Can you believe it’s already June? Well, your favorite high school or college graduate sure can, because they’ve been watching the calendar, stressing through finals, and getting their caps and gowns ready. So mark this important milestone with the perfect graduation book gift — wise, thoughtful, funny advice that will help them begin the next exciting chapter of their lives. Here are some of our favorite graduation book gifts for the star student in your life. Congratulations, graduates!
Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination
Author: J. K. Rowling
Who wouldn’t want J.K. Rowling to be the speaker at their graduation? In 2008, the graduating students of Harvard University were lucky enough to have that privilege, and now her moving commencement speech has been made into a book. Rowling shares words of wisdom that will resonate for anyone who faces a critical turning point. She outlines how to embrace failure and its lessons, and how to use our imagination to make our lives and the whole world better. Any kid who grew up on Harry Potter would love to receive this inspiring book as a graduation gift.
Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness
Author: George Saunders
In 2013, a few months after George Saunders gave a speech to Syracuse University’s graduating class, the transcript was posted on the New York Times website — and in just a few days, it was shared over a million times. Saunders’ message of kindness and generosity of spirit is funny, poignant, and wise, perfect for sending the next generation out into the world with.
Author: John Waters
When John Waters gave the commencement address at a Rhode Island School of Design graduation (how do these lucky kids get such cool speakers, anyway?), his speech about the challenges and joys of working as a creative person went viral. His advice was intended for creatives, but really, it applies to everybody: embrace pragmatism and discipline in your work, don’t be afraid of rejection, and embrace the chaos and craziness of life — including the disapproval of your haters. Or, as the title suggests, make trouble. A delightfully witty and subversive gift for an art school graduate, a young writer, or anyone with creative dreams.
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World
Author: William H. McRaven
In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven spoke at the graduation of the University of Texas at Austin. He described the 10 principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him throughout his military career and his personal life — and he shared how everyone can use these simple lessons to change themselves and make the world a better place. That speech went viral, with more than 10 million views. Now, in this book-length version, Admiral McRaven shares stories from his own life, and the lives of people he met during his military service, who faced difficult circumstances with honor, courage, determination, and compassion. This short book carries a lifetime’s worth of advice and encouragement for the tough times ahead in every young adult’s life.
The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown
Author: Catherine Burns
To celebrate the 20th (!) anniversary of The Moth, this anthology captures 45 of their most remarkable true stories, including tales from Louis C.K., Tig Notaro, John Turturro, and Meg Wolitzer. From astronomers to refugees, hip-hop stars to students, these storytellers share how they faced down the unknown — and what it taught them about being open to life’s wonders. No matter what your grad’s area of study or future career may be, there’s plenty in here to inspire and amaze without being preachy.
Wait, What?: And Life’s Other Essential Questions
Author: James E. Ryan
Another book based on an incredibly popular commencement speech, this one is by Jim Ryan, dean of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. He stresses the need for asking lots of questions in life, and especially these five: “Wait, what?” “I wonder…?” “Couldn’t we at least…?” “How can I help?” and “What truly matters?” Drawing from pop culture, history, politics, and his own life, Ryan shows how these important questions ignite our curiosity, trigger progress, strengthen relationships, and focus our attention on the most essential things in life. Thought-provoking and inspiring, this book will get you pondering the big questions… and that’s a good thing.
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