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Best books for grads that aren't Dr. Seuss

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Books for graduates
Congrats, grad: Books to mark the occasion.
Courtesy of publishers

"Oh, the Places You'll — NO!"
Not this book again
I once had 9 copies and now I have 10
You get it for me every time I complete
A grade or degree, or eat all of my peas
I love a good Seuss as much as the next
But there's other great books to mark a success

Seuss is always a classic, but there are other staples for a new grad's bookshelf. 

Whether your grad is big on fiction or handy in the kitchen, these books will serve them well in life off campus.

Best books for grads

"Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work" by David Isay

Welcome to the working world. This book is part of StoryCorps, a nonprofit that collects interviews and personal stories from all over the country.

This collection focuses on work: It captures the stories of people who do what they love — and how they found out what that was. 

The book includes interviews with a doctor, an actor, an oil rig driller, an astronaut, a dentist, a farmer, a funeral director and more. Consider it a modern, inspiring spin on Studs Terkel's "Working," which also makes a good grad gift.

"How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman

Whether the grad is a foodie with fine tastes or just detoxing off the ramen diet, Bittman's essential cooking guide will be handy in the kitchen.

"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz

For grads who haven't had a chance to read much fiction in the last four years, Diaz's wild, electric and delicious novel will shake the syllabus blues. No more assigned reading: Now it's all for fun.

"Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri

For anyone who missed reading Jhumpa Lahiri in college, now's the time to catch up. This collection of short stories explores issues of tradition, family ties and immigration. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book should be an anchor for modern bookshelves.

"Congratulations, By the Way" by George Saunders

Many a commencement speech has been turned into a freestanding book, but this is one of the best: George Saunders' 2013 speech at Syracuse University is an honest and straightforward call for us all to live kinder lives. Saunders' biting wit comes through with the tender message.

"This is Water," David Foster Wallace's famous commencement speech, and "If This Isn't Nice, What Is?" — a collection of Kurt Vonnegut's commencement speeches, — are also packed with wisdom.

"On Writing Well" by William Zinsser

The time for term papers may be over, but grads shouldn't let their writing get rusty. This witty, approachable guide to writing nonfiction is the kind of book where you wear out the spine.

For aspiring writers, go one step further with Stephen King's "On Writing" or "MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction."

"Tiny Beautiful Things" by Cheryl Strayed

Life can be hard — but it can also be great. That's the through line of these collected advice columns from Cheryl Strayed, of "Wild" fame. Her columns tackle tragedy, work drama, financial woes and love in many forms. 

It's self-help, but without any of the sappy stereotypes that come with that label.

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith

For grads who are chasing creative dreams, Smith's memoir of life in 1970s New York is a spirit animal in book form. 

No, you can't trade your artwork for rent at the Chelsea Hotel anymore, but Smith's descriptions of the creative process and collaboration are vivid and inspiring.