Monday, May 17, 2010

Five Ideas for Graduation Gifts

It's graduation season, and whether your graduate is leaving high school or college, finding a fitting gift can be tricky. After all, this is a big occasion, not something you can just fake your way through like a birthday (come on, we've all been there). There's a balance to be struck for sure- you don't want to head into saccharine territory, and you certainly don't want to risk spooking your graduate by treating them like a complete adult. Here are five books that we think make great additions to the library of any enterprising young soul.

5) Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
While Rilke addressed these ten letters to a student aspiring to become a writer, the content of these insightful missives is almost universally applicable. He writes about the struggles and triumphs of being young with a humane, utterly sympathetic tone, and for anyone working to find their place in the world, an understanding voice can be very welcome.

4) A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, by William B. Irvine
Whether or not you studied philosophy in school, everyone in some sense seeks a guiding philosophy upon which to build a life. In the fog of the post-grad daze, this can be a baffling exercise, but you could do worse than to take a page from the Stoics, who sought to free themselves from negative emotion. Heartening in its deceptive simplicity, Stoicism, and this brisk little book introducing it, can be a great asset in redefining a focus.

3) Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book, by Anita Silvey
Graduation can be all about looking forward, but to anyone experiencing the unique anxiety attached to it ("senioritis," as it's known among the afflicted), looking back can feel far less daunting. And there's nothing wrong with a little nostalgia- Silvey's expansive book compiling anecdotes from a vast array of personalities celebrating the lasting value and pleasure of children's literature is eloquent testimony to that.

2) A Journal, by anyone
Let's face it, most people when they exit school are not hugely interested in writing anything more than they've had to. But at the risk of sounding preachy, keeping a journal of any sort can serve to get all the doubts, hopes, and miscellaneous thoughts out of an overly cluttered head. And you can't put a price on mental space.

1) Oh, the Places You'll Go!, by Dr. Seuss
Okay, okay, we admit it- just about everyone already gets this for graduation. A lot of us probably have multiple copies. But there's a reason that this book has become such a stand-by, and upon a rereading it, the book's ability to speak to the experience of the post-grad- or anyone striking off in a brave new direction- is uncanny and charming. Like Rilke, Seuss doesn't soften the blow- sometimes, things are rough- but keep your head and things work out. Good advice for all of us.


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