17 Books to Give to a '17 Graduate Instead of "Oh the Places You'll Go"

Perhaps it's a tad unfair to pick on the late, great Dr. Seuss's ubiquitous (at least at graduation time) classic "Oh the Places You'll Go" but you have to admit that it's been a bit overplayed. One reddit user stated it best:

It’s a sweet sentiment when it comes from close friends and family.

However it’s become the lowest possible effort gift for a graduate. Between my sister and me we now own 9 copies of that book.

It just got tremendously awkward opening the multiple copies, because everyone knows that the gratitude is mostly forced by that point.
— Cpu46

But it's 2017 and you have children, nephews/nieces, and neighbors graduating from high school or college and you are on the hook for some sort of meaningful gift. So if you want to stray from the herd and give your graduate a different uplifting/inspiring/helpful title on graduation, what's your best bet? Below are 17 titles that every graduate should own as they venture out into the world on their own, curated by the book community on reddit.

 

Synopsis: 

Our "thirty-is-the-new-twenty" culture tells us the twentysomething years don't matter. Some say they are a second adolescence. Others call them an emerging adulthood. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, argues that twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.

Drawing from a decade of work with hundreds of twentysomething clients and students, THE DEFINING DECADE weaves the latest science of the twentysomething years with behind-closed-doors stories from twentysomethings themselves. The result is a provocative read that provides the tools necessary to make the most of your twenties, and shows us how work, relationships, personality, social networks, identity, and even the brain can change more during this decade than at any other time in adulthood-if we use the time wisely. 

THE DEFINING DECADE is a smart, compassionate and constructive book about the years we cannot afford to miss.

Synopsis: 

Meditations is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy. Aurelius wrote the 12 books of the Meditations as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement.


Marcus Aurelius has been lauded for his capacity "to write down what was in his heart just as it was, not obscured by any consciousness of the presence of listeners or any striving after effect". Gilbert Murray compares the work to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions and St. Augustine's Confessions. Though Murray criticizes Marcus for the "harshness and plainness of his literary style", he finds in his Meditations "as much intensity of feeling...as in most of the nobler modern books of religion, only [with] a sterner power controlling it". "People fail to understand Marcus", he writes, "not because of his lack of self-expression, but because it is hard for most men to breathe at that intense height of spiritual life, or, at least, to breathe soberly".
 

Synopsis: 

Family Inc. is not just a personal finance book;it is a "how to" guide for achieving financial security. By borrowing time tested principles used in business and applying them to family financial planning, Family Inc. provides a powerful framework for navigating all of life's big financial decisions. You will learn how to think strategically as the Family Chief Financial Officer; how to make investments in education and yourself to benefit your career; how to manage your hard earned money to make it work for you; how to use financial products like insurance, investments and debt; how to think like an entrepreneur; how to achieve peace of mind in retirement and how to teach your family these important life skills.  Every family needs a CFO to navigate the "financial game of life", and the principles of corporate finance apply from the boardroom to the living room. Family Inc. delivers practical, actionable advice in the form of CFO training to help you plot a real-world family financial plan.

Synopsis:

The Automatic Millionaire starts with the powerful story of an average American couple--he’s a low-level manager, she’s a beautician--whose joint income never exceeds $55,000 a year, yet who somehow manage to own two homes debt-free, put two kids through college, and retire at 55 with more than $1 million in savings. Through their story you’ll learn the surprising fact that you cannot get rich with a budget! You have to have a plan to pay yourself first that is totally automatic, a plan that will automatically secure your future and pay for your present.
 
David gives you a totally realistic system, based on timeless principles, with everything you need to know, including phone numbers, websites and apps, so you can put the secret to becoming an Automatic Millionaire in place from the comfort of your own home. 

Synopsis:

Combining fascinating research with revealing commentary from hundreds of women, this groundbreaking book explores the personal and societal reasons women seldom ask for what they need, want, and deserve at home and at work–and shows how they can develop this crucial skill.

By neglecting to negotiate her starting salary for her first job, a woman may sacrifice over half a million dollars in earnings by the end of her career. Yet, as research reveals, men are four times more likely to ask for higher pay than are women with the same qualifications. From career promotions to help with child care, studies show time and again that women don’t ask–and frequently don’t even realize that they can. Women Don’t Ask offers real-life examples of the differences between the negotiating habits of men and women, and guides women in retooling their attitudes and approaches.

Synopsis: 

A collection of sketches rather than a novel, this work tells of battling with a tornado in the Andes; of crashing in the Libyan desert; and of action, adventure and danger.

To be a man is, precisely, to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one’s comrades. It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Synopsis: 

A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole's hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures" (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times).

Biggest lesson I got is that it’s ok to not know who you are, or who you want to be. It’s a ridiculous book with many little hidden lessons, but that’s mostly what I got out of it.
— twald0

Synopsis: 

The Boglehead's Guide to Investing is a DIY handbook that espouses the sage investment wisdom of John C. Bogle. This witty and wonderful book offers contrarian advice that provides the first step on the road to investment success, illustrating how relying on typical "common sense" promoted by Wall Street is destined to leave you poorer. This updated edition includes new information on backdoor Roth IRAs and ETFs as mainstream buy and hold investments, estate taxes and gifting, plus changes to the laws regarding Traditional and Roth IRAs, and 401k and 403b retirement plans. With warnings and principles both precisely accurate and grandly counterintuitive, the Boglehead authors show how beating the market is a zero-sum game.

Synopsis: 

The world's most popular job-search book is updated for 2017, tailoring its long-trusted guidance with up-to-the-minute information and advice for today's job-hunters and career-changers. 

In today's challenging job-market, the time-tested advice of What Color Is Your Parachute? is needed more than ever. Recent grads facing a tough economic landscape, workers laid off mid-career, and people searching for an inspiring work-life change all look to career guru Richard N. Bolles for support, encouragement, and advice on which job-hunt strategies work--and which don't. This revised and updated edition combines classic elements like the famed Flower Exercise with updated tips on social media and search tactics. Bolles demystifies the entire job-search process, from resumes to interviewing to networking, expertly guiding job-hunters toward their dream job.

Synopsis: 

For more than sixty years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.
Now this previously revised and updated bestseller is available in trade paperback for the first time to help you achieve your maximum potential throughout the next century! Learn:

* Three fundamental techniques in handling people

* The six ways to make people like you

* The twelve ways to win people to you way of thinking

* The nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

Synopsis:

Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of “maps” or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Gödel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.

Synopsis:

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

At the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.

Synopsis:

What’s making us fat? And how can we change? Building upon his critical work in Good Calories, Bad Calories and presenting fresh evidence for his claim, bestselling author Gary Taubes revisits these urgent questions. 

Taubes reveals the bad nutritional science of the last century—none more damaging or misguided than the “calories-in, calories-out” model of why we get fat—and the good science that has been ignored. He also answers the most persistent questions: Why are some people thin and others fat? What roles do exercise and genetics play in our weight? What foods should we eat, and what foods should we avoid? Persuasive, straightforward, and practical, Why We Get Fat is an essential guide to nutrition and weight management.

Synopsis:

The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway's masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway's most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

Synopsis:

A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?
When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." --Randy Pausch

Synopsis:

In his award-winning guide, communications expert Danny Rubin provides more than 100 email/document templates for networking and the job search. With each template, Rubin saves you time and takes the stress out of professional email writing.

Wait, How Do I Write This Email? is a perfect resource for people who need to build relationships and grow into careers. It's also used in high schools, colleges, workforce development programs and even the Pentagon as part of in communications courses for senior-level personnel.


Page after page, Rubin offers detailed instructions for networking (ex: how to contact alumni from your school) and the job search (ex: how to apply even if the company has no openings at the time).


He also includes smart LinkedIn templates, memorable handwritten notes, the outline for a powerful one-page resume and a fresh cover letter strategy with a focus on storytelling.

Synopsis:

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, a widely influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and Eastern philosophy. Aside from his legacy as the author of The Art of War, Sun Tzu is revered in Chinese and the Culture of Asia as a legendary historical figure. His birth name was Sun Wu, and he was known outside of his family by his courtesy name Changqing. The name Sun Tzu by which he is best known in the West is an honorific which means "Master Sun." Sun Tzu's work has been praised and employed throughout East Asia since its composition. During the twentieth century, The Art of War grew in popularity and saw practical use in Western society as well. It continues to influence many competitive endeavors in Asia, Europe, and America including culture, politics, business, and sports, as well as modern warfare.