47 Books Every College Grad Should Read
The reading doesn't end with class.
1. Congratulations, by the Way by George Saunders
Taken from his 2013 commencement address at Syracuse University, George Saunders reminds us of the power of kindness and how it leads to a more fulfilling life.
2. Spinster by Kate Bolick
Think of Spinster as the "A Room of One's Own" for the 21st century. Kate Bolick's book is both a memoir and a reflection on her literary heroines who positively exemplified the way of the spinster.
3. Civil Wars by June Jordan
Meet your new favorite essayist who you will champion and talk about for the rest of your life. June Jordan's sharp essays cover everything from race to sexuality to education while blurring the lines between the political and the personal.
4. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Dear Sugar is like "Dear Abby," but cooler, better, and with Cheryl Strayed. Enough said.
5. White Girls by Hilton Als
Hilton Als' unique blend of cultural criticism, fiction, and memoir not only challenges our assumptions of what a collection of writing can be, but his categorization of "white girls" encompasses a wide array of individuals across racial, sexual, and gender identities.
6. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
It's considered one of the top essay collections of 2014 for a reason. Leslie Jamison's in-depth look at different manifestations of empathy — within herself and others — is essential reading for everyone.
7. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
There are autobiographies. Then there's Nelson Mandela's 700+ page tour de force, which he began writing during his 27-year imprisonment on Robben Island.
8. #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso
The road to success isn't always smooth, but Sophia Amoruso's story will inspire you to be a #GirlBoss too.
9. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Can you be feminist and enjoy dancing to "Blurred Lines"? And adore Channing Tatum's abs? And fight rape culture, all at once? Roxane Gay's collection of essays is a resounding and affirming yes.
10. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and quickly became close friends. Patchett's memoir is a tribute to the love and struggles in our friendships.
11. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Now's the time to brush up on all the quirky science lessons you may have forgotten. In his quest to explain nearly everything, Bill Bryson is like the professor you wish you had.
12. The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
Perhaps all the more timely because of Marina Keegan's sudden death, her essays and stories stand as reminders to take hold of every moment and cherish it.
13. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Coping with life after college can be difficult, and it's easy to feel alone in the struggle. Jeffrey Eugenides' novel is a reminder that no matter which struggles we face, we aren't alone.
14. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca Solnit is credited with coining the term "mansplaining" from her titular essay of this collection. But it's so much more than that: Men Explain Things to Me is the perfect introduction to Solnit.
15. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling won't be returning to our TV sets (yet), but thank goodness we can open her book for encouragement and witty observations to get us through.
16. The Circle by Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers' 2013 novel is deeply unsettling, but it provides a fascinating commentary on the lives of postgrads.
17. The Most of Nora Ephron by Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron took on many roles during her career as a writer: journalist, advocate, screenwriter, and playwright. Read the very best of her work in this wonderful collection.
18. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
A guide to self-care before it was called self-care, Virginia Woolf's words stand as a reminder that creating a space that's all your own is important, for yourself and your work.
19. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Written in the wake of the Holocaust, psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor E. Frankl's book illuminates how to forge a meaningful life in spite of any challenge or difficulty you may face.
20. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Joan Didion hardly needs an introduction. Her quintessential essays "On Self-Respect" and "Goodbye to All That" are must-reads for as you embark on your postgrad journey.
21. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
A memoir told through the lens of four different novels, Azar Nafisi will shed new light on some of your favorite books from college and the way they speak across geographical boundaries.
22. The Group by Mary McCarthy
Though Mary McCarthy wrote this novel in 1963 about a group of college graduates from 1933, some things never change: relationships, friendships, and sex.
23. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Based on professor Randy Pausch's "last lecture" to his students at Carnegie Mellon, his advice on "really achieving your childhood dreams" is essential reading for graduates.
24. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
In some ways, David Sedaris is like a real-life, grown-up version of Charlie Brown: Things are always a little grim and melancholic, but there is joy to be found nonetheless.
25. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Heartbreaking and humorous at turns, Alison Bechdel's graphic novel memoir gives us a glimpse into how secrets and legacies shape our families and ourselves.
26. My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum
Meghan Daum's essays are a candid and sometimes unflattering examination of life in New York City as a twentysomething in the 1990s, credit card debt and all.
27. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace
Taken from his 2005 commencement address to Kenyon College, This Is Water is like the older cousin of Oh, the Places You'll Go. Get a box of tissues ready.
28. H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
In the wake of her father's death, Helen Macdonald, an experienced falconer, decided to work with the dangerous goshawk. The book provides a sweeping and genre-crossing look into the different ways we grieve.
29. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Yes Please isn't only the title of Amy Poehler's book; it's your new approach to life.
30. The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
Maybe going to grad school isn't quite in the cards yet, but for now, Elif Batuman's adventures and travels through the world of Russian literature will keep you entertained.
31. The Night of the Gun by David Carr
There may never be another journalist quite like David Carr. His memoir isn't just about his journey from crack addict to New York Times journalist; it's about the stories we tell ourselves and the ones we define ourselves by.
32. Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton
It's a memoir about food, travel, and ultimately triumph. Need we say more?
33. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Completed during her final year at Cambridge, Zadie Smith's debut novel is a profound consideration of how our rash choices can drastically alter the future.
34. Generation X by Douglas Coupland
Douglas Coupland's novel of drifting post–baby boomers rings true for this year's college grads as much as it did in 1991. Hang on to this one when someone tries to single out our particular generation for a target.
35. Just Kids by Patti Smith
Patti Smith's memoir is about living in New York City as a young person in the 1960s and 1970s. But more importantly, it's about friendship and finding your own way.
36. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
For all the history not covered in class, spend time learning about America from the bottom up through the eyes of the working class. This is a history book you won't mind carrying around on your commute.
37. The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick
You've learned how to write a killer analysis of The Great Gatsby, but what about writing your own story? Vivian Gornick will help you sort out what makes a personal essay come together.
38. Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York edited by Sari Botton
Living in New York City isn't always fun, but these 17 writers will remind you of the beauty found in the struggle.
39. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang
With his blunt style, Eddie Huang's memoir is ultimately about defying expectations and living by your own rules. It also happens to the basis of ABC's hit show of the same name.
40. At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches by Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag's writing is essential for understanding the world around us. Begin with her essays and speeches and find a lifelong intellectual companion.
41. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath
Go beyond Sylvia Plath's poetry and gain insight into her inspirations and struggles as a young woman balancing her talents, marriage, and motherhood against the expectations of the mid-century.
42. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Never has a family's history been more fascinating. Without the pressures of school or pending essays, spend a week with Gabriel García Márquez's epic novel.
43. Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
Being an adult and taking on all the responsibilities that come with it aren't as intimidating with Kelly Williams Brown's helpful advice on everything from how to find an apartment to avoiding office hookups.
44. All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
Love is more than a feeling; it is an action. Feminist scholar bell hooks deconstructs what our societal and cultural expectations of love are and calls for a love based in action and redemption.
45. Novels in Three Lines by Félix Fénéon
Before Twitter, there was art critic Félix Fénéon. A masterclass in storytelling, Fénéon's three-line "novels" range from tragic to funny and reveal how everyday life can be mined for inspiration.
46. My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
Our favorite books often speak to greater truths in our lives. Rebecca Mead traces the importance of George Eliot's Middlemarch through the years in its historical context and within her own life.
47. After the Tall Timber by Renata Adler
While a prominent writer, Renata Adler's work has experienced a revival in past years. From her dispatches from the civil rights march in Selma to her scathing critique of film critic Pauline Kael in "House Critic," Adler's writing is necessary reading for anyone who aspires to a career in journalism.