School graduates and mothers have something in common: They need motivation to brave the challenges that come with the territory. If you're looking for a gift that's both inspirational and practical, consider one of the following books.
"Road Trip Nation: A Guide to Discovering Your Path in Life," by Nathan Geghard, Mike Marriner and Joanne Gordon (Ballentine Books, 2003, $13.95)
"Don't be afraid to fail, because that's usually when you learn." —Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computers
This is a book that readers will feel compelled to give to as many people as possible. It maps the journey of two college graduates who didn't know what they wanted to do with their lives and decided to explore their options. Driven by scrappy dedication, they bought an RV and drove around the country, collecting the stories of successful people who loved their jobs. Next to each story—of people as diverse as the founder of Clif Bar and Madonna's stylist—is a chart of his or her unique career path. "Road Trip Nation" has become a movement, launching a PBS series and online community. The book that started it all will inspire not only recent graduates, but also moms and others of all ages to go out and find their dream job.
"I Could Do Anything, If I Only Knew What It Was," by Barbara Sher (Dell, 1995, $16)
"The amount of good luck that comes your way depends on your willingness to act."
When I need a pep talk, I always take heart from a Barbara Sher book. This one addresses a common challenge many people have today: the paralysis that results from too many options. Through simple exercises and real-life examples from her clients, Sher helps you find your inner compass that points you toward a life you love. Once a struggling single mom, she found success late in life as a therapist and career counselor. Her personal story makes you believe that you can succeed, too, no matter what your circumstances.
"A Short Guide to a Happy Life," by Anna Quindlen (Random House, 2000, $12.95)
"Realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted."
Anna Quindlen, author of the long-running Newsweek column "My Turn," is one wise woman. In this tiny book, she shares what she's learned about the simplicity of happiness. It's not about achievement or wealth, she says, but rather an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. Illustrating the text are photos capturing the everyday beauty that Quindlen describes: a full moon, a baby's laughter, a bird in flight. Read her advice in just 15 minutes, and spend the rest of your life applying it.
"Living Artfully: Create the Life You Imagine," by Sandra Magsamen (Simon & Schuster, 2006, $25)
"I always say that the only rule is that there are no rules. We need to free ourselves from the restrictions we were taught to put on ourselves."
I have seen many a book on creativity and personal development, but this one stands out from the rest. It teaches the reader to transform each moment into a chance to create and explore. It is full of ideas for everyday celebrations, from a neighborhood potluck to a trip to the roller rink. Through her beautiful illustrations and lively prose, Magsamen helps readers reconnect with the joy they had naturally as children, and to maintain it in their day-to-day lives.
More Books For Graduates:
• "Delaying the Real World: A Twenty-Something's Guide to Seeking Adventure," (Perseus, 2005, $12.95) by Colleen Kinder
• "Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts—For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind," (Random House, 2006, $13.95) by Anna Deavere Smith
• "What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question," (Random House, 2005, $7.99) by Po Bronson
More Books For Moms:
• "Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year," (Random House, 2005, $13.95) by Anne Lamott
• "At Home in the World: A Memoir," (Picador, 1999, $16) by Joyce Maynard
• "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia," (Penguin, 2007, $24.95) by Elizabeth Gilbert
Most of these titles are available at Lemuria Books. Thanks to the staff for their help and the use of their couch.