Adjusting to post-college life can be rough—you may be done with classes, homework and finals, but you’ve come to the realization that it’s no longer socially acceptable to wear sweatpants every day, make dinner in a microwave, and binge-watch Netflix every night—even if it was okay to do so just a few months ago. You’re not the only one! That’s why I’m directing you right to the pros. Here are 16 books every recent grad should read, by everyone from career experts to fellow post-collegiettes.
1. Welcome to the Real World by Lauren Berger
Welcome to the Real World, by Lauren Berger of InternQueen.com, is a must if you’re looking for or starting your first job. It’ll provide you with valuable information you’ll want to know before taking your first step into adulthood. Berger emphasizes the importance of taking risks and having a strong understanding of who you are and what you can bring to a company as a potential new employee. “It’s time to get comfortable getting uncomfortable,” she advises. This book will help you build a strong foundation—by the time you finish reading it, you’ll have a great understanding of what to expect from a full-time job.
2. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
A ton of schools host events where professors give talks they like to call their “Last Lecture.” For these lectures, professors discuss what matters most to them and share their wisdom as if it were truly their last lecture. Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer when he was asked to give his “last lecture.” However, Paush’s lecture wasn’t about dying—it was about living. It explores why it’s important to strive to overcome every challenge you face in life and how to seize every moment. Pausch’s The Last Lecture will help you see the world in a new light. His philosophies and life lessons emphasize the importance of striving to make the most out of your life, something that all college grads should aim to achieve.
3. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Marina Keegan graduated magna cum laude from Yale University in May 2012. She was on the road to success. She wrote a play that was scheduled to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and had a job lined up at The New Yorker after graduation. Tragedy struck just five days after Keegan graduated when she died in a car crash. After her passing, her unforgettable essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral and received over 1.4 million hits. Regardless of her young age, Marina managed to leave behind a valuable piece of writing that captures the aspirations and abilities of our generation. This book is thought-provoking and will help you figure out what you aspire to be and how to harness your talent to make an impact on the world.
4. What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles
What Color Is Your Parachute? sold more than ten million copies—and we totally get why. This book provides you with up-to-date information, research and tips regarding the job market, how to write resumes and cover letters, effective networking tips, how to negotiate your salary and strategies you should follow to find those jobs people tell you don’t exist.
5. Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
The back of the book states, “If you graduated from college but still feel like a student… if you wear a business suit to job interviews but pajamas to the grocery store… if you have your own apartment but no idea how to cook or clean… it’s OK. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just because you don’t feel like an adult doesn’t mean you can’t act like one.” We don’t know about you, but this certainly seems to apply to the majority of graduettes! This funny book makes the scary “real world” seem totally conquerable. Whether you’re looking for simple recipes, networking advice or tips on how to be taken seriously at work, this book has your answers. It’s pretty much the handbook to have by your side as an aspiring grown-up entering the real world.
6. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
We all know how hard life can be sometimes, but what we sometimes overlook is how truly great it can be, too. Sugar—a once-anonymous online advice columnist—was everyone’s go-to person for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things is an aggregation of the best of Dear Sugar. This book teaches you lessons through a tough-love tone of voice. You’ll be laughing and gaining valuable insight on all the the challenges life can throw your way.
7. The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces by Kyle Schuneman
What’s scarier than moving into your very first apartment? How about moving into your first apartment before you can actually afford an apartment big enough to live in comfortably? Your first apartment lets you have full control of what you want to do with your space, but it can be a little tricky to decorate. Luckily, Kyle Schuneman, a decorating prodigy, understands that a non-existent income and plain, white walls don’t have to stand in your way. He provides excellent examples of ways to take a small space and turn it into a cozy place you’re proud to call home.
8. Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. She uses this book to share her knowledge on how to avoid common obstacles and advance your career. An excellent read for women who have recently graduated, Lean In teaches how to strive toward your aspirations and career goals. When the book first came out in 2013, it became a phenomenon for empowering women. This book’s combination of inspiration and advice is what makes it such a powerful tool for young women.
9. Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale
These two women—best friends since the moment they met during their freshman year at Brown University—made a promise to keep in touch after graduation through emails full of all the juicy details of their post-college adventures. One moves to Beijing while the other heads to New York. Both girls spend the next few years battling their way through adulthood and composing emails to another regarding all their exciting tales. This book is an easy, fun read that you will not want to put down. The emails between the two authors are exciting to read and recent graduates will find themselves able to relate to the authors’ stories and experiences in ways that are happy, sad, funny and exhilarating.
10. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you should stop learning. And who better to help you learn than Stephen King himself? He is a true storyteller and uses this book to share his expertise and his story on how his writing got to be where it is now. Gia Gallone, a recent graduate from Rowan University with a love for writing, believes this book is a great tool to help anyone looking to strengthen his or her writing. “Stephen King is an amazing writer. If you’re looking for a book to read that will help you enhance your writing abilities, definitely check out this book,” she recommends.
12. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell believes success is a combination of opportunity and time spent on a task. He is a believer in the 10,000-hour rule: that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to master anything. In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Gladwell takes you on a journey through the world of “outliers”—the best and the brightest, the famous and successful. He focuses on what makes these people different. He believes we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from. This book is a great eye-opener, filled with stories and lessons weaved together into one valuable, interesting book.
13. Put Your Dream to the Test by John C. Maxwell
“What’s the difference between a dreamer and someone who achieves a dream?” Dr. John Maxwell believes you will find the answer to this question after answering ten questions. This book provides you with a step-by-step plan to identify, follow, and eventually reach your dream. This is a perfect book to read after graduating when your dreams and possibilities are endless!
14. Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want by Jenny Blake
Life After College serves as a guide written specifically for recent grads and young professionals. Jenny Blake, popular blogger and life coach, uses a combination of anecdotes, insight and inspirational quotes to help readers focus on the big picture of many different aspects of life: work, money, home, friends & family, organization, dating & relationships, health, fun, relaxation and personal growth. This read will leave you feeling confident, inspired and ready to take action toward building the life you want. You’ll be embarking on your big post-college journey in no time with this manual by your side.
15. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Remember when we mentioned it’s no longer acceptable to make dinner in your microwave? Well, with that being said, now is a great time to invest in a handful of cookbooks. Pinterest is a great tool to use for finding recipes, but having cookbooks at home will help you improve your cooking abilities even further. Bittman has a whole series of How to Cook Everything books with over 4,000 recipes, ranging from holiday recipes, easy weekend recipes, vegetarian recipes and quick and simple recipes. Check them out!
16. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke by Suze Orman
Last, but certainly not least, every graduette needs to manage her finances… or lack thereof. You know all those money-related topics we all try our best to avoid thinking about: credit card debt, student loans, credit scores and insurance? Well, get ready to face it head-on. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke is a great guide to read when you don’t know where to begin when it comes to budgeting, personal finances and every other not-so-popular money topic.
Spend some time this summer reading these books and you’ll be a real-world pro in no time! We promise.