8 Books To Inspire Your Post-Graduation Move
After four years of tethering yourself to one collegiate location, it’s time at long last to uproot yourself and plant those roots elsewhere for awhile. In Angels in America, Tony Kushner wrote, “In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead.” There’s no shame in longing for what you leave behind — who won’t miss the library powwows, the sunbathing on the quad, the late night cheese fries with friends? (You can still have those if you pick the right place, BTW.)
But think instead toward the dreaming ahead — to the new apartment, the sophisticated new office, the new go-to hole-in-the-wall bar. If you haven’t nailed down the street addresses of such locations just yet, don’t fall prey to post-grad despair — instead, let literature act as the most cost-effective travel agent you could ever hope to hire.
Many of the young professional world’s most eligible post-grad destinations have been captured time and time again through the prism of literature, and that trend shows no sign of drying up. Let these books be your compass, and undoubtedly they’ll point you toward your next destination. Who knows — that destination might even inspire the book inside of you just waiting to be written.
If You're Thinking of Moving to New York City, Read Open City by Teju Cole
There are dozens of schools of thought on the quintessential New York novel, and while Open City may not be the canonical choice, something about its flaneurial spirit and immigrant underpinnings seem quintessentially New York. Teju Cole chronicles a psychiatry resident and Nigerian immigrant named Julius, who contemplates his relationships, his militarized past, and the various multicultural refugees he encounters as he wanders Manhattan. You may have heard the doom and gloom interpretation of New York, but Cole’s generosity of spirit will encourage you to think differently, to instead focus your understanding of the city on questions of love, dislocation, and the identities we make versus the identities into which we’re born.
If You're Thinking of Moving to Washington, D.C., Read Palimpsest by Gore Vidal
When he wasn’t busy antagonizing Norman Mailer at dinner parties, Gore Vidal wrote incisively on sex, politics, and American dreaming. It’s in this tradition that Palimpsest is situated, a memoir of the first 40 years of Vidal’s life, which were punctuated with satire, gossip, and astute examination of American culture. If you’re attracted to D.C. as a city characterized by a rich cultural and historical heritage, look no further for a literary spirit guide than Palimpsest — with appearances from anyone from the Kennedys to Marlon Brando, this book has culture and history in spades.
If You're Thinking of Moving to London, Read White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Contemporary urban life is complicated — few writers in current practice understand that better than Zadie Smith, a public intellectual in the grandest sense of the tradition who has made a distinguished literary career out of urban life and its difficulties. Smith barreled out of the gate with White Teeth as her debut novel, in which two WWII veterans (one a native Londoner, the other a Bengali Muslim) navigate marriage, parenthood, and dreams gone alongside their immigrant wives. Smith’s London is postcolonial, disappointing, and struggling with racial integration, but as one hell of a hyper-specific picture, it’s just as incisive and informative as any work of nonfiction.
If You're Thinking of Moving to Paris, Read Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
If you’re thinking of living out your An American in Paris fantasies, check in with New Yorker legend Adam Gopnik before you pull the trigger on that plane ticket. In the late '90s, Gopnik packed his bags alongside his wife and infant son to work as a foreign correspondent in the City of Lights, where he mused on the nuances of French culture and parenthood. Out of that experience hurtled Paris to the Moon, a love letter to all of Paris’ enduring qualities, both the beautiful and the infuriating. If you want the unvarnished truth before you make the big move, perhaps the answer is not to turn to one of the dozens of novels about Paris, but rather to Gopnik’s journalistic account.
If You're Thinking of Moving to Los Angeles, Read The Love of the Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Looking to hit it big in Hollywood? The current state of cinematic affairs may have left you professionally jaded, but that’s where Fitzgerald comes in with The Love of the Last Tycoon, an unfinished roman à clef produced during the final, booze-soaked years of his life, during which he paid the bills as a Hollywood screenwriter. In this novel, Hollywood is framed as the final frontier for American reinvention, where self-made producer Monroe Stahr dukes it out against rival studio executive Pat Brady while romancing a young widow. Fitzgerald himself said it best — there are second acts in American life, and after you ruminate on this novel, your second act just might be Los Angeles.
If You're Thinking of Moving to San Francisco, Read The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth
The Golden Gate is an underdog in American literature, and criminally so — if any prose stylist deserves to be canonized, it’s the self-referential author who chronicled four San Francisco yuppies in a series of sonnets numbering well into the hundreds. If you’ve got your eye on San Francisco, but have trouble envisioning your day-to-day life there, turn to The Golden Gate for imaginative inspiration; surely you can project yourself into one of the scenes conjured therein, whether it’s garage band practice or a legal firm all-hands-on-deck meeting.
If You're Thinking of Moving to Seattle, Read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Beautiful Ruins doesn’t spend all of its narrative time in Seattle, but when it does, Jess Walter makes those dalliances count. From the crystalline blue waters of the Ligurian Sea to the medieval edifices of Edinburgh and back again to rainy, casual-cool Seattle, Beautiful Ruins is a sprawling, 50-year chronicle of the private lives of artists. If you’re a creative type thinking of settling in Seattle, but you’re not quite ready to settle down (who is, at this age?), Beautiful Ruins stands as a sublime and sumptuous assurance of life’s ability to sprawl out across a tapestry of cities.
If You're Thinking of Moving to Chicago, Read The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
“I am an American, Chicago born — Chicago, that somber city — and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way.” And thus begins The Adventures of Augie March, with this shot of American individualism heard round the literary world. As a young Chicagoan from a broken home, the eponymous Augie is a perpetual drifter propelled by the battering forces of the Great Depression through a series of odd jobs and misfit coworkers, all of whom act as a procession of portraits that cast Augie’s own directionlessness and strangeness into sharp relief. This exuberant Great American Novel is a doorstopper to be certain, but Augie is someone worth sticking with — if you don’t quite understand your place in Chicago, he doesn’t either, and thus he’ll make a fitting companion.