For the Graduate: 2018 Graduation Reading List

Posted by PBS Books Editor on

One’s graduation is a time of immense pride. But it can also be a time of uncertainty; a time when one asks, what’s next? We’re honored to present to you this list of inspirational authors we’ve interviewed that moved us--not only with their books, but also with their personal stories. Young people aren’t necessarily asking for a road map to life. Rather, most are seeking to forge their own unique path, their way. These authors have done just that and we hope they serve as a model for each young graduate in your life. May they hold on to their distinct selves all the while growing and giving proudly to our shared human experience.


Strayed.pngWild, Cheryl Strayed (AWP 2016)

This book is about so much more than a grueling hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a New York Times best-selling novel about grief, pain and doubt. It’s also about triumph, acceptance and grace.

Watch Strayed's 2016 AWP interview >


Limon-BrightDeadThings.pngBright Dead Things, Ada Limon (AWP 2018)

Ms. Limon wears her heart on her sleeve. And we are all the better for it. Bright Dead Things was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry in 2015. It’s “A book of bravado and introspection, of feminist swagger and harrowing loss.”  For every young woman in your life, this is the gift to give her. Watch Limón's 2018 AWP interview >


Smith-DontCallUs.pngDon’t Call Us Dead, Danez Smith (AWP 2018)

Danez Smith is a groundbreaking poet who was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry in 2017. His voice, in performance or on the page, is equally engaging, urgent and not to be ignored.

Watch Smith's 2018 AWP interview >


Palacio_Wonder.jpgWonder, R.J. Palacio (2017 National Book Festival)

As Ms. Palacio states in our interview, Wonder is the little book that could. It keeps growing and finding new audiences because its’ message to Choose Kind resonates with everyone, everywhere. Five years on the New York Times bestseller list!

Watch Palacio's 2017 National Book Festival interview >


attenberg-allgrownup.jpgAll Grown Up, Jami Attenberg (AWP 2017)

This book is honest, funny and smart. Ms. Attenberg writes about what it means to be a “grown-up.” How we all want to be seen and seek connection, whether we choose a conventional path or create a whole new one.

Watch Attenberg's 2017 AWP interview >


nafisi-republicimagination.jpgThe Republic of Imagination, Azar Nafisi (AWP 2017)

This book is a blend of literary criticism, social commentary, and personal memoir. 

Ms. Nafisi writes a passionate and deeply moving hymn to America, the importance of literature and her unexpected journey to becoming an American citizen. Watch Nafisi's 2017 AWP interview >


Lindy-West-Shrill.pngShrill, Lindy West (BookCon 2016)

We loved every bit of this bold, powerful book. Ms. West takes on the loud and obtrusive anger that often lives unchecked on the Internet. She gives voice to the silent, with humor and strength and complete originality.

Watch West's 2016 BookCon interview >


BRIAN GRAZER.jpegA Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, Brian Grazer (2015 LATFOB)

Academy Award winning producer and New York Times bestselling author Brian Grazer has been meeting with experts in their fields, every two weeks or so, for 30 years to simply keep learning. After college, he formed this discipline to expand his life and keep his intellect growing.

Watch Grazer's 2015 L.A. Times Festival of Books interview >


Luvvie-Ajayi-I'mJudgingYou.jpgI’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual, Luvvie Ajayi (2016 Miami Book Fair)

This New York Times Bestselling book of essays is hilarious and sharp. Ms. Ajayi dolls out hard truths with wit, giving side-eye to the world. She calls out bad behavior in our digital, connected lives and serves up common sense advice on how to do better.

Watch Ajayi's 2016 Miami Book Fair interview >


bryanstevenson.jpgJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson (2015 LATFOB)

The #1 New York Times Bestseller is on everybody’s to-read list because it’s that good. Mr. Stevenson talks with us about his humble beginnings and how his worldview was shaped as he dedicated his life to defending the most desperate in need of representation in our judicial system. Powerful, moving and unforgettable. Watch Stevenson's 2015 L.A. Times Festival of Books interview >


FelipeHerrera.pngNotes on the Assemblage, Juan Felipe Herrera (AWP 2016)

Juan Felipe Herrera is the first Latino Poet Laureate of the United States. His collection of poetry, Notes on the Assemblage, is filled with vision and hard-won wisdom. In our interview with him he explains how he continues to grow and learn and improve, thus becoming more human.

Watch Herrera's 2016 AWP interview >


khan_khizr_american-family.pngAn American Family, Khizr Khan (2017 Miami Book Fair)

Khizr Khan is an American Muslim Gold Star father. This deeply moving memoir traces Mr. Khan’s life journey from being a poor farmer’s son in Pakistan to fulfilling his dream to go to University to becoming a lawyer and eventually a U.S. citizen. His story, like most immigrant stories, is told from a grateful heart with love and dignity. Watch Khan's 2017 Miami Book Fair interview >


McCullough_The America Spirit.jpgThe American Spirit, David McCullough, (2017 National Book Festival)

A New York Times bestseller, The American Sprit is a collection of speeches Mr. McCullough has made through the years that highlight our fundamental American principles. He reminds us of the strength and ingenuity our country was built with and how we must remember our past in order to move forward, as one. Watch McCullough's 2017 National Book Festival interview >


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