If there is magic in the universe, books are the evidence! My greatest pleasure is sharing my love of books, and I can talk books all day long, even with complete strangers.

So when it comes to gifting, there’s no surprise that my #1 “go-to” is of the literary variety. Is there an occasion for which for which a thoughtfully chosen book isn’t the perfect gift? Weddings, get-wells, birthdays, new babies, even an expression of sympathy…a book is an unforgettable remembrance that not only marks the moment, but also acknowledges something unique about the recipient. It’s both an expression of affection and, an affirmation of who we are, or aspire to become.

There are hundreds of packing/purchasing lists for the college-bound and yes, they really do need laptops, sheets, multi-plug power cords and a bag to hold their laundry. But let’s be real, the most important gear a young person takes to college is his or her mind, and you can help get it primed for the experience with a well-chosen book.

With seven, first-generation mentees heading off to college this year, here are seven of the top titles on my shopping list. Something perfect for every type/style of grad.

The Naked Roommate: And 101 Other Issues You Might Run Into In College.

Harlen Cohen.

A perennial favorite, this one tackles all of the usual questions and a few of the “too embarrassed to ask” variety as well. In 10 years of gifting this one, I’ve yet to have a grad not love it.


The Freshman Survival Guide: Soulful Advice for Studying, Socializing, and Everything in Between.  Nora Bradbury-Haehl.  

Plenty of practical advice for the freshmen year, framed within questions of faith, service and one’s own spiritual journey.  


Been there, Should’ve  Done That. Tips for making the most of college. Suzette Taylor.

“Small bite” tips in a relaxed, easy-read format.


Letters to a Young Poet.  Rainer Maria Rilke

Timeless classic that inspires us to know our own heart.


Assume The Worst. The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear. Carl Hiassen

Snarky and fun – just like the books many of remember as young readers. And a lot of good advice, too.


Build Your Dream Network. Forging Powerful Connections in a Hyper-connected World J. Kelly Hoey

How to build a network is one of the most important skills we can help a young person develop, especially embedding it into the college experience.


The Good Vibes Coloring Book. Thaneeya McArdle

A fun gift with a subtle message of support. The changes and pressures of the transition to college can be stressful. A little doodling/coloring might just be the right stress buster when it’s needed most. Full of playful images and positive messages.