Graduation time is upon us yet again, particularly for those finishing up a summer term of Uni, or wrapping up their final year of junior high or high school. I remember when I was in the final weeks leading up to graduation from (part of my) college experience. The head of my program asked how excited I was, and I told him I was psyched because I was pretty much ready to be done with school. He very sagely gave me a sensei response of “You may stop your formal education soon, but you’ll never stop learning.” Tis true sir, tis true. On that note, if you’re starting to think of ideas for your niece / nephew / family friend / cousin / sibling / child / bff, let me spark your imagination as you give them the first great gift…of the rest of their lives. Presenting five kick-ass book picks to remind your pals what they’re leaving behind, and what they have to look forward to – all while doing some good ol’ fashioned book learnin’.
The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller – $18.77
Seriously one of my favourite book covers in recent memory…it just screams New England collegiate doesn’t it? And rightfully so – the book is set in a sleepy New England town called Nye that keeps it secrets wrapped up tight. That is, until Iris Dupont, a dogged, cerebral teenage reporter with an imaginary friend in the form of journalist Edward Murrow for a bff, begins to dig around for details on the school’s slightly sinister secret society, Prisom’s Party. She soon discovers her scientist-turned-science-teacher Jonah Kaplan attended the school over a decade earlier, along with the town’s Historical Society president, Hazel, during a particularly disruptive period in the school’s somewhat notorious history. As Iris begins to unravel the mystery, her path begins to cross with Jonah’s as the book dives deeper into the mystery of the elite school that makes up their world, which they both feel at odds with. As an aside? Don’t be fooled by the young age of Iris, one of three protagonists (the third is intriguingly a third-person character named Lily, providing perspective from the year 2000, next to Iris & Jonah’s 2012 first-person storylines). Iris’ brainy, glib sense of wit and candour will win you over in no time. While a newly minted high school grad might enjoy the school setting, a college grad or simply someone looking to curl up with a clever book will be equally hooked by this surprisingly twisty-turny, deliciously engrossing novel.
Bond Girl: A Novel by Erin Duffy – $17.55
Just a friendly reminder to all those newbie graduates hitting the ‘real world’ – it could be worse. You could be a brainy college graduate that’s been angling for a job on Wall Street (or in ‘The Business’) since you were nine years old, only to find it’s a misogynistic, workaholic, party-overload environment. Oh yeah, and you could be starting your new gig mere months before the collapse of the American financial system. That’s the premise behind former Wall Street worker Erin Duffy’s roman a clef, a dishy insider’s look at life on the Street from the perspective of a young, intimidated woman that’s grappling with a complicated love life, a persistently flirty client, a cuts-to-the-core boss and mean-streak coworkers, and an office dominated by dudes. Not that there isn’t some fun – protagonist Alex weighs memorable water cooler-esque moments and parties and perks against the less-great elements of her job. Pick this one up in anticipation of your favourite newbie grad harps about their boss or their commute or their job hunt – it’s a sobering yet freewheeling ride.
The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. – $12.99
Think of this nonfiction book as a counterpoint to Erin Duffy’s Bond Girl. Three young women working high-pressure jobs in New York quit on the eve of their thirtieth birthdays and embark on a yearlong journey around the world – sort of Eat, Pray, Love style – to find inspiration and direction for the next chapter of their lives. Based on their popular Lost Girls blog, the book is an inspiring glimpse into throwing away life’s expectations in favour of truly experiencing life and all it has to offer. If a young ‘un in your midst is feeling a little directionless, pass this one along as subtle encouragement to take a gap year, even if it doesn’t involve the low-rent ‘jet setting’ the three bff’s describe in this heartwarming book.
Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money & Life by Kevin O’Leary – $18.77
Persuasion by Arlene Dickinson – $20.98
Driven: How To Succeed In Business And In Life by Robert Herjavec – $14.43
Dragon’s Den is Canada’s great pop culture equalizer. I know people half my age and people three times my age (and everywhere in between) that watch the show, and in fact, I know some folks that have made it on the show as well. Two of the Dragons have actually gone on to test the waters in the US of A with the similar / also popular show Shark Tank. With that in mind, give your graduate some business smarts to launch them into their university or post-schooling career with one of these three tomes from some of the show’s most recognizable faces. Each one is packed with an intriguing life story coupled with rags-to-riches tales of surprising start-ups, and the success secrets that put these all-stars where they are today. Sidenote? These also make fab Father’s Day finds.
Dr. Seuss Happy Graduation Gift Set – $14.43
Whether you give this whimsical gift set to a little one that’s graduating from preschool to kindergarten, or as a sentimental token for a high school or college graduate about to embark on their next great adventure, this is a winning choice. Note that this doesn’t come with the actual book, but the cheery sentiment on the included journal, banner, diploma, magnets, bookmark and more – all emblazoned with classic Seuss quotes – more than makes up for it (and is a great add-on for the young and the young at heart that already have the classic tome).