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6 Books to Read Before You Graduate College

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Zoe Schiffer
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Published on January 12, 2015

As 2015 begins and another school year comes to an end (maybe not quite yet but close! So close) we decided to look on one of our favorite websites, Textbooks.com, for 6 books we think every college student should read before they graduate. Some of these are industry-specific, others more holistic, but together they make up what a prepared, informed, and well-rounded (not to mention well-read!) candidate looks like in 2015. So without further ado:

1. Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness

As far as commencement speeches go, I put this one on the short list (possibly the shortest of lists. So far its only companions are J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech of 2008 and David Foster Wallace’s at Kenyon College in 2005).

Many commencement speeches focus on how to make it after college, how to be an entrepreneur or succeed in sales and business. George Saunders’s speech is about how to be a good person, and how to live a happy, fulfilling life. Plus, the entire book is only 1,697 words. That’s like 56 tweets back-to-back. You can and should make it through.

2. What Color is Your Parachute?

At first glance it might seem farfetched that a career book written in 1972 could still be relevant to your job search today. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll see that author Richard Bolles has updated this book each year to keep its stats relevant and advice on point. Plus, the core message remains unchanged: in order to find the career you love you first have to look inward, and identify what you want to do and where, geographically, you most want to do it.

3. Rework

In 1999, 37 Signals launched as a web design firm. They have since gone on to create 5 major apps including Basecamp, Campfire, and Ruby on Rails.

Co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson wrote Rework to share lessons they’ve learned on their path to success. In their own words, “most business books give you the same old advice: Write a business plan, study the competition, seek investors, yadda yadda. If you’re looking for a book like that, put this one back on the shelf.”

The book delivers on its promise, offering unexpected and insightful advice that runs counter to commonly held beliefs.

4. Predictable Revenue

If you’re interested in going into tech sales this book is a must read. It is not a spellbinding page-turner but it is a blue print that clearly lays out how tech start ups set up and run sales teams. If you’re planning on interviewing for a sales position at a startup, this is the book to buy first.

5. Thinking Fast and Slow

I considered (and rejected) putting books like “Freakonomics” “Blink” and “Outliers” on this list. While I have read and enjoyed all of the above, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the “pop science” genre it’s that no matter how compelling the argument, it’s generally forgotten within 6 months. (If someone reading this is diligently working on their 10,000th hour of code to become the new Jon Skeet – I applaud and abhor you).

Daniel Kahneman’s argument is not like this, however. Not only will it fundamentally change the way you think about how you think (Meta? Maybe). It might actually change your behavior.

 6. The Big Short

Not coming from a finance background (a mild understatement) I was skeptical when someone gave me The Big Short and recommended it as a “must read.” Much to my surprise, Michael Lewis’s take on the financial crises was not only accessible to someone not in finance, it read like a mystery-crime novel. This book will help you not look like an idiot when people around you start discussing the 2008 crash, and may allow you to translate some of what Sloane Sabbath says on The Newsroom.

Afterthoughts

In researching what books to include in this list I read many, many “What to Read Before You Die/Graduate College/Become an Adult” articles. The following shocked me: almost all of them included Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” which I found truly not-that-spectacular and kind of left me with a meh-humanity-sucks feeling afterwards (side note, if you are going to read a Donna Tartt book, read “The Goldfinch” just as well written, less depressing). None of them included anything by Michael Lewis. The ones that included a David Foster Wallace book all went with “Infinite Jest” which seems a tad ambitious given that reading this book is akin to attending back-to-back philosophy lectures by a renowned but not altogether accessible intellectual genius.

It is my hope that this list will give you the tools you need to start a career you love, and also not bore you to tears in the process. For more advice on how to find your dream job, check out our resources!

Zoe Schiffer

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