GOOD Books is a weekly round-up of what we're reading and what we wish we were reading.
Summer’s here, college is out, and the world now has a brand new batch of 20-somethings armed with nothing but bachelor's degrees and some leftover ramen. When it comes to finding the perfect book to gift a grad, the choices may seem endless, so first, a few tips on what to avoid:
1. Anything with “Chicken Soup” in the title should not be considered.
2. Do not buy The Last Lecture
. I have five copies of this book on my shelf at home, and I haven’t even graduated from college yet.
3. Steer clear of Malcolm Gladwell
at all costs. Your grad would probably rather have a lifetime supply of pudding than a single Gladwell book, and that’s saying a lot.
With that said, here are five GOOD Books your grad will actually want to read:
The Lost Art of Reading
By David Ulin
160 Pages. Sasquatch Books. $12.95
The Internet is to the book what the microwave is to the oven: Just because you can cook an entire meal for yourself in 90 seconds doesn’t mean it tastes better, and just because you can now read the Sparknotes version of Bleak House in under two hours and somehow end up with an A- paper doesn’t mean you’re getting the same experience. Plenty of grads leave college pledging that they’ll never touch another book unless it’s about monkeys or beer; Ulin exposes their foolishness. In a world full of instant gratification and hyperactive mouse-clicking, The Lost Art of Reading reminds us that we need to make time to sit back, contemplate, and soak it all in once in a while. Admit it: Your Lean Cuisine tastes despicable, and Crime and Punishment, in all of its 576 page glory, leaves a way better taste in your mouth than just about anything you’ll find on the inter-webs.
By David Foster Wallace
336 pages. Little, Brown and Company. $25.95
David Foster Wallace’s stories often focus on banality, providing a sobering lesson to the new grad: Adult life can be a drag. Oblivion, a collection of short fiction, provides a more approachable entry into the late author’s work than, say, his unfinished opus The Pale King. Featuring characters like a focus-group facilitator, a husband with a divorce-inducing snoring problem, and a man who poos out highly detailed sculptures, the message gleaned from these stories is this: People are normal and life is sometimes boring, but unpredictable shit still happens. If you’re really lucky, it’ll happen in sculpture form.
The Art of Happiness
By the Dalai Lama
336 pages. Riverhead Books. $23.95
Admittedly this is one of the more new-age-y books you could gift, but you can’t dis the Dalai Lama. When it comes to coping with the post-campus real world, nobody gives greater advice than His Holiness. The book begins with the premise that life is often insufferable (as we all know, adulthood is sad and involves bills and health insurance!), but gives some thoroughly awesome advice on how to end up fulfilled (I’ll eventually have a job! The cheap brand of mac and cheese tastes better anyway!). The Art of Happiness provides straightforward tips on how to enjoy what you’ve got, and how to avoid wanting more. If you need any further proof that this book has helpful happiness tips, just look at the Dalai Lama himself: dude knows what’s up.
Coming of Age
By Studs Terkel
496 pages. The New Press. $16.95
Every grad needs a “so you think you’ve got it hard?” book on her shelf. Post-college reality can get a person down, but if moving in with mom and dad again seems like the end of the world, consider the challenges faced by the 22-year-olds of the so-called "Greatest Generation." Terkel interviews men and women who grew up during the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and protested for civil rights. Reading the stories of these folks will remind your grad that even though mom and dad may not approve of the large stash of leftover Keystone Lights from her last big party, living with them still means she gets the fancy whole wheat bread instead of Roman Meal. It's not so bad.
Personal Finance for Dummies
By Eric Tyson
458 Pages. Wiley, John & Sons, Inc. $21.99
Bank accounts are for real, home loans aren't myths, and someday your graduate will accidentally run into a parking structure that seemingly popped out of nowhere, denting the bumper beyond repair. Although the grad may have a brand-spanking new bachelor's degree, chances are their Eastern Philosophy, Gender Theory, and Gaga Studies classes didn't teach them quite enough about how to go about, say, making a budget that includes things besides Campbell's soup and Little Debbies. Tyson's guidebook helps fill in the blanks that college may have left out (plus, the macrofinance gen-eds were always the easiest to skip.)