Over the past few months, I slowly worked my way through a stack of new and forthcoming nonfiction books that were sitting on my desk. Many of them make perfect gifts for new graduates, whether for those leaving high school or getting ready for life after college. Here are the ones I found most useful:
by Adam Grant
To succeed in a future workforce where entire industries are expanding and contracting at an alarming pace, students will need to learn how to navigate the ambiguity of life and unleash their originality as lifelong learners. Whether we are born with originality or whether it is learned is a question at the heart of this book. Adam concludes the book with 30 steps individuals can take to "generate, recognize, voice, and champion new ideas." Among my favorites: triple the number of ideas you generate; immerse yourself in a new domain; and highlight the reasons not to support your idea.
by Susan Cain, Gregory Mone, Erica Moroz, and Grant Snider
I'm not an introvert, but Susan Cain's best-selling Quiet book changed how I approached and worked with introverts and helped me understand the power of their ways. This book is a great follow-up because it's for kids and teenagers (and parents), focused on school, family life, and friends with great tips at the end of each chapter. It also includes a very useful guide for parents and teachers.
Now Go Out There: (and Get Curious)
by Mary Karr
As a higher-education reporter and editor, I've heard dozens of commencement addresses over the years. One of my favorites was one by Mary Karr at Syracuse University in 2015 that went viral on the Internet. This book is based on that address. You might be able to skip your own graduation ceremony and read this book instead. The best piece of advice in this book is a line from her commencement address: "Being smart and rich are lucky. But being curious and compassionate will save your ass."
The Third Wave
by Steve Case
Most of today's high-school and graduates are too young to remember those ubiquitous shrink-wrapped CDs that helped AOL grow during the 1990s, but the advice of AOL's founder Steve Case is very timely for them now as they get ready for the world of college and the workforce. According to Case, the first Internet wave was about building the infrastructure of the Web. The second wave was about search, apps, and smartphones. We're now in a third wave focused on trying to improve the quality of life and Case's book is a great roadmap for today's young adults about how to get ahead of the curve.
by Angela Duckworth
Whether you're looking for a college or a job, everyone wants to know how you have overcome challenges and learned from your disappointments. Call it "grit"--a term put on the map by Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research has found that the most successful people are those not only with self-discipline but also with a singular determination to accomplish a task, no matter the obstacles. My favorite part was what she learned from interviewing high achievers, including the CEO of JP Morgan and Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
Be well-rounded is advice that students often get in school. But the problem is that too many students end up with too many so-called sign-up clubs and never go deep in any activity. Anders and Robert in this book make a compelling argument that achieving mastery is not just about talent, but also time spent on the task.
There Is Life After College
by Jeffrey J. Selingo
The reason I've been reading all these books for new graduates is because I wrote one myself. Through the stories of 20-somethings, my forthcoming book explores why students struggle to launch into a career after college and how young adults can better navigate the route from high school through college and into a perilous economy where the world of work and jobs are changing. It looks at the fundamental experiences in and out of school that shape success in the job market today, the skills that prove most helpful, and most of all, explores why some students prosper, while others fail.