Books to Give Your Graduate that Aren’t ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’

Bailey Shea, Non-Fiction & Multimedia Panel Editor and Arts Liaison

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good book with some nostalgia factor, but Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! has become too generic of a graduation gift. The last thing a recent college grad needs is five copies of a picture book that is vaguely relevant for people who are going through major life changes. Instead of purchasing a impersonal book for the graduate in your life, check out this list for more thoughtful and useful suggestions that will look perfect on your graduate’s “big kid” coffee table.

For the Artist

Oh Sh*t… What Now?: Honest Advice for New Graphic Designers By Craig Oldham

Oh Sh*t… What Now? is a perfect guide for any graduate hoping to break out into the creative field. The art and design world is a constantly changing field, and it may be hard for recent graduates to know what to do. Instead of sending your graduate off to be a directionless starving artist in the big city, send them off with this book so they’ll have some idea of how to make it big.

For the English Major

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft By Stephen King

Throughout college, your graduate probably learned how to write but probably not how to write. Impersonal essays analyzing Shakespeare and Chaucer probably didn’t do much to teach your graduate what life as a professional writer is actually like. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft serves as the guest lecture your graduate wished they had in their creative writing class, giving them the opportunity to learn how to write from the king of all things spooky.

For the Netflix Junkie

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) By Mindy Kaling

I’ve spent many Friday nights watching Mindy Kaling shows instead of going out. Her shows, especially The Mindy Project, taught me that being an awkward introvert and not peaking in college is actually the goal. With Kaling taking some time off from being our on-screen pal, reading her book may be the next best thing.


For the Kidult

Oh, the Places You’ll Eff Up: A Parody for your Twenties By Joshua Miller


Let’s be honest, post-college life isn’t as colorful and magical as Dr.Seuss made it out to be. Oh, the Places You’ll Eff Up is a more light-hearted selection on our list, but nevertheless helpful for a recent college graduate. Oh, the Places You’ll Eff Up pokes fun of the scary world that exists off campus and lets your new adult know that, yes, everyone else is struggling with that adulting thing too.

For the Feminist

Lean In for Graduates By Sheryl Sandberg

The now classic feminist guide empowering women to make space for themselves in the workplace, has a sister guide with additional chapters aimed at young adults. Lean In for Graduates teaches salary negotiation and how to secure a job. The book also takes on an intersectional lens, including guides on how to lean in for women of color and millenial men.

For more books for your favorite graduating feminist, check out one of my previous articles here.

For the Type A

Calm the F*** Down By Sarah Knight

Don’t be turned away by the sassy title! Calm the F*** Down (and any of Sarah Knight’s No F**** Given Guides) are perfect for your type A graduate. College graduation seems like the perfect opportunity to break the cycle of worrying and stressing out. Calm the F*** Down serves as a modern self-help book, created with your Gen Z (Or are they millennials? Who knows? Check out this article from George Beall and let us know what you think) graduate in mind.

For the Foodie

Healthyish By Lindsay Maitland Hunt

It’s almost time for you graduate to say goodbye to dining hall food and microwave ramen. With few cooking skills and even less money to spend on food, Healthyish comes to your graduate’s rescue. All the recipes are simple, relatively cheap, healthy(ish), and still taste good, so you’ll know that your graduate is still getting fed.

For the STEM Student

Seeing Science: An Illustrated Guide to the Wonders of the Universe By Iris Gottlieb

Who said scientists can’t appreciate aesthetics too? Seeing Science is a lovely illustrated book that will look great on your graduate’s coffee table. Seeing Science is adored by children and adults alike, making it the perfect replacement for Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

For the Bar Hopper

The Drunken Botanist By Amy Stewart

The Drunken Botanist is the perfect way to graduate from Natty Lights to adult cocktails. A combination of history, botany, chemistry, and mixology, The Drunken Botanist makes happy hour a learning opportunity.

For the Instagrammer

Unicorn Food By Kat Odell

I just about shrieked when I came across this cookbook. This book is perfect for social media-obsessed graduate. All recipes in this book are ridiculously cute and trendy… and plant-based, meaning your vegetarian and vegan graduates will have happy taste buds. While this recipe may not be the most practical and utilitarian, your graduate will have the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen more often.

For the Future Teacher

I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids By Kyle Schwartz

You can’t learn everything from a college classroom (as much as your graduate’s student debt wishes otherwise). The book comes out of an exercise Schwartz did in one of her third-grade classrooms.  Schwartz gave her students the opportunity to complete the sentence “I wish my teacher knew               .” The book demonstrates that teachers must embrace the humanity that comes with their job. Every student comes into the classroom with their own story, something that, after a long day of work, may be easy to forget. Reviewers note that this book is perfect from the freshest to the most seasoned educators.

While Oh The Places You’ll Go may be a graduation staple, the books on this list may serve as more helpful, useful, or personal gifts for your soon-to-be graduate. Have another Seuss alternative? Share it with us in the comments below!



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