10 Impactful Books To Give The High School Graduate In Your Life

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When you stop to think about it, a book is truly amazing. With the turn of a page, a lifetime of knowledge from the world’s most learned people is right in front of your eyes.  


A great book can make a lasting impression on a young person. Because of this, a basket of books can be the best present for a high school senior who is moving on to the next stage of his or her life.


Here are some ideas:


  1. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl

Frankl was a psychotherapist and a Nazi death camp survivor who founded a discipline called logotherapy. This discipline is based on his research and real-life experience that meaning, rather than pleasure, is the main driver of behavior.


Millions of people can’t be wrong. As of the time of his death in 1997, over 10 million copies had been sold.


  1. “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley


In this classic book, Stanley studied millionaires and multimillionaires to discern their habits.   He found that their way of handling money was the opposite of what people might think. Instead of spending in excess, these self-made business people were “tight” with their money, drove late-model cars, and lived in unassuming houses (hence the title).


  1. “Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That The Poor And Middle Class Do Not” by Robert Kiyosaki


There is a myth that you need a high income to become rich. Robert Kiyosaki busts this misconception by sharing the advice he got from his “rich dad” — a wealthy self-made father of a friend. He contrasts that money mentality with that of his own middle class father.  


This is one of the most popular personal finance books of all time and is accessible for anyone and everyone.


  1. “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White and “On Writing” by Stephen King


Every college student needs to have “The Elements of Style” on their shelf, even if just to know 57 words that are often “misplaced” and advice to “omit needless words.” This classic book on writing style would be even better paired with prolific author Stephen King’s primer “On Writing.”  


Though good for every student, these books could be especially helpful for science majors who might appreciate some extra help in required English and writing classes. King’s “toolbox” section could come in handy, and the story of his early struggles is inspiring.


  1. “The Road to Character” by David Brooks


David Brooks encourages people to look beyond the traditional measures of success. In his book, “Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our ‘résumé virtues’ — achieving wealth, fame, and status — and our ‘eulogy virtues,’ those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.”


  1. “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson


How do you write a comprehensive overview of the history of time and our civilization? Bill Bryson tackles this task in his book — and does it well. He makes science accessible to nearly everyone, and it’s entertaining to boot.


Obviously this would interest science-minded students, but might be an even better gift for those who aren’t naturally inclined to study astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology or genetics.


  1. “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Over 50 years ago, author and wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh wrote this book. Lindbergh suggests we find time for creativity and contemplation in our lives, something we need now more than ever. As our lives become increasingly more complex through technology, this book is as relevant today as it was in the 60s when it was written.


  1. “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and a Game That Made a Nation” by John Carlin


In this book (which was made into the movie “Invictus,” starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon), Carlin chronicles Mandela’s brilliant leadership. Mandela wins over his racially divided nation by stepping into the shoes of his adversary. He learns their language and embraces their favorite sport in order to bring the country together.


  1. “Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Out Into The Real World” by Maria Shriver


She had me at “no job is beneath you.” Journalist and former first lady of the state of California, Maria Shriver has a common-sense approach to life. The wisdom she shares is applicable to everyone. Since the content of this book was taken from a graduation speech, it’s an obvious fit in your basket of books for either high school or college graduation.


  1. “Experience Passport: 45 Ways To Broaden Your Horizons” by Alex Egner


You don’t need to travel to remote parts of the world to add depth of experience to your life.  Egner encourages all of us to try new experiences every day, such as “conversing with someone in a different language” and “sketching out the constellations.”


Even if high school graduates don’t read them right away, these books will be there waiting for them on their shelf, ready to pick up when the time is right.

This was originally posted on my Forbes.com contributor column with the title of 10 Books To Give A Graduate That Will Set Them Up For Success.






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