Cheers to the Class of 2021! All recent high school and college graduates faced a uniquely complicated experience. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting their academic school year, be sure to remind the graduate in your life how proud you are of them. Celebrate their launch into adulthood with a book that will promote critical thinking and start important conversations. The following list will help you find the right book for your grad and you might even buy one for yourself!

Books for Graduates

  1. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter by Meg Jay

I received this book for graduation and loved it! The revised edition was updated during the COVID pandemic so it is especially relevant for the class of 2021. The book is split into three parts: Work, Love and Brain & Body. I love that the book consists of interviews between the researcher and real people. There is something in this book for everyone, so it’s safe to give to a graduate you may not know that well.

  1. Dedicated: A Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing by Pete Davis

The culture of restlessness and indecision,” Davis argues, “is causing tension in the lives of young people today: We want to keep our options open, and yet we yearn for the purpose, community, and depth that can only come from making deep commitments.” 

Two days after my graduation ceremony, I was walking around a bookstore and stumbled into Dedicated. After reading the front cover, I had to purchase it for myself. I think this book covers something that goes unsaid yet a lot of people my age struggle with: indecision and excess of perceived options. This is an excellent food-for-thought book for those who appreciate cultural reflection and introspection.

  1. Design Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans: 

Design Your Life is the research and practical teachings of two professors from the Stanford School of Design combined into one awesome book. This well-rounded book is part educational material and part activity-based workbook. The foundational mindsets for life design are Curiosity, Bias to Action, Reframing and Radical Collaboration. 

My business school gave all first-year students a copy of this book upon moving to campus and I still reference my well-loved copy to this day! This book is excellent for any designers in your life or those who are serious about fostering a life of intention.

  1. If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? by Kurt Vonnegut

As a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, this book was very special to me. It is a compilation of various commencement speeches he gave during his career. I find his take on the world to be sincere, joyful and serious when necessary. This is a nice read for those pressed for time since it is a series of speeches that can be read in any order at any time. If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? would make a great gift for anyone, but especially those who studied English or Literature.

  1. What I Know Now: Letter to my Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins

In another moving collection of short stories, Ellyn Spragins combines letters from 41 famous women writers addressed to the women they once were. This book is brimming with advice and insightful stories they wish they had had when they were younger. Some of the contributing letter writers include Madeleine Albright, Maya Angelou, Vanna White, Trisha Yearwood, and many more.

Send your favorite female graduate off into the world with a powerful book to remind her she is a product of the women who came before her!