Choosing a graduation gift requires some imaginative shopping. If you’re thinking of ways to celebrate the accomplishments of your son or daughter, consider these graduation book ideas as congratulatory send offs to college or to the real world. Don’t forget to take the time to add a few lines of love of your own. When your homesick college freshman or frustrated young adult reaches for one of these books in their dorm or first apartment, the words you will have written may matter the most.
Graduation Book Ideas (With A Bonus Book List for Parents, Too)
Despite our best efforts during 18 years of parenting, we feel there’s so much more we want to tell our sons and daughters before we leave them on the steps of their freshmen dorms. Deborah Copaken, New York Times best-selling author, wartime photojournalist, Emmy award winner and mom, with her collaborator, artist Randy Polumbo, have created a stunning volume that gives voice to so much of what parents want to say. As Copaken recently told us, “This is the book I wish I could have read before I went to college.”
She started writing The ABCs as a gift to her eldest, an off-to-college son, but only got as far as “L is for Love.” Fortunately, she completed the rest of the alphabet before it was her daughter’s turn to leave for school. This gorgeous volume is filled with life lessons for both sons and daughters. Read more of our interview and review here.
Becky Blades is a super-talented artist who writes with just the right balance of wit and wisdom. Her book, now in it’s second edition, is perfect for any young woman in your life (15-25) because of the messages of empowerment, understanding and optimism she so beautifully conveys. It is a little manual for life, and who doesn’t need that? But her book is even better with some of the back story about her college daughters. This slender and beautifully illustrated volume is very much a “mom story” that so many of us can relate to. For more about how and why Blades wrote her book, read our interview and review here.
When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, found out he had terminal cancer, he began to write a final lecture to his students. That talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” was later turned into this touching book. Filled with the wisdom he wanted to impart to his students, this gift is high on our list of recommendations.
The writers and editors behind the successful Her Campus website wrote this off-to-college guide for freshmen women. Reliable and contemporary, it is ideal for young women who arrive at college every fall with more questions than answers. Drawing from the experiences of the 5000 collegiate correspondents at 250 campuses, the book is divided into five parts and, yes, “Staying Safe in College” is the very first section. Never preachy, the writers offer resources and checklists to help young women move quickly up the college learning curve as they cover safety, health, relationships, social life, and money/career. We interviewed Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, one of the three founders who created Her Campus while they were students at Harvard College, and she told us more about the site and the book here.
Harlan Cohen is the dean of advice for college-bound kids. His New York Times Bestselling book, originally published in 2005, is now in a 6th edition and there is no wonder why. Cohen brings a wealth of experience in navigating college based on his 400+ college visits and interviews with more than 1000 students. He’s been in the advice business since he was a student at the University of Indiana where he wrote a column, Help Me, Harlan! for the Daily Student. This book covers much of what college students might expect with tips spanning day one of freshman year to graduation. And, yes, there is a Tip #16 The Naked Roommate. “Realize that all people have different comfort levels with themselves and their body.” More on this in the book, pages 91-94.
Oh, the books we have read by Dr. Seuss… This one, a classic graduation book idea, will likely be the final Seuss you buy your teen who is now way too big to cuddle in your lap (not that you won’t be tempted.) Handing your high school graduate this book will bring back sweet memories for you and we hope it will for your teen, too.
If you are sending a daughter out into the world, make sure she is tightly gripping a copy of Melissa Kirsch’s book. In a single volume, she covers the waterfront of a young woman’s life. She calls on experts and her own voluminous research to help dispense practical, even-handed, modern and sometimes humorous advice to the very real challenges young women face. It is almost impossible not to love a volume that has a first chapter subtitled, “Real Women Get Pap Smears, Eat Bread, and Negotiate Cease-Fires with Their Full-Length Mirrors.” We spoke with Kirsch and found out more about her book which you can read here.
The talented writer/illustrator of this new book or poetry is Samantha Jayne. She first caught our eye when we saw her video portrayal that could be any of our twenty-something daughters. Watch her Mom Talk and let us know when you stop laughing.
To can get a sample of her poems and illustrations, check out her Instagram page and, if you have a twenty-something daughter, niece or friend in your life, buy the book.
Author Kelly Williams Brown compiled this New York Times Bestselling guidebook for twenty-somethings who are in the steep part of life’s learning curve. One reviewer described Adulting this way: The book “is meant to help her peers navigate the rocky shoals of maturity, to guide those 20-somethings who are just figuring out that radio silence is not an acceptable breakup technique, and food does not spontaneously manifest itself in the refrigerator.”
Author, MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow, and Syracuse University creative writing professor George Saunders gave a commencement speech in 2013. The New York Times printed Saunders’ speech, in full, and it began to be shared by millions within just a few days. This slender volume contains his wonderful and wise words for grads.
Graduation Book Ideas For Parents
Hot off the Presses: We have just released Grown and Flown: From 11th Grade Stress to College Success, our very best advice for the parents of college-bound students. From junior and senior years in high school to freshman year in college, kids need parents who can help them through the high-stress years as they prepare to leave home. We have interviewed experts in education, medicine, and safety and offer loads of our own practical advice from parenting five kids, now young adults, in our two families. We would love to know what you think!
Dr. Roger T. Martin, former college President and Harvard Dean, author and dad, took a deep dive into freshman year, studying it from a nearly anthropological viewpoint. Using his extensive, career-long collegiate contacts, Martin gained access to freshman orientation, advising, dorm life, health center, athletics and much more. He chose five colleges and universities that are diverse in size, selectivity, and geography for his research. For parents who want to go well beyond the welcome letter from their child’s freshman dean to understand how colleges approach their newest students, this is the book for you. Divided into ten chapters, it addresses the most common freshman parent questions with expert answers.
From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life (Preorder now for publication date July 5.)
While moms may read everything we can get our hands on to prepare for having a baby, we do very little to prepare for the day our children are no longer at home. From Mom to Me Again is the story of author Melissa Shultz’s reinvention – her struggle with the empty nest and the transformation of her marriage, friendships, career, and ultimately herself. Written for women who are getting ready to send their kids off to college, it features storytelling and practical advice from therapists, relationship counselors, career advisors, and moms. Funny and poignant, Shultz shows us how we can live a happy and fulfilling life even after the kids are gone.
Melissa Shultz, acquisitions editor for Jim Donovan Literary, is a native of Washington, D.C., and mother of two grown sons. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband.
Julie Burton has written about a topic that most mothers know all too well – how the physical and emotional responsibilities of family life easily absorb parents’ time and energy, leaving little in the balance for “self-care.” A freelance writer, blogger, and co-founder of the Twin Cities Writing Studio in Hopkins, Minnesota, Burton is also a yoga instructor, a wife of twenty-two years and a mother of four children (ages 21 to 11.) Her book, through personal narrative, research, and the perspective of the nearly 400 moms she interviewed or surveyed, aims to provide a realistic guide for moms to get their physical, emotional, and relational health and well-being back on track by making self-care a priority.
Harlan Cohen not only wrote The Naked Roommate (above) for students, but has also collected this book of tips for parents. Organized exactly like the one he wrote for students, Naked Roommate for Parents offers loads of tips, Q&A, professional advice and plenty of resources that any freshman parent would find helpful. This is a great graduation book idea for freshman parents – Cohen is a reliable and entertaining source for those of us who spend the fall semester wondering what the heck our kid (who we haven’t heard from in days) might really be up to.
Hot off the Presses: We have just released Grown and Flown: From 11th Grade Stress to College Success, a collection of essays with our very best advice for the college-bound high school student. From junior and senior years in high school to freshman year in college, we offer our own practical advice along with that of experts.
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