There are still a few months before the newest batch of recent college grads will stumble out into the world, weak-kneed, too smart and loaded down with student loan debt. We all wish them well. Since this will be only the second spring since I graduated from college, I still understand the difficulties, decisions and achievement that will befall the new grads as they take their first few steps as tottering adults. Personally, I was pretty glad when I had some of these wise, wise thinkers and writers to guide me through my days as recent college grad—let’s take a look at a few of the books I think young people should read before they graduate from college.
Into the Wild by John Krakauer. Into the Wild tells the story of a recent Emory grad, Christopher McCandless, and his quest to go off the grid in the wilds of Alaska. The book is two-parts inspirational and one-part cautionary tale. First, McCandless is admirable because he wants to get away from the constant quest for extreme success required by every American—every college student should take their early-twenty-something free period to re-evaluate if they’re doing what they really want to be doing. But McCandless also has a serious indestructible complex that I’ve see from many young people—you may be young, but you aren’t invincible. The book taught me that I could be adventurous, but I shouldn’t make myself a burden for my friends, family or environment.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. My university assigned this long-form essay by Woolf when we were freshmen. It’s particularly appealing to women and feminists, speaking towards the reason that women had never had a thinker as successful as Shakespeare because they were too financially tied to men, and didn’t have a quiet, solitary place in which to work, hence the name of the work. While this is certainly true for the history of women thinkers, it’s also fair to say that it will be extremely relevant to recent grads. They’ll have had four years to meander through difficult questions in quiet libraries and lonely dorm rooms with a meal card in hand. The “real world” isn’t always kind of artists—financially or otherwise—so beware of sharing one-bedroom apartments with three people, etc…if you’re inclined to produce artistically.
What are some books that you think every college graduate should read before graduation?