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9 Best Books for Graduates (High School & College)

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We all know that learning doesn't end when you have a diploma in hand. So, below are the best books for graduates -- high school or college -- which I have personally read and would recommend for you to gift to others to both celebrate their accomplishments and give the gift of continuing education.

These books all feel so personal and relevant to my personal growth that I also included my favorite tidbits and quotes throughout. They will even inspire non-graduating readers!

Top 3 Best Books for Graduates

Inspires graduates to lead with meaning

Inspires graduates of all ages

Inspires graduates to forge their own paths

More Best Books for Graduates

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Brené Brown is the beloved and renowned "shame" researcher sharing new research about leaders, change-makers, and culture shifters in Dare to Lead. She teaches us how to put those ideas into practice so we can step up and meaningfully lead.

For Brown, leaders hold themselves accountable for recognizing potential and developing that potential. Dare to Lead encourages leaders to choose courage over comfort in order to make a difference in a culture that's defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty. This means working on empathy, connection, and vulnerability.

I couldn't be a bigger fan of Brené and the research-backed work she has done, which she delivers in her unique Southern twang to make us better people from the inside out, so I highly recommend Dare to Lead.

A few of my favorite quotes are below to give you a taste:

Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.

- Brené Brown

Having the grounded confidence to rely on the skills we’ve developed over time allows us to focus on higher-order objectives, challenges, and goals.

- Brené Brown

We avoid tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback.

- Brené Brown

Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

-Brené Brown

Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

The #1 international best seller

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In became an instant catchphrase empowering women. She pulls from her own experience as an employee of the world's most successful businesses and opines as to how women can make small changes in their work-life that can effect change for working women on a universal scale.

Lean In is quite simply a must-read!


The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Melinda Gates is the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and throughout her journey with the Foundation, she learned that, if you want to lift a society, you should invest in women.

In The Moment of Lift, Gates explains the tremendous opportunities that exist to catapult change, and she provides simple and effective ways each person can make a difference.

She believes in family planning, access to jobs, equality in household work, paid family leave for all, and the elimination of gender bias.

The Moment of Lift is a very personal and unforgettable book that has to power to change the world.

A few of my favorite quotes are below to give you a taste:

How can we summon a moment of lift for human beings—and especially for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.

- Melinda Gates

“What do you know now in a deeper way than you knew it before?” I love this question because it honors how we learn and grow. Wisdom isn’t about accumulating more facts; it’s about understanding big truths in a deeper way.

- Melinda Gates

When you send a girl to school, the good deed never dies. It goes on for generations advancing every public good, from health to economic gain to gender equity and national prosperity.

- Melinda Gates

When women can reduce the time they spend on unpaid work, they increase the time they spend on paid work. In fact, cutting women’s unpaid work from five hours a day to three boosts women’s participation in the labor force by about 20 percent.

- Melinda Gates

Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss

Oh, the Places You'll Go! may forever be the quintessential graduation book filled with quotes for graduates of all ages -- and that's because its lessons are so universal and timeless.

Dr. Seuss touches upon life's ups and downs with the rhythmic style for which he is known, suggesting at deeper truths to live by, like this one:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...


Originals : How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

 #1 New York Times bestseller

Originals is a favorite book of mine, as well as one of the best books for men to read, so I am thrilled to have the perfect post on which to share it as one of the best books for graduates. Grant explores the modern workplace and culture-based initiatives like recognizing a good idea, speaking up without being silenced, building a team of allies, knowing when to act, managing your fear and doubt and welcoming dissent.

Grant draws upon real like examples to make his points in favor of non-conformity, from Steve Jobs at Apple to the CIA and Seinfeld.

Originals is one book that modern leaders will need a permanent copy to read and re-read over again.


The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey

If Oprah writes something, I will read it. And The Path Made Clear is the perfect compilation of her learned lessons.

Oprah shares the quintessentially "Oprah" guide for recognizing your deepest vision of yourself and for creating a life of purpose with that vision.

Oprah is her usual transparent self in sharing her own lessons and the personal stories that have helped her live her best life. And, like usual, she also sets forth the teachings of experts from a variety of fields.

A few of my favorite quotes are below to give you a taste:

There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.

- Oprah Winfrey

Committing to a life of purpose takes courage.

- Oprah Winfrey

When you pay attention to what feeds your energy, you move in the direction of the life for which you were intended.

- Oprah Winfrey

The more important an activity is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel to it.

- Oprah Winfrey

Nourish what makes you feel confident, connected, contented. Opportunity will rise to meet you.

- Oprah Winfrey

Rethinking Success: Eight Essential Practices for Finding Meaning in Work and Life by J. Douglas Holladay

Rethinking Success is *exactly* in line with my way of thinking and why I started this blog. I found myself nodding in agreement several times -- especially when it discussed succeeding through community.

Holladay is a financier, Georgetown professor, and White House advisor whose teachings of "success" involve intangibles, like balance and purpose.

Rethinking Success challenges traditional notions of "success" (as many of those people are unhappy) and instead centers around eight essential questions we must ask ourselves to stay focused, connected, and joyful throughout our careers.

It will help you tune into your values and beliefs to find lifelong meaning. It's one book I am keeping on my bookshelf for years to come.


Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

National bestseller

Cheryl Strayed gives the most poetic, brutally honest, and thoughtful advice of any person I have ever encountered in Tiny Beautiful Things. This is one of the best books for graduates because it encompasses real-world messiness and how to deal with it, and each and every word she writes matters.

There's some career advice mixed in, but Tiny Beautiful Things is more about raw compassion and for navigating your daily world as a fallible human.

It's a beautiful "must-read," reminiscent of Brene Brown, Love Actually and Joni Mitchell's song, "Both Sides Now":

I've looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It's life's illusions I recall

I really don't know life at all

- Joni Mitchell

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

 #1 New York Times bestseller

You Are a Badass is one of the best books for graduates because it is a light and comedic kick in the pants for those who need that extra push to reach their goals.

While Sincero doesn't offer anything new in the world of self-help, she compiles everything that is out there really well and delivers it in a relatable and easy-to-read way that makes a lasting impact.

You Are a Badass will energize you to change your self-sabotaging beliefs and bust through fear to take action in support of your goals. It's great for the graduate with a sense of humor.

For more, read my full review of You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.


Those are the best books for graduates!

Shop this full list in my Amazon shop.

Related Posts

If you loved this post, you will also love my reviews of these great books for graduates:

And you will also have a blast making a DIY yearbook online for your graduate with my one-hour tutorial.

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