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Discover the best books for graduates here. These ranked and rated self-help books are great gifts for high school and college graduates. They’ll be inspired to celebrate their accomplishments and start their next chapter. Let’s find the perfect recommendation for you below!

stack of books with graduation cap and diploma.

Top 3 Books for Graduates: The Best Graduation Gifts to Celebrate Their Achievement

Quick List of Top 10 Books for High School and College Graduates Entering the Next Chapter

  1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  2. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
  3. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  4. The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates
  5. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
  6. Originals by Adam Grant
  7. The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey
  8. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
  9. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  10. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Reviews of the Best Books for Graduates: Self Help Books They’ll Love

Atomic Habits by James Clear

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • Over 15 million copies sold

Best fordoers

My Review: ★★★★★

Atomic Habits is one of the most popular nonfiction books of all time. I like to call the “Habits Bible.” It takes something difficult (habits) and breaks it down into practical, actionable tips that are easy and that really work.

Best of all, its teachings can be applied to just about any aspect of life. New graduates will learn some life skills with this one. It’s helped me with everything from running my business to brushing my teeth with a special toothpaste before bed, which I kept forgetting to do!

It’s also always a popular book for New Year’s resolutions, and it’s even a great book for building a reading habit!


Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

  • #1 New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★☆

Best for leaders

Brené Brown is a renowned “shame” researcher. She shares new research about leaders, change-makers, and culture shifters in Dare to Lead. She teaches readers how to put those ideas into practice so we can step up and meaningfully lead.

For Brown, leaders hold themselves accountable for recognizing potential and developing that potential. Dare to Lead encourages leaders to choose courage over comfort in order to make a difference in a culture defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty. This means working on empathy, connection, and vulnerability.

Her research-backed work is delivered in her unique Southern dialect, and it makes us better people from the inside out. I can still recall reading it and thinking to myself how impactful it could be in the modern workplace. It’s a must-read for modern leaders who value human-focused initiatives.


Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

  • The #1 international best seller

Best for achievers

My Review: ★★★★☆

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is not just a book. The title became an instant catchphrase used to empower women.

Sandberg draws from her own experience as an employee of the world’s most successful businesses and opines about how women can make small changes in their work lives. This can effect change for working women on a universal scale.

Lean In is quite simply a must-read that changes the way women behave in the workplace. I, and just about every working woman I know, has read it and enjoyed it.


The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

  • New York Times bestseller

Best for feminists

My Review: ★★★★☆

As the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates learned that, if you want to lift a society, you should invest in women.

In The Moment of Lift, Gates explains the tremendous opportunities that can catapult change, and she provides simple and effective ways each person can make a difference.

She advocates for family planning, access to jobs, equality in household work, paid family leave for all, and the elimination of gender bias.

It’s a very personal and unforgettable book that has to power to change the world. I found her experiences about women around the world to be really impactful.


Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

Best for all graduates of all ages

My Review: ★★★★★

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! may forever be the top graduation book to gift. It’s utterly filled with yearbook quote ideas, Dr. Seuss quotes for graduates and Dr. Seuss education quotes. That’s because its lessons are so universal and timeless.

Dr. Seuss touches upon life’s ups and downs with the rhythmic style for which he is known, suggesting deeper truths to live by.


Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

  •  #1 New York Times bestseller

Best for non-conformists

My Review: ★★★★★

In Originals, Grant explores the modern workplace and culture-based initiatives such as recognizing a good idea, speaking up without being silenced, building a team of allies, knowing when to act, managing fear and doubt, and welcoming dissent.

Like Malcolm Gladwell’s books, he draws upon real-life examples to make his points, from Steve Jobs at Apple to the CIA and Seinfeld.

It’s one book that modern leaders will want to read and re-read over and over. As a business owner myself, I found it to be incredibly interesting to learn data about who succeeds and, more importantly, why. It was absolutely illuminating.


The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey

Best for the introspective graduate

My Review: ★★★★☆

The Path Made Clear is the perfect compilation of Oprah’s learned lessons.

She shares the quintessential “Oprah” guide for recognizing your deepest vision of yourself and creating a life of purpose with that vision.

Oprah is her usual transparent self in sharing her life lessons and personal stories, which have helped her live her best life. She also presents the teachings of experts from various fields.

As with all her work, it’s both educational and relatable. It reiterates some of her best stuff, but it also offers new things. It’s one I like to keep on my shelf because it’s a good summary of all of her work.


Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Best for real-life advice

My Review: ★★★★★

In Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed gives the most poetic, brutally honest, and thoughtful advice I have ever encountered. Through a series of advice columns, this book covers real-world messiness and how to deal with it. Every word she writes matters.

While there’s some career advice mixed in, Tiny Beautiful Things is more about raw compassion. It helps you navigate your daily world as a fallible human.

It’s a beautiful “must-read” reminiscent of Love Actually. It’s also one of my favorite audiobooks of all time, as it reads like talk radio (for fans of “Delilah.”)


Year of Yes by Shona Rhimes

  • Instant New York Times bestseller

Best for starting fresh

My Review: ★★★☆☆

Year of Yes is a memoir about trying scary new things by the TV show creator of sensations like Grey’s Anatomy. One, pivotal year, she says yes to everything, and tells the reader all about it, from facing her fears to “dancing it out.”

Like all of her work, it’s engrossing, engaging, and endlessly consumable. It’s a really “fun” self-help read. There’s even some especially great advice for graduates.


You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • More than 5 million copies sold

Best for self-help enthusiasts

My Review: ★★★★☆

You Are a Badass is one of the best books for graduates because it is a light and comedic kick in the pants.

While Sincero doesn’t offer anything new in the world of self-help, she compiles everything that is out there really well. She also delivers it in a relatable and easy-to-read way that makes a lasting impact. That’s why I like to recommend it above other self-help books.

You Are a Badass will energize you to change your self-sabotaging beliefs and bust through fear to take action in support of your goals. It’s great for the graduate with a sense of humor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should be included in a graduation book?

A graduation book is a keepsake for graduates. It should include inspirational quotes, advice, personal messages, photographs, and blank pages for journaling. It serves as a keepsake that captures the graduate’s journey.

What is the book about life after college?

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay explores life after college, focusing on work, relationships, and personal growth. It offers helpful advice for navigating the years of early adulthood.

Which books should every graduate read?

Every graduate should read Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss for inspiration, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg for career advice, and Atomic Habits by James Clear for practical tips.

Conclusion

The best books for graduates are tried and true self-help books that celebrate their achievements and help them prepare for their next chapter.

SHOP THE 3 BEST BOOKS FOR GRADUATES

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