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Summer Reading: The Top 10 Books To Read Before You Enter the Real World

Remember back in high school when you had assigned summer reading?  Chances are, you probably saved it until the last week of summer, scrambling to finish the book so you could retain just enough information to write that dreaded essay on the first day of class.  While I won’t torture you with essays or force you to read “The Scarlet Letter” (hello, tenth grade English), I want you to consider some light reading over the summer (and no, People magazine and the Twilight saga books don’t count) while you’re lounging on the beach or kickin’ back on the hammock in the backyard.   

The following books (selected in no particular order by yours truly) are going to serve as your survival guide after college graduation.  From how to be a Hepburn in a Hilton world to preparing a meal for dinner that could rival Top Chef, we at HC want you to have the right reading material for when you set off for the Real World.  So whether you’re already in the Real World or it’s still a few years off, it never hurts to get a head start. 

=1. The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

Okay, I know what you’re thinking—even a kindergartener knows that the world is round.  Duh.   But just when you think you have mastered the most basic level of human knowledge, think again.  Thomas Friedman, acclaimed New York Times columnist, proves Christopher Columbus wrong as he manages to stay one step ahead of the game in explaining how the playing field between global competition has been leveled—as in flat.  You don’t need to have a degree in economics to understand this concept, but if you want to get a heads up in terms of the direction the world is heading, this book is worth reading.  Not only will it help you gain a clearer understanding of how globalization is changing the way our world operates, but also if you’re ever at a fancy cocktail party and are desperate to sound intelligent in a room full of strangers, this book will save you.

2. Classic Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals by Rachael Ray

Food is key to survival, and if you want to survive in the post-grad world, you need to learn how to cook.  Gone are the days when a box of Ramen or instant macaroni and cheese with ground hamburger constituted a balanced meal.  This is especially important when it’s your turn to host your first dinner party and serving anything made by Kraft is not acceptable.  But fear not, you who are cooking-challenged, Rachael Ray is here to help you with her 150 30-minute meals.  You’ll be able to whip up a delicious chicken cordon bleu meal that will fool your guests into thinking that you slaved for hours in the kitchen preparing.  They’ll be begging to know the secret to your recipes, but don’t worry, we won’t tell.   

3. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

When you’re on a job interview, don’t be surprised if one of the questions your interviewer wants to know is the last book you’ve read.  While you may be inclined to say War and Peace (which would no doubt be an impressive answer), let’s be honest: who has actually read it?  A much more enjoyable (and easier) read would be Three Cups of Tea.  This inspiring work of nonfiction tells the story of one man’s goal of achieving peace through education after a failed attempt climbing the world’s second highest mountain. 

4. Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers by Walter Hoving

Have you ever used a chilled salad fork?  Probably not.  But in case one’s ever on your table, it’s always good to know when to use it (and when not to).  While this book doesn’t come with diamonds or wrapped in a little blue box with a white bow, it does contain all the information you would ever want to know about etiquette.  Written by the former chairman of Tiffany’s, you’ll learn the dos and don’ts of manners, which will no doubt come in handy when you’re dining with the CEO of a company or lunching with the queen of England. 

(By the way, most places do not use a chilled salad fork—it’s just a little extra service that some restaurants like to offer!) 

5. Getting From College to Career by Lindsey Pollak

Business cards?  Check.  Black suit?  Check.  Right attitude?  Check.  Lindsey Pollak’s Getting From College to Career is essential for every college graduate and should be considered the Bible for every person who is transitioning from the collegiate pool and into the Real World.  In this organized, easy-to-read guide, Pollak takes readers step-by-step in helping them pursue their career goals, addressing questions such as what to wear to an interview to how to work a room of professionals and build your network. 

6. How To Be A Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace by Jordan Christy

Do you ever sometimes just feel that it’s a Paris Hilton world, and we’re just living in it?  From DUIs to forgetting to put on their panties before they leave the house (cough-Adrienne Balon-cough), classy female role models can be difficult to find.  Nevertheless, it is still possible to achieve success and professionalism without sacrificing your underwear.  From relationships to diet, Christy clues us in on how to maintain Audrey-status without resorting to “old-fashioned” advice.  *Note: Breakfast at Tiffany’s tiara not included. 

7. Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny by Suze Orman

Don’t you just love Suze Orman’s “get it girlfriend!” attitude?  So do we.  Dealing with money post-graduation can suddenly become very scary if you’re not prepared.   Between student loans and credit card payments, it can be easy to fall into a trap of financial debt.  Just as your trusty VW Jetta comes with a manual, so does your money.  Think of Women & Money as the manual that comes with your banking account, where you can reference it when you hit a speed bump.  Orman will help you learn to budget and set a reasonable financial plan that will accommodate your lifestyle, so you don’t have to compromise your favorite things (like Friday pizza nights). 

8. Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom


I dare you to read this book without shedding one single, “I-need-to-hug-my-grandma-right-now” tear.  We all have that special person in our life who has been our mentor, be it a teacher, neighbor across the street or an older sibling.  This heart-wrenching book tells the true story of the friendship formed between an ailing professor and his former student.  The touching memoir was an Oprah bestseller for a reason—as you’re reading, you feel like you’re sitting on a chair right in Morrie’s room, listening in as he tells his favorite student stories about his past, which will no doubt give great insight into your future. 

9. Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

Once you’ve emotionally recovered from reading Tuesdays with Morrie, you’ll want a book that’s not going to require a box of Kleenex to go with it.  Oh! The Places You’ll Go invites you to unleash your inner-five year old with its infamous rhymes and colorful sketches.  Most importantly, when you’re having a really rotten day where your boss yells at you for not stirring her coffee correctly or you’re walking on your way to work in a white blouse and it begins to downpour, Dr. Seuss tells you exactly what you need to hear: you’re awesome, you’ve got the world at your fingertips, and you’re going to do amazing things in life.  When you need that pep talk and no one is there to pat you on the back when you need it most, read this bedtime book before you go to sleep at night, and you’ll feel better (or dream of trippy-looking book characters at the very least). 

So, lovely HC-readers, what’s the tenth book that should be in our bookshelves or displayed on our coffee tables? Tell us in the comments section below! 

Taylor Trudon (University of Connecticut ’11) is a journalism major originally from East Lyme, Connecticut. She is commentary editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Campus, a blogger for The Huffington Post and is a proud two-time 2009 and 2010 New York Women in Communications scholarship recipient. She has interned at Seventeen and O, The Oprah Magazine. After college, Taylor aspires to pursue a career in magazine journalism while living in New York City. When she's not in her media bubble, she enjoys making homemade guacamole, quoting John Hughes movies and shamelessly reading the Weddings/Celebrations section of The New York Times on Sundays (with coffee, of course).
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