Books for Grads | Wyatt’s World

Yes, Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You Will Go is wonderful, and the student version of Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In is useful and timely, but if you are helping patrons pick books for graduation presents, show off your readers’ advisory and collection development skills by suggesting titles that are going to be treasured long after the excitement of commencement concludes. Here are five themed suggestions.all the light we cannot see

  • A really good novel: Sure, they have been reading nonstop for years, but odds are many grads have slipped away from reading for pleasure. Remind them that books are more than textbooks with a novel that engrosses and thrills with its power. An exceptional pick is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Scribner). Set during World War II, Doerr’s title is rich in character, setting, and emotion as it relates the experiences of Marie-Laure and Werner, placed on very different paths forged by war. Notable for its pacing and beautiful storytelling, Doerr’s work will remind grads of the pleasures of reading for the sheer love of it.
  • A cookbook: Dinner parties and Sunday breakfasts await. Help new grads get beyond the ramen noodle school of cooking with a guide that will last them a lifetime. My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz (Ten Speed: Crown) is an excellent choice. Filled with pictures to linger over, stories that inspire travel plans, and recipes that foster basic skills but also support growing ambition, Lebovitz’s volume offers budding gourmand’s the best delights of cookbooks—beauty, utility, and something one can actually sit down and read.
  • A guide to making a home: Many grads will return to their old bedrooms while they find their feet and a job, but that does not mean they cannot dream of new spaces or that those lucky enough to have new digs don’t need some help moving beyond dorm room décor. Suggest Bright Bazaar: Embracing Color for Make-You-Smile Style by Will Taylor (St. Martin’s) for its cheerful and bright aesthetic that captures the on trend mix of vintage/modern style very well.
  • A book about work: Most grads are going to start at the bottom rung and hear a great deal about their performance. Arm them for a lifetime of commentary with Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen (Viking). The authors offer insightful and practical guidance to navigating the boggy ground of critique and show how both to receive and make use of others’ assessments so that they can empower and propel. Smart and sharp, Stone and Heen deliver useful and essential advice.
  • A book to open their eyes: The best gift is one that provides a foundation for a lifetime of exploration and reflection. In that vein, give your grad The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari by Paul Theroux (Houghton Harcourt). As he tours Namibia, Botswana, Angola, and beyond, Theroux makes clear the realities of the continent—social, political, environmental—as well as the pain, joy, and revelation reflective travel provides. Vivid and gorgeous prose and clear-eyed reporting only add to the work’s many other strengths.
Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at

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