Great Books for High School Graduates

Celebrate the high school graduates in your life by giving them a book or two! Below we’ve got ideas for all kinds of students—those looking for some serious life advice, inspiration, knowledge, or a laugh. 

A high school graduate holds a book to her face

For high school graduates looking for career insight…

  • Grace Bonney’s In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs. This book features interviews with a wide range of interesting women who have unique insights to impart. 
  •  J. Kelly Hoey’s Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World. Learn how to forge meaningful and long-lasting personal and professional relationships. 
  • Steve Mariotti’s The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Running a Business: Turn Your Ideas into Money! Perfect for students excited about pursuing their own ventures, the book offers a step-by-step guide to the foundations of entrepreneurship.

For high school graduates seeking life advice…

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ Designing your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, a great book for high school graduates
  • Carol Dweck’s Mindset: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential, which demonstrates persuasive research that changing our mindset can change our lives. 
  • Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade: Why your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of them Now, which provides young people with the tools to make their coming years healthy, productive, and rewarding ones. 
  • Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ Designing your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, a guide to using design thinking to solve problems and align your reality with your aspirations. 

For high school graduates wanting to get lost in an absorbing memoir…

T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, a great memoir for high school graduates
  • Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. This memoir elegantly covers a number of topics, from Chee’s activism, to coming to terms with his identity, to his unexpected love for his rose garden.  
  • T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, an immersive memoir about mourning a father, reckoning with trauma, and finding herself. 
  • U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s Ordinary Light, which chronicles her coming-of-age story as a Black female artist in America.

For high school graduates who enjoy thought-provoking essays…

  • Toni Morrison’s The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Speeches, Essays, and Meditations by one of our era’s true geniuses. Read it for its masterful approach to topics such as language, race, gender, politics, and literature. 
  • Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, a collection of Dear Sugar’s best advice columns over the years. Wise and moving. 

For high school graduates driven by creativity

Sarah Urist Green’s You Are an Artist, a great book for creative high school graduates
  • Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, which provides ideas for living a creative life.
  •  Sarah Urist Green’s You Are an Artist. The book features more than 50 art assignments by contemporary artists as well as an accessible introduction to art theory and history. 

For high school graduates fascinated by science…

  • Billy Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, which explores everything from the universe, to the theory of evolution, to the Scientific Revolution in compelling prose. 
  • Oliver Sacks’ An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales. It offers portraits of seven patients with rare neurological conditions that speak to the brain’s extraordinary powers.

For high school graduates hoping to prepare for college-level writing

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, a perfect book for high school graduates
  • Benjamin Dreyer’s informative and witty Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. Learn all you need to know to write tight, grammatically correct sentences in one fun and handy book. 
  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. This book demystifies academic writing in a clear and systematic manner. Options’ writing coaches are big fans.