Seven books to give as graduation gifts other than Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’

"Oh, the Places You'll Go!" kicks off the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade as it makes it's way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena in 2013.
“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” kicks off the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade as it makes it’s way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena in 2013.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Oh, the copies of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” every student receives when they graduate. There’s nothing wrong with Dr. Seuss, of course, but by the time that young person in your family walks on the stage to claim her diploma, she’s probably received that children’s classic several times.

If you’re looking for a book for a soon-to-be-graduating student, don’t panic — Dr. Seuss might be old news, but there are several titles that would make perfect graduation gifts. Here are seven books to educate, inspire and entertain the graduate in your life:

“In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice From Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs,” Grace Bonney: This collection of wisdom from successful women — not just business executives but also writers, comedians and tattoo artists — is likely to inspire graduates regardless of their gender. Bonney, the founder of Design*Sponge, encourages young people to pursue their dreams, whatever they might be.


“Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style,” Benjamin Dreyer: Like it or not, prospective employers judge applicants on their spelling, grammar and usage, and Random House copy chief Dreyer is an expert in all of those things. His bestselling guidebook to the English language is funny and informative and quite possibly the only grammar-related volume to win endorsements from both Michael Chabon and Lyle Lovett.

“Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear,” Carl Hiaasen, illustrated by Roz Chast: Book versions of inspirational commencement speeches are popular gifts for graduates. This is not that. Florida humorist Hiaasen describes his book thus: “This commencement address will never be given, because graduation speakers are supposed to offer encouragement and inspiration. That’s not what you need. You need a warning.” If you know any cynical young people, they’ll likely relate to this.

“The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations,” Toni Morrison: The new nonfiction collection from Morrison, widely considered to be one of America’s greatest living authors, has something for everyone. Morrison shares her thoughts on social issues and art with achingly beautiful prose, writing: “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

“Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking,” Samin Nosrat, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton: Ramen cooked on an illicit hot plate might have gotten the young person in your life through four years of college, but eventually, it’s time to leave the noodles behind. Nosrat’s blockbuster book, complete with beautiful illustrations, is a fun guide to the basics of cooking, and it makes a perfect introduction to all things culinary for even the most inexperienced cook.

“Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition: Manners for Today,” Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning: That etiquette guide that’s been sitting on your bookshelf since the Carter administration still has some good advice, but it won’t teach you how to behave correctly on social media. This updated version of the classic guide to manners is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to make sure they’re treating others with politeness and respect.

“The Complete Calvin and Hobbes,” Bill Watterson: Most college graduates weren’t even born when the last “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip was published in 1996, but it’s never too late to dive into Watterson’s magical world. It also contains some priceless advice: “We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are,” as Calvin says to his tiger friend.