Books to read your first summer after graduating college

If you’re anything like me, the process of graduating college felt like a wave crashing on shore. All the excitement and congratulations and encouragement that had been building for months peaked in a day of bittersweet emotion, but when it was done I was left… underwhelmed, you could say.

The few weeks since the day I moved my tassel from right to left have felt a little bit like limbo. It’s like the old Britney Spears song, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” Well, I’m not a student, not yet an employee, and that grey space in between is a whole mash-up of adjectives: Confusing. Overwhelming. Intimidating.

But being the overly-analytical English major I am, I found a way to cope the best way I know how: reading. Through asking friends and scouring my bookshelf, I came up with a definitive reading list for my first summer after college.

So here you go, fellow post-grad Gigglers: I’m not a professor, but I’m giving you one final assignment. Here are the books you should read to help you face whatever challenge comes next:

The Advice Book: #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

Sophia Amoruso is like a modern-day Cinderella, except she didn’t need a prince to rule a kingdom. When she was 22, she was broke and directionless, but just eight years later she’s the founder, CEO, and creative director of Nasty Gal, a $100+ million fashion site. Amoruso has a few necessary wake-up calls in the book (“You are not a special snowflake”) but also all the know-how and practical advice to inspire you to trust your gut.

After all, as she says, life is all about knowing which rules to follow and which to break, and her book will help you figure out which are which. “I have three pieces of advice I want you to remember,” she writes. “Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore. Don’t let The Man get to you. Ok? Cool. Then let’s do this.”

The Throwback Book: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

If the endless abyss of choices ahead is overwhelming, indulge your childhood nostalgia and pick up Ella Enchanted again. (If you’re anything like me and back in your childhood bedroom, I bet you still have a copy on the shelves.) This timeless classic will remind you of two very important things: that we should all be thankful for the amount of choice we have, even if it’s overwhelming, and to remember that anything is possible – even achieving your own happily-ever-after.

The Biography: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s biography isn’t an easy read, but it’s so worth it. The poet reveals the trauma of racism and sexual assault from her childhood, all while showing that it is possible not just to persevere but to thrive. The “real world” is full of disappointments and infuriating realities, but it also holds freedom. This biography will teach you to appreciate the beauty of even the most harrowing parts of life.

The Bestseller: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

This is the fiction book to read if you’re trying to learn how to navigate relationships—especially romantic relationships—in the real world. College is a world of hookups and month-long relationships, but now that we’ve graduated, it’s only a matter of time until more and more of our friends start sharing pictures of shiny diamond rings on Facebook. T This is an untraditional love story that tackles what relationships can look like in the modern world, and even though it takes place in the ’80s it feels like my life right now.

Plus, it was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, so you can totally bring up that you’re reading it at a cocktail party or work event and impress everyone else around you.

The Classic: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

It’s more likely than not that you weren’t an English major in college. (Even if you were, it’s even less likely you spent your senior year writing a thesis about how much you loved Austen’s works.) So if you managed to find a way to make it this far in life without reading Austen’s greatest masterpiece, this needs to go at the top of your list. Even if you did read the book when you were younger, maybe in high school, trust me – it’s worth the re-read. You’ll pick up on so much more of Austen’s hilarious yet subtle satire reading the novel as an adult who has had to suffer through her own share of pretentious people, even if you’re meeting them at networking events rather than a ball at Pemberley.

Most importantly, her novel will remind you that everyone is deserving of a second chance, including you. Post-grad life is going to be full of mistakes, but reading Austen will remind us that it’s okay to laugh at them and not always take ourselves so seriously.

The Practical Read: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Like every syllabus, this assignment needs one book that you may not look forward to but is incredibly rewarding once you’re done. And I promise, this book is way more entertaining than you’d expect. It will teach you how to navigate the bank (helpful if you too have sadly outgrown your no-fees college credit card), how much money to save, how to budget for independent life, and what in the world is investing. It’s all the stuff no one taught you in school, but you need to learn ASAP.

The Short-Story Collection: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is a fabulous author and amazing individual (if you haven’t watched her TED talk or read her novel Americanah, do so now), and she’s at her best in this short story collection. From the medical student who hides from a riot with a poor Muslim woman, to the lonely Nigerian immigrant finding the American Dream is not as achievable as she thought, the collection tackles issues of race, religion, motherhood, family and immigration, all while feeling incredibly personal. The twelve stories encompass a variety of perspectives, and will help give you a global view on what it means to live in the U.S.

The Dystopian Novel: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

If you weren’t into politics in college, you will be soon. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you see how much of you paycheck each month goes to taxes. This book will help you see why politics are important by bringing to life the phrase “the personal is political.”

The novel is set in a dystopian United States (now the Republic of Gilead), where declining birth rates caused Puritanical leaders to take over, with drastic consequences for women capable of reproducing. With the rights of women over their bodies being threatened in states across the country, it’s important to realize just what is at stake when you vote.

The Laugh-out-Loud Book: Bossypants by Tina Fey

I first read this book the summer after graduating high school, and I appreciated the humor but couldn’t fully relate. Now re-reading it, I’m convinced that Tina Fey is a prophet. This book will teach you how to laugh instead of cry, whether you’re faced with criticism (online or off), insecurity, or the terrifying prospect of eventual motherhood.

Fey reminds us that chasing our dreams is possible and so, so worth it. We just might trip along the way.

[Images via Shutterstock & Amazon, featured image via]

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