Books for Graduates
By Mary Wahlmeier, Adult Services Assistant
It’s no secret that many people will be graduating from college (or high school) this month. Whether or not that group includes you, the clean slate of the graduate can provide a fresh perspective to all. The uncertainty which accompanied my own college graduation led me to turn to books for reassurance, guidance, and inspiration. Here are my picks for the class of 2018.
“Very Good Lives” by J.K. Rowling is a beautifully illustrated version of her commencement speech to the Harvard University graduating class of 2008. It’s short and sweet and full of insight, especially regarding the cruelties of our world. I highly recommend it. “Congratulations, by the way” by George Saunders is also meaningfully illustrated, concise, and a commencement speech. Saunders gave a version of the speech on kindness at Syracuse University, where he teaches creative writing, in 2013. Reading it feels like having an intimate conversation with the author, and it certainly doesn’t take long. Perhaps it can serve as your next burst of inspiration.
“Make Your Bed” is a further elaboration upon Admiral William H. McRaven’s 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin, his alma mater, in which he discussed the ten principles he learned during Navy SEAL training. In addition to the transcript of the speech, which is included at the end of the book, readers will gain an inside view of what it’s like to train as a Navy SEAL. McRaven’s natural storytelling charm and visceral accounts of his experiences are inspiring and true – featuring triumphs of human spirit aplenty.
“Adulting” is a fun-to-read handbook on becoming an adult, organized into 468 short tips by witty reporter Kelly Williams Brown. I actually read this book during my senior year of college, and it helped me feel slightly more prepared to face the “real world.” With cute doodles throughout and an index for quick referencing, “Adulting” would be welcome in any college graduate’s hands (although, I will note that it is sometimes, but not always, geared toward women).
Another practical guide to the world is Richard Nelson Bolles’ “What Color is Your Parachute?,” which I happened upon because it is on the list of books that bibliophile Rory Gilmore reads on the TV show that is also one of the loves of my life – “Gilmore Girls” (but that’s a different story). “What Color is Your Parachute?,” an all-encompassing guide to job hunting and career exploration, is updated and revised annually. I read the 2017 version while researching and marketing myself to potential graduate schools, and I found it to be perfectly relevant in that context as well. It’s a great how-to book for graduates looking for a place to belong.
Arianna Huffington’s call to redefine success, “Thrive,” is filled with information about what Huffington believes makes up an extraordinary life – well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. The book is organized into four sections, corresponding to the aforementioned elements. Much of the basis for “Thrive” is the rejection of the American definition of success, which equals overwork and burnout. Huffington invites readers to find a better way to live their lives. This book is full of practical advice that I’ve already started applying to my own life, and it corresponds to Huffington’s online community – ThriveGlobal.com. At a time when everything in their lives is changing, college graduates may be asking themselves, “How do I want to move forward?” “Thrive” is a great place to start looking for the answer.
“The Opposite of Loneliness,” which is available as an eAudiobook through Manhattan Public Library’s online resource, Hoopla, is a collection of stories and essays by prominent young writer Marina Keegan, who tragically died days after her graduation from Yale University in 2012. Its introduction tells of Marina’s vibrant, outgoing personality, her hopes for constant improvement, and the heartbreaking story of her death. It seems paradoxical to think about death when one is on the cusp of new life, as soon-to-be college graduates are. However, what Marina was able to share with the world, even having had such a short life, is exciting and inspiring. Her essay “The Opposite of Loneliness,” from which the book gained its title, is particularly relevant to soon-to-be graduates. It provides a sense of oneness that college students often grieve upon graduation – a sort of “trust fall” to the universe – which, for many, is just what the doctor ordered.
My best wishes go out to all of Manhattan’s soon-to-be graduates, and to everyone – read on.