Thursday, April 23, 2015

Graduation Gifts

Graduation is rapidly approaching (as in, I'll be walking that stage in only 15 days), so I thought now would be a good time to throw out some suggestions for gift ideas for your favorite bookworm/graduate.

I think books make great gifts because a book is something that a person can receive, enjoy, and then keep on a bookshelf (if it has special meaning) or pass along to a great cause (like the local library, a book drive, or just a friend in need of a good read). Books don't have to be sized (in the physical sense) so that's a plus, though I think that a gift-giver should put genuine thought into the correct fit when picking a book for a loved one.

Books are an especially meaningful gift between friends and family members because they convey a certain message, and one that is poignant for graduates. Mainly, a book conveys that the recipient is intelligent and capable of critical thought, but also in a position in which he or she should continue to seek wisdom and experience. I know quite a few people who will be walking that stage this month, but I don't know of two people who are pursuing the exact same path, and that's what makes college graduations so thrilling-- there is a plethora of options to choose from when picking a book to give to a person who is about to go into the world as a full-time adult. 

Graduating from college feels different than graduating from high school for various reasons, one of them being that when we graduated from high school, the majority of students in my class were going on to college. That is, we were all moving on at the same time, and while we were all off to experience college in different parts of the country, we were moving on to places of similar nature. Now, there's no typical path post-graduation. Some of us (like myself) are moving on to graduate school, others are taking time off to travel the world, others have employment contracts waiting for them, and still others are in a season of just trying to figure things out. And no matter what people are doing, it's exciting to hear about. After moving across the country in elementary school and transferring to a new college my sophomore year, I'm used to having loved ones scattered around the country, but after this summer, I'll have so many new addresses to send snail mail to and lots more places to visit when I have wanderlust. I love the anticipation of trying to guess where we'll all be five years from now (and I'm sure that the reality will be nothing like I'm picturing, which makes it even more suspenseful)!

So now that I've rambled on about a fraction of the feelings that I have concerning graduation, let me get to the gift-giving. I've picked out six books that will make great gifts for your graduate!

Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss // You didn't think I would start this list with another book, did you? Ha! This is arguably the most popular graduation-gift book (and common for high school graduates to receive), but I love the whimsy of Dr. Seuss and I think it's a good reminder for graduates that the world is so full of opportunities-- just because you may be on one path now does not mean that all other doors are closed. 
Gift it to: the education major, the children's literature lover, the adventurer, or the nostalgic one in your friend group!

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg // This has been popular with female graduates since its publication in 2013. It's all about asking for more in the workplace, pursuing positions of leadership, and that major stressor of work/life balance. (P.S. There's also a Lean in For Graduates, with additional material specifically relevant to this time in life. Perfect!)
Gift it to: the business major, the budding entrepreneur, the one who does it all (how do some people come up with the time?), and that friend who you just know is going to fight her way to the top and absolutely rock it when she makes it. 

Yes Please by Amy Poehler // You can read my review of this book here, and if you haven't read it yet, I'd recommend picking up one for yourself and one for the graduate in your life. Amy talks a lot about how much work it took to make it to the top of the comedy ring, and is a role model for women (and men!) of all ages. She's proof that you can come from ordinary circumstances and achieve great things. 
Gift it to: the theater major, the one who wants to do anything but business, the funny one, the one all about girl-power, and the one who has no idea what she's going to do post graduation. 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo // This novel is about a young shepherd boy who sets out on a journey of self-discovery that takes him from the fields of Spain to the Egyptian desert. I read it as a teenager during a month-long trip abroad that followed a very similar route, and was struck by the power of its message. It's held a very special spot on my shelves in the years since, and I always turn back to it when I feel myself questioning the path I'm on. It's amassed quite a following because it speaks a lot to the importance of following your dreams and listening to your heart-- which sounds cheesy as I type it, but is so poignant at a crossroads-type moment in a person's life.
Gift it to: The traveler, the adventure-seeker, the one who can't decide where to go next, the one who impulsively decides to move abroad (hey, we've all considered it, haven't we?), the hippie of the friend group, and the one who's core mission is to pursue meaning and truth in life.

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder // This book was my go-to recommendation for years after I first read it. It's the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who is described as a "world class Robin Hood," a man whose central tenet is that "the only real nation is humanity." He's a physician, a professor, an award winner, and an inspiring figure. He co-founded a small charity called Partners in Health, a foundation that you can read about here. In the 1980's, he went to Haiti to establish health care systems for the disadvantaged. His story is incredible and ignites a sense of global duty in those who read it. Kidder herself is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, so she's another person to look up to for those who want to tell stories about the people who change the world.
Gift it to: the public health major, the journalism major, the one going to medical school, and the one who wants to change the world.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King // With over fifty novels published since the early 1970's, King knows all of the ups and downs of being a successful author. Strangely enough, this book is the only work by Stephen King that I've read (though I recently picked up 11/22/63 to tackle this summer), and I read it as a kid who found myself wanting desperately to become an author. My dreams have taken a different direction since then, but I wouldn't hesitate to pore over this again. I mean, King did initially throw away his first draft of Carrie, so readers can draw connections between frustration and feelings of failure and the rewards of perseverance. 
Gift it to: the english major, the creative writing major, the one who has started writing 3 novels but never finished, the one with dreams of becoming the next F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Do you have a favorite book to gift on special occasions, or one that holds a special place on your shelves? Share below!


  1. I started having teachers fill out "Oh the Places You'll Go" when my son was about 18mos old in preschool and he is 7 now! It's a special and easy tradition.

    1. I love that idea! It's lovely that he'll have those comments from all of his teachers when he graduates!