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20 Best Books To Read Before You Graduate College

If you’re getting ready to graduate college, chances are, you’re feeling a mix of emotions right now. Maybe you’re excited about being done with school and you’re ready to apply for your dream job ASAP — or maybe you’re feeling totally stressed and overwhelmed and wish you could slow things down for a bit. If you need support during your college journey — especially right before graduation — it can be difficult to know where to turn for advice. Fortunately, though, there are many incredible books out there that can help you feel less alone. 

Whether you’re dealing with a friendship breakup, struggling to carve out time for self-care, or facing major senioritis in your last semester, sometimes, reading an inspiring book can help give you the wisdom and motivation you need to work through your challenges and move forward. When I think back to my college experience, there were many books that helped me get through tough times and feel better about myself and my path, even when it was difficult to feel hopeful. If you could use some support right now, you’re not alone. Here is a list of 20 books to read before graduating college, including some of my all-time personal favorites.

1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This New York Times bestseller by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, is the perfect book for anyone who wants to push past fear and live a fun, creative life. Gilbert offers insights on how to embrace your curiosity, face your fears, and get inspired to achieve your goals. 

2. More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth

Elaine Welteroth, the former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, has climbed the ranks in media and fashion and broken barriers for women of color everywhere. In her book More Than Enough, she inspires readers to own their power and show up authentically in life.

3. Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo is an award-winning entrepreneur and media host whose mom once told her, “Nothing in life is that complicated. You can do whatever you set your mind to if you roll up your sleeves. Everything is figureoutable.” Now, Forleo gives you advice on how to overcome imposter syndrome and achieve your goals without fear.

4. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes, AKA the iconic creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder, shares how saying “yes” radically changed her life. If you’re a college woman looking about to graduate, you’ll love this fun and motivating book! 

5. What Would Frida Do? A Guide To Living Boldly by Arianna Davis 

This book uses the incredible story of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to inspire you to live authentically. From sharing stories about Kahlo’s resilience to discussing her politics and more, journalist and author Arianna Davis crafts the ultimate story about how to live boldly.

6. Chasing the Bright Side by Jess Ekstrom

Entrepreneur, international speaker, and philanthropist Jess Ekstrom is an inspiring, thoughtful, funny voice who will encourage you to live a life you’re excited about. In her book, Chasing the Bright Side, she shares personal stories of how optimism helped her overcome life’s challenges. As a big fan of Jess and her book, I can’t recommend this one enough.

7. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

If you’re a college student getting ready to graduate, Brené Brown’s books are a must. This one is all about the idea of daring leadership and will motivate you to be brave, practice courage, and step into the leader you were born to be. 

8. Becoming by Michelle Obama

What better way to cultivate confidence than by soaking in a powerful memoir by the former first lady of the United States?! In Becoming, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world and chronicles the experiences that shaped her life. By the end of this book, you’ll feel inspired to defy expectations — during your college experience, and beyond. 

9. The Big Life by Ann Shoket

Full disclosure: Growing up as an avid Seventeen magazine reader, I’ve always admired former editor-in-chief Ann Shoket. In her book, she provides actionable guidance for young women about crafting a career you’re passionate about, working with different types of bosses, developing side hustles, and more.

10. I Am Diosa by Christine Gutierrez

If you’re a college student who could use a dose of self-love, you’ll appreciate this book by psychotherapist Christine Gutierrez. “Diosa” is the Spanish word for “goddess,” so if you’re ready to embrace your divine feminine, this is the read for you.

11. Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

My college advisor literally handed me this book when I was in college – specifically when I was feeling major senioritis and struggling to remember my purpose. If you could use some inspiration and a reminder of what you’re passionate about, Let Your Life Speak will be a powerful book for you.

12. Break The Good Girl Myth by Majo Molfino

According to author Majo Molfino, there are five self-sabotaging tendencies every woman must overcome to unleash her power: the myth of rules, perfection, logic, harmony, and sacrifice. Majo uses her leadership training and background in design thinking to help you build confidence and break free from these disempowering myths. 

13. Untamed by Glennon Doyle

In this groundbreaking book, activist, speaker, and bestselling author Glennon Doyle explores what happens when you stop trying to meet others’ expectations and start trusting your inner voice. TBH, I can’t think of a better life lesson for a college student who’s getting ready to graduate and head into the real world!

14. A New Model: What Beauty, Confidence, and Power Really Look Like

Model, entrepreneur, and media host Ashley Graham is one of my favorite celebs of all time. Her book features a collection of insightful essays that touch on body image, self-esteem, relationships, and cultivating confidence, and it’s perfect for any college student aspiring to be their healthiest, most beautiful self.

15. Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader by Herminia Ibarra

If you’re a college student who aspires to make a difference in the world, you should definitely read Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader. Ibarra, who is an expert on professional leadership and a renowned professor, offers advice on how to make the most of your job, diversify your network, and evolve your leadership skills. 

16. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Bestie, no matter what stage you’re at in life, add this incredible read to your library list ASAP. The Alchemist is a masterpiece, telling the story of a shepherd boy who embarks on a quest to find a treasure but finds so much more. The book is all about listening to your heart, navigating your life path, and following your dreams.

17. Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

This book has radically changed my life and shaped the way I view my identity, womanhood, and personal strengths. Fair warning: Estés’ book isn’t the lightest read, but it’s one you can return to for the rest of your life and still gain powerful new lessons. She shares cultural myths, fairytales, folktales, and poignant stories to help women live fiercely and unapologetically.

18. Grit by Angela Duckworth

In this essential book for college students, Angela Duckworth explains how the secret to success isn’t mere talent; rather, a unique combination of passion and perseverance called “grit.” Whether you’re facing adversity or figuring out how to navigate your senior year of college, this book will remind you to keep your head up and persevere through challenges.

19. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

We could all use a confidence boost sometimes. This book by Jen Sincero will keep you motivated to stay on track toward being your most badass self and includes exercises, reflections, and tips for how to stay focused and reach your goals. 

20. Atomic Habits by James Clear

This book offers a proven framework for building good habits, breaking bad ones, and mastering small behaviors that lead to big results. Graduating college and learning how to “adult” can be tough, but reading about healthy habits just might be the game-changer you need!

Tianna was an Associate Editor at Her Campus Media HQ where she covers all things pop culture, entertainment, wellness, and TikTok trends. She graduated from North Carolina State University and received her masters from Columbia University. Tianna currently lives in New York City where you can find her sipping coffee, practicing yoga, and singing show tunes.
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