Friday, June 18, 2010

Books to Start a Life

This week, a friend graduated from college with her RN degree.  We were so proud of her!  It got me thinking about graduation gifts.  There is the gold standard of grad gifts: Oh, the Places You'll Go!  Then there are those small books on leadership and pursuing your dreams.  Those are great choices for encouraging grads, but it got me thinking: What book would I choose to give a graduate.  Here's what I came up with:

1. Letters to a Young Poet - you don't have to be a poet to get something out of this book.  I "reviewed" it earlier this year, but it is eminently quotable and deep enough to require re-reading to get it all.  It is one of those books a young person needs on their desk to refer back to in uncertain times. 

2. East of Eden - the concepts taught about choosing how your life will go can be freeing to a young person as they set out in life.   Thou mayest.

3.  The Complete O. Henry - little gems, short stories, happy reading.

4.  The Compete (Fill In the Blank) Poems - it doesn't matter who writes the poetry, having the classic poets around will help you when you first fall in love, the first time you lose your job, when your room mate goes crazy and you think you are going to have to call the cops (wait, maybe that won't happen in everyone's life).

5.  A Journal - I know this sounds corny, but what are graduation presents for.  This is not just any journal - if you can find one, get one without lines.  Even if the graduate isn't a writer, they will enjoy the metaphor of filling the pages of a life they haven't yet begun. 

What would book would you get for a graduate?  What books start a life?



  1. One of my favorite books I received after I graduated from college was "What Now" by Ann Patchett. She basically outlines that it's ok to not have a set plan right after graduation and the not knowing can lead you in the right direction.

  2. Funny you should ask--I just posted about this the other day! East of Eden is on my list too. I regret not adding Rilke, especially since that crossed my mind!

  3. I popped over after you commented on my blog :)
    I'll have a look around :)

  4. Any friend of East of Eden is a friend of mine. Pure genius and one of the best depictions of family relations among men ever written. What would I add? Strangely enough, I think The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Andrew Turnbull, Ed.) contains some really valuable introspection on the part of Fitzgerald and some great advice on choosing your way in the world to his daughter.

  5. I just got to pick out books for my sister-in-law who was graduating from college! We gave her When You Reach Me (for her little kid self), The Help (for her grown-up self), and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (for her spirit). I am not well versed in the classics, but those are definitely some of my favorites.

  6. Thanks for the suggestions on additions. I haven't heard of some of them, so I will have to check them out.