Out Into the World: Graduation Season Reading

Originally published in the May 27, 2014 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission. If you don't already receive it, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

Graduation season is upon us, and with it, commencement speeches. With any luck, every graduate will be moved by his or her commencement speaker to look at the big, daunting world and go forth with confidence; for those not so lucky, a few favored speeches of recent years are available in print.

Neil Gaiman's speech from Philadelphia's University of the Arts, Make Good Art, is perfect for any grad pursuing a creative career, be it writing or sculpture or film; the message speaks to the creative process, but the book itself is downright beautiful, with highly stylized fonts and layouts presenting Gaiman's already highly creative ideas. George Saunders's moving speech from Syracuse University is also available for this year's grads to read and cherish in Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness.

Lean In offers insight and wisdom for women entering the workforce for the first time, and Sheryl Sandberg's updated edition, Lean In for Graduates, provides even more. The new edition features expanded sections on résumé writing and building, interviewing and negotiating, and making the most of one's first job. Continuing the theme of Gaiman's Make Good Art, Sandberg's graduate advice also centers on being true to one's self.

For those still pondering what "true to one's self" really means, Picador's School of Life series offers a wealth of practical tips for making the most of the one precious life we have. For grads who want to make a difference in the world, there's How to Change the World by John-Paul Flintoff; those uncertain of their next step might appreciate Roman Krznaric's How to Find Fulfilling Work. Either volume, along with Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, would make the perfect graduation gift, encouraging those embarking on new adventures to do so with courage and self-assurance, even when the world can seem a scary place.

What's missing from above? What's your favorite book to give as a graduation gift?

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