In late Spring, millions of graduates, cloaked in black gowns, sit patiently in neat rows of folding metal chairs, like penguins basking in the hot sun. It is commencement in America — an important milestone in the life of young people who, having earned a degree in the hallowed halls of the academe, are now yearning to embark on life’s journey to destinations known and unknown. They sit eagerly awaiting some notable guest speaker (although not always the university’s first choice for commencement speaker) to walk up to the podium and cast pearls of wisdom onto this massive patchquilt of mortarboards.
Unfortunately, there is no direct correlation between fame and wisdom. Nor is a speaker’s celebrity status any guarantee that the talk will be compelling or interesting. As Garry Trudeau, creator of the Doonesbury comic strip, once quipped, “[Commencment speeches] were invented largely in the belief that outgoing college students should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated.” Indeed, some guest speakers rise to the occasion and bare their souls, sharing thoughtful words of wisdom, while others do not appreciate the solemness of this rite of passage and use this precious opportunity to toss out tired platitudes or glib observations.
To illuminate the horizon for these aspiring young men and women, “the leaders of tomorrow” to use a hackneyed phrase, Bookshelf presents some of the best books for graduates that actually have something meaningful to say. These books, like a great teacher or mentor, can provide valuable insight, inspiration, encouragement, and guidance for many years after graduation.
Onward! edited by Peter Smith, Scribner (2000)
Here We Stand edited by Randy How, Lyons Press (2009)
The Quotable Graduate edited by Heidi Reinholdt and John Ross, Lyons Press (2003)
The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives by Katie Couric, Random House (2011)
Everyday Greatness: Inspiration for a Meaningful Life edited by David Hatch, commentary by Stephen Covey, Reader’s Digest (2006)
The Gigantic Book of Teachers’ Wisdom edited by Erin Gruwell, Skyhorse Publishing (2007)
Words that Matter: Everyday Truths to Guide and Inspire edited by Michelle Burford, HarperStudio (2010)
The Best Advice Ever Given: Life Lessons for Success in the Real World edited by Steven Price, Lyons Press (2006)
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks: Timeless Advice on the Senses, Society, and the Soul edited by Steven Stavropoulos, Barnes and Noble (2003)
Read related post: The Best Books for Graduates: 2015
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