Leaving college can feel massive and terrifying. Your whole life so far has been a carefully guided path, and suddenly you’re on your own. This is the real world, kid — what are you planning to do about it?
Luckily, you’re never actually alone. There may be no more teachers and classes and schedules, but there are always books. (And, you know, friends — but let’s be honest, books are better, right?)
These nine books will help you tackle the world ahead of you. Bits of it are scary, and bits of it are fun, and bits of it are really quite wacky, but it’s all totally manageable. No matter what you face, someone in one of these books has faced it before, and forged a path for you to follow. These books cover jobs, romance, being completely broke, balancing old and new friendships… and there are some terrifying thrillers thrown in for good measure. Because when you ask yourself “what could possibly go wrong,” it’s very helpful to have a worst-case scenario to freak yourself out with. (This may not be totally solid advice.)
So dive into one of these and kick start your brand new life as a real world adult!
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
You think being a 20-something woman right out of college is hard? Try being a 20-something woman working in a boys’ prison in 1960s Boston. Trust Eileen Dunlop: it’s lonely as hell. So when Eileen makes a new friend, the cheery and positive Rebecca, it seems like life is looking up. That is, until Rebecca drags her into a situation worse than anything Eileen (who’s already pretty sinister) had imagined.
Love is Red by Sophie Jaff
After college, it can feel like a whole world of pressure is on your shoulders. You’ve spent a ton of money on this degree, and now the expectations for your future are high. Well, not as high as Katherine Emerson’s, who was actually born to fulfill a centuries-old dark prophecy. Yikes. This book is totally gripping, and completely terrifying.
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Phew, something more closely reflecting your post-college life. The Knockoff is about the editor in chief of a magazine who finds her twentysomething former assistant plotting to take over her job, and turn the whole magazine into an app. Get scheming, college grads, this could be you! (Just kidding. Please be nice to your boss.)
Brokenomics by Dina Gachman
So you’ve just left college, and you’re totally broke. But that doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself into adulting with the rest of us! Dina Gachman is here to teach you how to freeload from apartment to apartment, buy strategic plants, and generally make good decisions when it comes to life, love, and money.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This novel follows four college friends moving to New York straight after graduation, and how tragic and challenging their lives become in the decades that follow. But before you throw it away in fear, this is actually a wonderful book for college grads to read. It’s a story of deep love and friendship in the 21st century, and it’s a story of the hope that endures even through the darkest times.
Local Girls by Caroline Zancan
Chances are, college brought you a lot of heartbreak — from boyfriends and girlfriends, yes, but also from friendships. The old friendships you tried to hold onto; the new friendships that weren’t what you thought. Local Girls explores the whole intense dynamic of friendships between young women — and throws in a dead celebrity for good measure.
Diamond Head by Cecily Wong
Now you’re a college grad, you read sophisticated epic novels with your eyes closed, right? Dive into Cecily Wong’s powerful tale of the four generations of the Leong family, and all the secrets and betrayals that follow them.
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford
As you head out into the real world, it’s tempting to aim for the top; after all, didn’t Gossip Girl teach us that the Upper East Side elite are having way more fun? Everybody Rise follows the social climbing Evelyn Beegan as she desperately tries to pass as “old money” in front of her privileged peers. How far will she go to be accepted? Far enough to make you glad you’re the one eating takeout in your pajamas, and not the one in the cocktail dress…
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
Make Your Home Among Strangers is about a young Cuban-American woman, Lizet, who secretly applies to college. Her family view it as the ultimate betrayal, and Lizet finds herself caught between two cultures she finds increasingly difficult to navigate.
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