I couldn't possibly tell you my favorite part about college. Was it the hours I spent reading esoteric philosophy in a French coffee shop flanked by mochas so thick you could use them to ice a cake? Or would it be the countless afternoon picnics on the bank of a lake peppered with swans? How about the hours spent locked in my bedroom reviewing econ notes before the final exam, or the thoughtful conversations in wood-paneled seminar rooms among the campus? These were the best of times — and, OK, some were the worst of times (like that afternoon I accidentally bleached my boyfriend's cell phone, or the dinner party that resulted in a massive bout of food poisoning).
And then came graduation.
Transitioning from the clarity of a campus life to the uncertainty of the post-collegiate career chase can be tough. You will have to trade in those yoga pants for a respectable suit of some kind, and that résumé of yours almost certainly needs work. But I've got just what the doctor ordered for a tough case of the job-hunt blues. OK, so, these 11 tomes won't guarantee you the position, but a little literary luck on your side might be just what you need to make a successful transition from student to job-seeker.
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
As a wannabe academic with more hours logged in the campus library than I care to consider, this particular story tugs at my heartstrings and bolsters my hope for a rich, fruitful future. Whether or not you're planning to continue on an academic path after you don a cap and gown this spring, Wallace Stegner's intimate portrait of four friends navigating the rough waters howling between education's end and occupation's new beginning will surely shore you up for the coming storm.
The Brainstorm by Jenny Turner
Mary Poppins seemed to think that sugar might help the medicine go down, but in my experience a dose of humor goes a good deal further. If you're looking to lighten the occupational load with a welcome laugh, Jenny Turner's The Brainstorm chronicling a day in the life of one woman who shows up for a job she cannot remember may just be enough to help you forget the hard day's work you'll have to put in between now and newfound employment.
The Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli
Before you step up to the plate and take your place in the global economy, you might want to consider exactly what that means. Pietra Rivoli's explosive exposé tracking the supply chain that brings fibers from the fields to your front door in the form of a shirt is spectacular. Forget the economics seminar — if you only read one book before entering the workforce, let Rivoli's The Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy be it.
Company by Max Barry
The corporate monolith, the sexy secretary, the unknown CEO — Max Barry's blithe, biting look at the ins and outs of business has it all. Tracing the climb of one young cog on his way up the corporate ladder, Company follows Zephyr as he makes his way in the world. And, whether or not you find a fit model for your own future within the pages of Barry's surly satire, you'll sure to find a worthy diversion.
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
It never hurts to flip to the last page before you embark on the epic narrative. Joshua Ferris' sardonic insight into the world of the corporate layoff should prepare you for the worst case scenario even as you set off into worlds unknown for a fresh start.
Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
A sexy dame with a skillet to die for, Mildred Pierce is a working gal for the books. If you're already considering an alternative career or just out there hunting for a meaningful alternative to the girl Friday, look no further than Mildred Pierce.
Intuition by Allegra Goodman
A workplace romance, passionate dedication, and a life-changing controversy are more than enough to put the rigors of the workplace in perspective. After all, never forget that once you land that dream job you will have to show up 9 to 5 every day, so take a little lesson from literature and learn how to make it count.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
In the realm of self help Dale Carnegie still reigns supreme. With 75 years in print and followers numbering in the tens of thousands, Carnegie still has a lot to offer to the recent graduate. Whether you're prepping for an interview or polishing that cover letter, it never hurts to listen take a little advice from the unrivaled emperor of aid.
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
Everyone who's ever taken an escalator ride they thought would never end can appreciate the elegant inventiveness of Nicholson Baker's first book, which takes place entirely within the space of the upward elevation. As you travel the winding road from the dormitory to the corner office, nothing will serve you better than an inside look at the ride up.
10:04 by Ben Lerner
Ben Lerner's 10:04 is an ambitious, awkwardly offbeat look at life as a professional writer. Beginning with a dinner so tawdry it would make the last night at Versaille look humble, 10:04 only scales up the sordid from there. Because you never know exactly where the job hunt will leave, it's best to be prepared for the best case scenario, and with Ben Lerner you'll leave no stone unturned.
Look at it This Way by Justin Cartwright
In this day and age, it's highly unlikely you'll find yourself stuck in your own hometown after high school passes you by. If you're thinking globally with your applications and not afraid to live the expat life, consider a brief spin with Justin Cartwright's Look at it This Way as you submit those CVs.
Image: Roberto Trm / Flickr