Graduation is an exciting time of year—once finals are over, and the long stretch of summer before us—there’s nothing to do except kick back, relax, and wait for the next big chapter to begin. But post-grad life is not without its challenges or worries. Whether the next step is travel, more school, or a new job, there is something important to learn and grow from. Here is a list of books that reminds us of the many, many paths you can take after graduation.
13 Inspiring Books for New Graduates
1. What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.
2. For Every One by Jason Reynolds
Originally a poem performed at the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr memorial, FOR EVERYONE is for the dreamers, who have been too scared to dream. Because just having the dream is the start you need, or you won’t get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith.
3. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Andie always has a plan for everything. So when her summer internship falls through, she’ll discover all the joys in life that happen while you’re busy making other plans. After graduation, there’s always the question of what’s going to happen next? Now, more than ever, a story of embracing life’s unexpected moments will definitely inspire you as you set off on your next adventure.
4. Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
On the last day of senior year, class rivals Rowan and Neil must work together to win their senior class game that will take them all over Seattle. Over the course of 24 hours, they’ll learn that maybe their feelings of hatred might actually be love in disguise.
5. Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi
Penny Lee came to Austin for school—and to leave behind a less-than-ordinary life. Her meet-cute with tattooed barista Sam isn’t exactly that, but still they swap numbers. Soon they become digitally inseparable, but transferring it to an IRL connection proves more difficult. If you love Jenny Han and Rainbow Rowell, you absolutely need to read this charmingly awkward novel.
6. Your Destination is on the Left by Lauren Spieller
Tired of her family’s nomad RV life, Dessa Rhodes eagerly accepts an art internship in Santa Fe. She knows this is the ticket to a new life attending art school. But just when she feels settled into this new environment, family troubles try to pull her back into a life she wants to leave behind. But is she ready to?
7. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Kiko Himura’s life is effectively over: she was rejected from her dream art school, and her abusive uncle has moved back in with her family. Desperate to flee, she jumps on the chance to move to tour art schools on the west coast with her childhood friend. Finally free from her restrictive home life, Kiko can learn how to be herself, how to cope with her past, and how to be brave in this beautiful debut novel by Akemi Dawn Bowman.
8. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade
After being caught in an elaborate lie, a fabrication of a 90s TV series, Caroline Sands is ready to start fresh in college. But making friends has never been her strong suit. To find a place where she truly belongs, Caroline may have to abandon her script and take the risk of being herself.
9. Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian
Scooping cones at Meade Creamery has always been the highlight of Amelia’s summers. But when the owner dies unexpectedly, the ice cream stand is turned over to her grand-nephew, and he has plans of his own for the business. With her final summer in jeopardy, Amelia knows she can’t stand by and let this handsome newcomer threaten the traditions that have made Meade Creamery so great.
10. American Panda by Gloria Chao
As a freshman at MIT, Mei is on track to becoming the woman her parents always dreamed her to be, even though she isn’t all that thrilled. But when she reconnects with her brother, estranged from her family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if Mom and Dad really do know best.
11. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Even though Dimple’s parents let her attend a summer program for aspiring web developers, the first step on the path to her biggest dreams, they’re a little more reticent to give up on finding her the “Ideal Indian Husband.” And when the “suggested arranged husband” Rishi arrives on campus to spend time with her before they head off to their respective colleges, Dimple is determined not to let this goo-goo eyed romantic ruin her summer—and life—plans. Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
12. At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson
The universe is shrinking, and the only person who knows is Ozzie, who is trying to find out why his boyfriend, his best friend, his everything, Tommy, one day ceased to exist. With high school ending in months and the plans to leave their small town now in jeopardy, Ozzie will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth in this exciting, mysterious sci-fi thriller from Shaun David Hutchinson.
13. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Decisions of the heart are never easy to make. And when it comes down to two boys, brothers, that Belly has known all her life, no decision has ever been harder. The Summer I Turned Pretty series is the perfect beach read, a reminder that no flame is ever completely out.