Let me be honest here: “books for college graduation” didn’t exist as a gift wishlist when I finished school. Reading for “fun” wasn’t even on my radar in college. In fact, I didn’t do much reading at all. The only books I owned were physics and calculus textbooks for engineering classes, and they were filled with equations. That changed when I graduated.
When I finished school, I was fortunate to be surrounded by people who loved to read. They recommended fiction books, memoir cookbooks, non-fiction books—you name it. They also cared deeply about my personal and professional development. I was recommended a plethora of books from topics like money management, negotiating, skills development, and living a creative life. Some I loved; some I’m still making my way through! Below are the ones I wish I would’ve read before I graduated or received as graduation gifts. Be sure to put them on your wishlist or drop them into your Amazon cart!
If you don’t have plans yet after college graduation: Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
One of the most frequently asked questions I got when I graduated college was: “What are your plans after graduation?” Honestly, I didn’t have plans, so I was exhausted answering this over and over again. I’m sure many of you can relate with the hiring freezes happening in this pandemic. (Check: advice on what to do if you’re unemployed right now here) Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo covers everything from time and money management to imposter syndrome to criticism. She helps readers rewire their thinking to face setbacks with positivity. I highly recommend reading this book if you’re still trying to figure out the next best step in your life.
If you’re a self-proclaimed perfectionist: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
All the years I was in school, I struggled with knowing the “right time” to do anything: when to go to class, work out, quit a job, even get married. I was told growing up that if it’s the right timing, it would just “feel right”. It turns out that research from psychology, biology, and economics would say otherwise. When answers so many questions about good timing, from knowing the best time to drink your morning cup of coffee to ending a relationship. It’s a quick, but worthwhile read – packed full of data-backed insights, stories, and practical advice. I’ve gifted this book countless times and wish I read it sooner than I did!
The college graduation book you need if you struggle with time management: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
I will be first to admit I had horrible habits in college. I slept at 2 A.M.—at the earliest—most nights, didn’t have a consistent workout routine, and always lost my keys. I had no idea how I was going to go from that to full-on “adulting” at my first job.
This book has 5-stars from almost 6,000 reviews on Amazon and it’s for good reason. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear provides simple, impactful steps to change your bad habits.
This book lays tips and tricks to improve your habits (of any kind!) simply. I started sleeping at a decent time, eating foods that fueled my body consistently and reached so many of my personal health goals. If you decide to pick it up yourself, I recommend taking notes the entire way through and implementing habits slowly to see lasting changes.
The college graduation book you need if you dream of becoming a full-time creative: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you’re working on anything that requires you to be “creative” in any sense, I recommend reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book discusses what the creative process is like, how to find fulfillment in creativity, and why it’s important to find balance in your life as a creative person. I related to so many of her stories and highly suggest this book if you want to work a creative job or if you’re on a path to live a creative life.
If you have no idea how to save but need a place to start: The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich by David Bach
I believe personal finance is one of the most important topics every student should learn, but let’s be honest. It’s not usually taught well in school; at least it wasn’t the case for me. I had no idea how to save money on a full-time salary before I started a full-time job. All I knew was that I needed to be doing it as soon as possible.
You guys know I decided to work in social media instead of pursuing an engineering career immediately after college. The Latte Factor by David Bach made me feel more confident that I could be financially stable on a lower salary. The book also helped me reconsider my spending habits on small things like getting my nails done regularly and random subscription boxes that add up over time.
If the world of personal finance feels like it’s wrapped up in too many “rules” that it seems too daunting to even start saving, this book is a great place to begin.
The college graduation book if you want to learn how to negotiate a higher salary: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton
Apparently “negotiation classes” exist in schools. I didn’t have the opportunity to take one of those in grade school or college, so Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In was a great alternative. I believe many of us are wired to quickly agree to decisions because we don’t want to give off the impression of being “fussy”, “needy”, or disagreeable. In the process, we sacrifice what we want or know we deserve. I know it’s happened to me time and time again. If you’ve never negotiated something important in your life like salary, job titles, life changes, and other important career and personal decisions, this book is a great place to start.
If you need a confidence boost: StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup by Tom Rath
The first question I ask most students I mentor is, “What do you believe you’re gifted in or talented at?” If you don’t think you have any talents, I beg to differ. If you don’t know how to answer the question, I believe it’s because you probably haven’t been equipped with the tools yet to tell you that you have strengths.
I like the Myers-Briggs personality test, the Enneagram motivations test, and other systems that help identify your strengths, but the StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup by Tom Rath is the one I recommend for students about to enter in the workplace. The book includes a code that lets you to take a 30-minute test to discover your top 5 “CliftonStrengths”. There are 34 strength themes layed out into five categories: strategic thinking, relationship building, influencing, and executing.
This test personally helped me interview at new companies with more confidence. It encouraged me to do things that I’m naturally good at rather than fighting to be things I’m not. Great news is that you don’t need the book to take the test. You can take the test online without the book. Many employers will even consider paying. Just be sure to ask!
Be sure to pin this graphic to come back to this collection of books for college graduation later. You can shop them below and find other college graduation gift ideas here.