Reading has always been a source of comfort for me, so during my confusing and panic-filled post-college years, I turned to books for answers. And guess what? They did have lots to teach me.
If you have recently finished your studies and are feeling anxious about your future, fret not! Though books cannot solve all your problems, they can make you laugh, cry, think and ultimately lead you to see that things will get better from here onwards.
Here are eight books that will help you navigate life after college.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
This was one of the first books I read after graduating, and it became an instant favorite.
In this story, we follow Tereza, Tomas, Franz and Sabina as they navigate work, love and life under the Soviet Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
I’m aware this book is not for everyone, as it doesn’t have much of a plot, but if you love beautiful writing and don’t mind existential rambles every few pages, this might be right up your alley.
This turned out to be incredibly relatable, as Kundera offers brilliant reflections on the most common dilemmas we face throughout our lives, especially when we’re young and still trying to figure out our place in the world.
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Immigration, identity issues, love, racism, homesickness, this novel tackles it all. In this story, our protagonist is Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who questions her place in America, after living there for 15 years.
By reading this novel, not only you get to know what being an immigrant feels like, but you also relate to Ifemelu’s struggles as a young person trying to find her true calling in life.
While reading Ifemelu’s story, I found myself thinking of how lonely it can be to feel insecure about your decisions, especially when everyone around you makes you feel like you should be having the time of your life. A feeling all too familiar for many college graduates.
Self-help books can be a bit of a hit, or miss for me, but this one really hit home. This book is a result of a conversation between His holiness, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, when they met in India for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.
What I loved the most about this book is that it doesn’t feel condescending at all. Both of these spiritual masters have undergone great suffering, but they still believe in the power of joy – and they talk about it with incredible humility and compassion.
This is a great one to remind yourself to be grateful for all the things you’ve accomplished in your life, and to stop comparing yourself to your peers.
Becoming, Michelle Obama
There’s not much I can say about this book that hasn’t been said already, but I’ll try. If you’re questioning all of your life choices, read this book. If you feel stuck, read this book. If you feel like a failure compared with your friends, by all means read this book!
In this memoir, Michelle Obama chronicles her life’s adventures and misadventures, from growing up in the South of Chicago to becoming the first African-American First Lady.
It’s comforting to realize how much of Michelle’s fears are also our fears and it is inspiring to read about how she overcame them and became the woman she is today. This book is also especially meaningful for anyone from a lower-income background who feels like their dreams are too big, or unattainable. Michele’s story says otherwise.
The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
This one might sound completely random, but hear me out! Children’s books are candy for the soul, especially when you’re going through a confusing time in your life, such as that of entering the “real world”.
For me, this story symbolizes courage and hope. After all, all Dorothy wants is to go home, but before finding herself back in Kansas, she will have to talk to the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, help her new friends (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion) and fight the Wicked Witch.
Even if you’ve seen the movie already, it’s worth checking out the book as there are some substantial differences. Contrary to what the 1939 adaptation popularized, Baum’s Dorothy is everything but a ‘damsel in distress.” In fact, she is the one who inspires her friends to keep going, for she is certain that “if we walk far enough, we shall sometime come to someplace.”
Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig
Another one I can’t stop recommending is Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive. Part memoir, part self-help, in this book Haig chronicles his struggles with depression, mentioning how he almost lost his life to suicide and what made him find the strength to live.
I believe anyone facing a new challenge in their lives can take something out of this book, but is particularly meaningful if you struggle with depression or anxiety yourself and are looking for a comfort read.
Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata
The only thing I can tell you about this one is that is the story of a 36 year-old woman who works at a convenience store. Promising, right?
A novella that you can easily read in one sitting, Murata’s story explores how society’s expectations can shape and oppress us, detailing the pressures young women often feel to fulfill a certain role.
This is a good read for any college graduate, but might resonate deeply with those who are sick and tired of being told they’re living their life the wrong way.
Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of advice columns by Cheryl Strayed, the author of the bestselling memoir Wild.
If you are unfamiliar with Strayed’s writing, this collection will blow you out of the water. The author answers every reader’s question with such empathy and understanding it feels like you’re having a conversation with your best friend, or older sister.
Strayed mixes the perfect amount of motivation and anguish, leaving you confident that, though a part of your life is over, the best is yet to come!