They have recycled their chemistry notes, taken their last final, and shoved their AP English required reading paperback under their beds. Why give a book to a high school graduate? Because of that one last lesson you meant to teach them. That one piece of comfort you longed to offer. That one bit of advice you had been meaning to give. If only you could find the right words.
Here are 5 books for high school graduates that just might have the right words. Better yet, here are 5 books that they just might actually read.
1. The Humans, by Matt Haig
Professor Andrew Martin has made a mathematical discovery that Earth is not yet ready for. The alien who is sent to take Andrew’s place and destroy the evidence of Andrew’s discovery learns not just how to impersonate a human while living with Andrew’s wife, son, and dog, but how to be a good human. When my teen received this for Christmas, he plopped on the couch and read for the rest of the day. A charming page-turner, and a sly way to teach life lessons to future engineers.
2. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert asks, “Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” In her conversational style (the book reads as if you and Liz are having a one-on-one mentoring chat at a local coffee shop), Gilbert presents short lessons on inspiration and allowing creativity—whatever form that takes—to thrive. Gilbert includes her thoughts on getting an advanced degree in the arts and whether your art should support you (financially) or whether you should support your art. I like to know that a graduate has this book to turn to in times of self-doubt. For the future creative.
3. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
When my senior read The Road for AP English, I gave him Station Eleven. The 2 books hit the same themes, but Station Eleven adds the arts, because “survival is insufficient.” A pandemic has destroyed civilization and the Travelling Symphony—a band of Shakespearean actors and symphony musicians—tours the scattered settlements that remain. The title refers to a graphic novel that weaves itself throughout the book. This post-apocalyptic story questions our fascination with stuff and celebrities. No AP annotations required.
4. Love Does, by Bob Goff
I bought this book for each of the graduating seniors at our church. In my favorite story, Bob tells about a game of Bigger and Better in which his son Richard started with a dime, and door to door through a neighborhood, eventually traded up to Dodge pickup truck. He then drove that truck to a church down the street and tossed them the keys. These are whimsical stories about having the faith to make a difference by doing. Because "love does."
5. Make Trouble, by John Waters
Make Trouble is a copy of a commencement speech that filmmaker Waters gave at the Rhode Island School of Design. A video of the speech went viral. Now illustrated by Eric Hanson and published by Algonquin Books, this little book offers subversive advice like “eavesdrop, listen to your enemies, and horrify us with new ideas.” Bonus: If you were in the University of Notre Dame class of 2017, tweet a picture of your diploma to the publisher. They would love to give you a free copy.
What books have you given or received as graduation gifts? Let me know in the comments or share your suggestions with me on Twitter. I’m @jenmededit, and I love to talk books.