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.
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The perfect present for their next chapter
Looking for great graduation gifts for the high school and college students in your life? You’re in the right place! This medley of books is packed with everything from inspiring graduation quotes and success stories to career and practical life advice. We’re confident that recent grads will enjoy these 25 books long after the commencement celebrations have ended. Whether you’re looking for helpful nonfiction books, great memoirs, or meaningful words of wisdom, you’re sure to find just the thing for ushering in that next chapter in their lives. And, of course, it’s never a bad idea to give one of the best new fiction books as a gift—especially since your favorite grad deserves to kick back and relax for a bit, too.
Whatever You Are, Be a Good One: 100 Inspirational Quotations, hand-lettered by Lisa Congdon
Perfect for: All grads
Here’s why: Some books are made to be dog-eared on the bedside table within easy reach for reading and advice. Others are meant to be on display. Whatever You Are, Be a Good One can be both. This wise collection of quotations from people from Joan of Arc to Jack Kerouac (and so many more) is presented in whimsical, illustrated form. It’s the rare book that looks just as at home squeezed into a tiny dorm room bookshelf as arranged on a first apartment coffee table.
Quotable quote: “Whatever you are, be a good one,” by Abraham Lincoln.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Perfect for: Go-getters and big dreamers
Here’s why: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and big dreams aren’t accomplished overnight. This book helps readers break down big goals and dreams into actionable steps and habits. Atomic Habits is easy to read and implement, but its simplicity belies its power. Whether the graduate in your life wants to get healthier, reduce stress, or build a business from the ground up, James Clear offers a helpful framework to guide the way.
Quotable quote: “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”
All Along You Were Blooming by Morgan Harper Nichols
Perfect for: Poets and dreamers
Here’s why: Graduation is both an end and a beginning. Morgan Harper Nichols’ collection of inspirational poems and prose puts words to the bittersweet experience of navigating the transition. In short works that can be bookmarked and reread again and again, she offers encouragement that there are lessons to learn from every dead end and new glimmers of hope every morning.
Quotable quote: “What if all the imperfections and the flaws were only part of your story—not the sum of who you are?”
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Perfect for: Anyone about to enter the workforce
Here’s why: A killer resume or letter of recommendation might help new graduates land a dream job, but good habits and soft skills will help them keep it. This self-help classic gives readers a strong foundation for life and work. Each of the seven habits is clearly explained, with anecdotes as examples. Part checklist, part reference guide, Covey’s principle-centered bestseller is a timeless gift for graduates.
Quotable quote: “Start with the end in mind.”
What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World by Tina Seelig
Perfect for: Graduates who want to develop a growth mindset
Here’s why: Stanford University professor Tina Seelig knows that there is no one-size-fits-all path to success. In her book full of student anecdotes and personal insights, she encourages readers to challenge limiting worldviews, learn to recover from failure, and see the world as a place of limitless opportunities rather than restrictive institutions.
Quotable quote: “It is easy to stay on the prescribed path, but it is often much more interesting to discover the world of surprises lurking just around the corner.”
RELATED: 50 of Our Favorite Quotes from Books
This Is Water by David Foster Wallace
Perfect for: All grads
Here’s why: David Foster Wallace delivered only one commencement speech in his career (in 2005, at Kenyon College), and his message was so enduring that the whole thing was published in hardcover. What’s so 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.'”
Love by Matt de la Peña
Perfect for: People who want a fresh alternative to Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Here’s why: This book’s colorful descriptions, simple prose, and beautiful representation of diverse characters poignantly capture the love of a family raising a child to be released into the world. As the Wall Street Journal review said, “Lyrical and sensitive, Love is the sort of book likely to leave readers of all ages a little tremulous, and brimming with feeling.”
Quotable quote: “Your loved ones will stand there like puddles beneath their umbrellas, holding you tight and kissing you and wishing you luck. But it won’t be luck you’ll leave with…because you’ll have love.”
Bounce by Matthew Syed
Perfect for: Artists and athletes
Here’s why: In this optimistic guide to success, U.K. table tennis champion Matthew 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.'”
Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole by Tiffany Aliche
Perfect for: Graduates who are determined to pay off student loans quickly
Here’s why: Tiffany Aliche is known online as “The Budgetnista” because she’s a pro at breaking down complicated personal financial advice into actionable steps. Her methods work for new and experienced budgeters, and the insights in this book are a great start for graduates who need to simultaneously tackle debt, a new budget, and investment opportunities.
Quotable quote: “Financial wholeness is when all the aspects of your financial life are working together for your greatest good, your biggest benefit, and your richest life.”
Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media. by Aliza Licht
Perfect for: Ambitious recent grads trying to figure out how to “make it”
Here’s why: This is not just a career-advice book—it’s a whole mentor in novel form. Accomplished fashion communications executive Aliza Licht shares her secrets for successful personal branding and how to do well when you’re just starting your 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.”
Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat
Perfect for: Graduates who want to upgrade from cafeteria food to home-cooked meals
Here’s why: It’s one thing to master a recipe or two. Mastering the art of cooking—blending spices, applying heat, understanding the way flavors work together—is something else entirely. Anyone interested in upgrading their kitchen skills will benefit from Samin Nosrat’s no-nonsense approach to the fundamentals of cooking. The book is packed with colorful illustrations, recipes, and tips that can be applied to every other cookbook in a graduate’s present and future collection.
Quotable quote: “Play to each element’s strengths: Use Salt to enhance, Fat to carry, and Acid to balance flavor.”
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.” These classic books would also make great graduation gifts.
Quotable quote: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
The Art of Slow Travel: See the World and Savor the Journey on a Budget by Bhavana Gesota
Perfect for: Budding world travelers
Here’s why: Does the new grad in your life dream of hitchhiking through Europe? How about snagging a one-way ticket to Bali, or hopping in a car bound for Mexico City or the opposite U.S. coast? Bhavana Gesota can help them make a plan for getting to all the places they dream of because she has dreamed of them, too. After living in nine countries and working in seven, the author is well-equipped to offer advice on travel budgets, packing checklists, and avoiding common cultural faux pas.
Quotable quote: “Life does not stop while on the slow travel track. It only unfolds in the context of a different culture.”
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Perfect for: College graduates moving into their first apartment
Here’s why: Whether a recent college grad is moving home for a little while or heading straight to a new apartment, downsizing will 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.”
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Perfect for: Creative souls
Here’s why: It’s easy for budding and seasoned artists to get distracted by life—and to lose sight of the creative muses that first sparked their joy in art, writing, or music. This book serves as a guide back to those muses. It’s about clearing the clutter, tapping into your own creative process, and training your mind to slow down and pay attention to the inspiration around you.
Quotable quote: “Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.”
You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier
Perfect for: Techies
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.”
Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings by Leela Cyd
Perfect for: Hosts and entertainers
Here’s why: If you know a recent grad who enjoys hosting, why not help them upgrade their food offerings? This cookbook and guide to entertaining loved ones and strangers includes tips and recipes for everything from brunch to happy hour. Author Leela Cyd also includes advice on keeping a pantry stocked for last-minute hosting, as well as packing tips for to-go bags for friends who leave the party early.
Quotable quote: “Food and laughter are a universal language and the most valuable currency for making friends.”
Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman
Perfect for: Fearless creatives
Here’s why: Inspirational commencement speeches really do make a difference. In May 2012, best-selling 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.”
Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab
Perfect for: Social butterflies
Here’s why: High school and college are often busy with commitments and high-energy social gatherings. Though some graduates hold fast to friendships made during these years, others find that they must alter their relationships to match their budding careers and changing social calendars. In this book, the author offers clear, research-backed guidance for ending power struggles, identifying toxic relationships, and redefining who we want to be as adults.
Quotable quote: “Clarity saves relationships.”
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Perfect for: Graduates who’ve expressed a fear of failure
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 life lessons on how to make the most out of the 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.”
I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
Perfect for: New grads interested in investments and finance
Here’s why: Your early 20s is the perfect time to start great money habits. According to finance guru Ramit Sethi, that includes deciding what “Your Rich Life” will look like—then saving, spending, and investing accordingly. His advice is for new grads to sit down and choose what is most important to them. Do they want to travel? Buy a house? Have a big wedding? After helping them pinpoint goals, he then offers step-by-step advice for building a life they love.
Quotable quote: “Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.”
RELATED: Things Rich People Rarely Do
From Graduation to Career Ready in 21 Days: A Guide for English Majors by Alyssa W. Christensen
Perfect for: English majors
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 those jobs to making your application (and cover letter!) 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.”
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
Perfect for: Introverts
Here’s why: Leaving behind the comforts of home, community, and college can be tough. This book encourages everyone—yes, even shy wallflowers—to do what scares them until they’re confident to do the next great thing that scares them. Presented in a friendly, funny tone, Shonda Rhimes’ story is a blueprint for stepping into your own greatness and letting your voice be heard, even when it’s tough.
Quotable quote: “I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? Are busy doing.”
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. Plus, the book’s lovely illustrations are not just beautiful 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.”
For Every One by Jason Reynolds
Perfect for: Grads with big dreams
Here’s why: This stirring speech was first performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It urges listeners and readers to dare to dream, to reach toward greatness, and to commit to being better tomorrow than they are today. It’s a lyrical, powerful reminder to all graduates that they are on the cusp of a new chapter that could lead to change in themselves and for the world. You might also want to share these life-changing quotes with the graduate in your life—and remember them yourself, too.
Quotable quote: “The truth is our dreams could be as far away as forever or as close as lunchtime.”