Books Everyone Should Read When They Graduate

The Daily Beast recently ran an article in which some famous writers and academics list books they think everyone should read right after they graduate from college. It’s a fascinating list, ranging from Shakespeare to works of philosophy and biographies and even some economics.

That made me want to make a list, which I’ll restrict to five. Here’s mine, highly idiosyncratic and lacking in anything pre-twentieth century, because everyone knows they ought to read those, right?

1. David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again 
One of the masters. It’s his first collection of essays, which is not just entertaining, but makes you think–really think–about things like entertainment in a careful way.

2. Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb 
This book changed my life, and it’s still my favorite book of theology. It shifted my view of God and the created order and of simple things, like food and grace.

3. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead 
The Pulitzer-prize winning novel, written as letters from an aging pastor to his young son, is not only a masterpiece, but will restore your faith in the possibilities of literature. My husband and I gave this book to our wedding party.

4. Donald Hall, Life Work
I teach this book in my first-year writing class, and I think it is one of the most profound, simple, moving meditations on what it is to work and labor and live–something that new graduates could use.

5. Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction
And this winsome little volume, by one of my favorite living essayists, will help you think about what to read next.

What would be on your list?


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