to thrive in the job market. Quotable quote:“ Give it your all, and do it right the first time. You can sleep easy knowing that you gave it 100 percent.”
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Perfect for: The hopeful. Here’s why: This unlikely story of an unlikely group of friends turns into a sweet account of kindness and friendship. These lovely illustrations will warm are not just wonderful works of art but are also a wonderful look into the human heart. Quotable quote: “What do you want to be when you grow up? Kind, said the boy.” Next, check out the most iconic book set in every state.