Must Read Books for New Grads

When it comes to real-world experience, there’s no better way to get it than through, well, real-world experience. As a recent graduate, though, you might not be stepping into it right away. So, one of the second-best ways to properly prepare yourself for what’s ahead is to crack open a book on the same subject.

The following 30 books will inform and inspire you as you work to turn your degree into a career, and they’ll also keep you motivated as you navigate the trials and tribulations of said first job. Once you’ve found solid ground in your recent-grad life, these books might even make you feel even steadier in your path and progress.

So, turn your tassel and grab the first page-turner on the list – the real world of reading awaits.

10 - adulting

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown

You’ve lived on your own in college, but you probably haven’t been truly on your own in doing adult things like renting an apartment, relationships, repairs … all that good stuff. Fortunately, seasoned adult Kelly Williams Brown outlines all of the steps you need to take to conquer this grownup world – and she makes it fun to read about.

14 - life after college

Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want by Jenny Blake

Sometimes, you need more than inspiration: You need actual, actionable tips to get you started and keep you going. This guide is perfect for new grads looking for the next step.

2 - welcome to the real world

Welcome to the Real World by Lauren Berger

Lauren Berger started the website, so she knows a thing or two about how to start a career. In her book, she gives first-time employees the tools they need to deal with issues they’ll face, such as dealing with employment rejection or working with a tough boss. Her advice is modern and poignant, updated to match the world in which we’re working.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Pretty much everyone loves comedian and writer Mindy Kaling, so pretty much everyone will love her first book. She shares the story of her success, as well as her thoughts on relationships, work and everything else you’re facing as a real grownup. Oh, and it’s funny, too.

7 - the opposite of loneliness

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan graduated from Yale University in 2012, buzzing with talent and potential. Tragically, her life was cut short five days later when she was killed in a car accident. This posthumous release gathers her reflective writings and truly captures the essence of this generation: cautious, confused, hopeful, forward thinking. It puts all of your feelings right now into words that are sure to inspire you onward.

9 - then we came to the end

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

It’s not often that a novel covers a work environment that feels very true-to-life, but author Joshua Ferris does so in this book. In fact, it’s a great read to get a better idea of what work will really be like, office relationships and all.

15 - happier

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment by Tal Ben-Shahar

Harvard students have packed Tal Ben-Shahar’s classes as he speaks on happiness. This book presents his findings on happiness and whether or not it’s a choice. Spoiler alert: He says that it is.

8 - what i know now

What I Know Now

Many have walked the confusing road of youth before you have, and they can very easily answer the question, “What would you do differently if you knew then what you know now?” This book poses the same question, and successful, well-known people write answers in letters to their former selves.

My Misspent Youth

My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum

Essayist Meghan Daum lived out her 20s in New York, writing as she navigated the weird and wonderful facets of the city. This collection of her essays brings forth a range of observations and emotions that you’ll likely find as you step out on your own, especially if you happen to step out into a big city.

1 - who moved my cheese

Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson

Change happens whenever it darn well pleases, and nobody knows this better than a recent graduate. Through this book, author Spencer Johnson teaches us that the best way to handle change is to have a handle on your attitude regarding it.

5 - 1000 places to see before you die

1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz

Post-grad is the perfect time to travel, whether it’s for a few weeks or a few years. Let this book kick-start your travel-planning with some of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights.

6 - the devil wears prada

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Although this is a novel, it’s still a fun read for new grads, since it’s from the perspective of one. An aspiring writer lands a dream job at a fashion magazine, but her boss is, well, the devil. You’ve probably seen the movie, but you know the book is always better!

Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

If you find yourself missing your smart or nutty professors, pick up this book by Bill Bryson. He searches for answers to all the quirky questions that science might just be able to explain.

13 - the last lecture

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Professor Randy Pausch had terminal cancer, but that didn’t cloud his vision as he wrote his “Last Lecture.” Instead, he harps upon the importance of childhood dreams – of taking advantage of life, fighting for what you want and lifting others up with you. The result is pure inspiration for everyone, recent grad or not.

Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed wrote the now-famous “Wild,” and continues her inspiring journey in “Tiny Beautiful Things.” In fact, she was once an anonymous online advice columnist and continues her advice-giving in this book, covering pretty much everything you’ll question as an adult.

19 - 20 something 20 everything

20-Something, 20-Everything by Christine Hassler

Not to freak you out, but your early 20s to early 30s can be a tough transition, but this book proves you’re not going through it alone. Author Christine Hassler shares her own transition from traditional businesswoman to on-her-own businesswoman … and how hard that choice was.

21 - what you're really meant to do

What You’re Really Meant to Do by Robert Steven Kaplan

You can’t compare your own success to the success of others, or else you’ll end up working toward something you don’t really want. This book urges you to leave those instincts behind and instead find your own path. Figure out your strengths, exploit them and you’ll find your own personal version of success.

23 - Me-Talk-Pretty-One-Day

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is hilarious and successful, and he’s taken on a lot of quirky and difficult tasks that have made him the incredible storyteller he is today. If that’s not inspiration to go through the weirdness of your 20s, then we don’t know what is.

24 - now what

Now What?! by Ari King

People of all ages have graduated from college before you and most of them have stories to tell. This book compiles more than 60 of them, with contributors ranging in age from 20-somethings to 70-somethings. Wisdom abounds.

30 - lean in

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook’s COO Cheryl Sandberg worked her way up to the top in a man’s world, but it wasn’t easy. In this book, she encourages other women to do the same, since they’re just as smart, talented and worthy as their male counterparts. It’s time to lean in.


Running to the book store yet? Let us know which books you’re adding to your reading list and share your recommendations in the comments!

While you’re here, be sure to subscribe to the PC newsletter for more great book recs and tips to get you started in your new career!

The following two tabs change content below.
Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *