This collection of fictional and non-fictional books lend lessons for soon-to-be graduates that cannot be found in the generic 'How to Adult' handbooks or Dr. Suess’ “Oh the Places You'll Go” that are often secured in readers' arms alongside their diploma.
“Make Trouble” by John Waters
Like a blaring alarm clock at the crack of dawn, “Make Trouble” is an unexpected but much-needed wake-up call for graduating students.
Inspired by his graduation commencement speech to the Rhode Island School of Design students, Waters invites readers to strap on their seatbelt as he steers away from the traditional road to success toward the path less followed.
Although short, it is an inspirational read that spoon-feeds bite-sized lessons all about disobedience and making your own rules. Waters’ mantras boil down to the message that radical ideas and experimentation make a change. More importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all guide to discovering who you are meant to be in life.
“The Quarter-Life Breakthrough” by Adam Smiley Poswolsky
“The Quarter-Life Breakthrough” is a perfect read for those seeking advice on investing in their dreams and distinguishing themselves as recent graduates.
The book is divided into three sections — “Invent Your Own Path,” “Finding Meaningful Work” and “Build a Life That Matters.” Poswolsky's narrative will aid readers in their twenties who are at a crossroads on their next steps. It is almost as if Poswolsky is two steps ahead, sweeping off the path for readers. The chapters explore career choices, tackle whether graduate school is the right choice for readers and provide insight on how to hustle.
Without being overly cheesy, it is a book that will leave readers knowing a bit more on how to believe in themselves and their dreams.
“The Idiot” by Elif Batuman
"The Idiot" is a coming-of-age story about Harvard freshmen Seline, who, although extremely intelligent, seems to fumble her way through life, dating and friendships in the most ridiculous way.
Not only will this novel spur bubbles of laughter up reader's throats, it also sparks self-awareness. Although Batuman's plot line may not offer insight into what life is like beyond university, many readers will recognize themselves within the quirky protagonist. This will prompt a reflection on how far they've come since they entered their college classroom doors years ago.
“Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter And How To Make The Most Of Them Now” by Meg Jay
This book is a love letter to twenty-somethings who have always been taught to overexert themselves in their twenties (so they can relax in their thirties) with a burnout hangover.
“Defining Decade” is research and statistics heavy, but the lessons are lightweight. More importantly, it doesn't drone on with the same follow your dreams spiel. Jay offers insights into how to navigate this vital decade of academic and career choices. She exposes lessons often neglected from the traditional handbooks, such as enjoying yourself, dating, health and finding hobbies outside the 9-5 grind.
“The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer
Wolitzer's fictional narrative follows six individuals from childhood to adulthood on their quest to make an interesting life for themselves.
The plot centers around what growth and development look like in different lives, but it also dips into themes of friendships, envy, mental health and how dreams evolve over time. Although it’s not an obvious choice, this is a book every new graduate should pick up because it tackles the complexities of growing up and being on different paths than your friends. There's a character that each reader can recognize themselves in and the story is an excellent reminder of how readers have the power to make their lives whatever they want them to be.
“The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan
In 2012, Marina Keegan graduated from Yale; five days later, she died in a car accident.
“The Opposite of Loneliness” is a compilation of stories and essays written by Keegan during her time in university that capture the ups and downs of love, life and growing up. Each fictional or first-person narrative invites questions on how privilege impacts success, the uncertainty of our choices and how optimistic dreams become realistic. But, in the end, it's a reminder of how much readers have to offer to the world.
Although differing in genre and style, these six books offer the vital insight that life beyond the classroom doors is different for everyone, and there is much to look forward to in the next chapter.