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Books to Buy for Your College Kid, According to a 19-Year-Old

Fill Your Young Adult’s Shelves and Help Them Begin Their Personal Library

By Sarah Ward • August 31, 2021

Don't worry! Whether you're a parent, grandparent, aunt, godfather, or anything in-between looking for a gift for your favorite young adult, I've got you covered. As an incredibly experienced and All-Knowing 19-Year-Old starting her second year of college, I know a few things about what college kids want.

Now, let's talk about this college kid. This human is moving away from home for what is likely the first time, which means they're probably bookless and empty-shelved. This bookless-ness gives you a unique opportunity to help shape their personal library! While gift cards and cash are appreciated, gifting a favorite book speaks volumes (haha, get it?) and allows for a heart-felt note on the inside of the cover.

I Adulted!: Stickers for Grown-Ups is the perfect introduction to adult life. In it you will find a hilarious and down to earth preface about the woes of responsibility and growing up. No one appreciates your work as an adult, and the by-gone era of gold stars is enticing to all of us. Next time your college kid remembers to do their laundry or pay bills, they can reward themself with their very own sticker since there are no grown-ups to do it for them! (Pro tip: this is also a great birthday gift and was appreciated by my adult mother).

Another great book for newly adulting humans is Oh, the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss. This timeless graduation gift could not be left off my list. I received a copy signed by my parents upon graduating high school and have added it to my own personal library away from home.

Launching right into the next recommendation, The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run into in College is a roadmap that addresses sticky social situations. Told by students for students, it is chalk-full of refreshingly real advice. And while you're at it, consider The Parent Edition. Together you can make steps to ensure that your young human is taken care of and happy; what us teenagers like to call "thriving."

However, to truly "thrive," you must be well fed. Many of these college kids have never had to cook for themselves and are getting to know their way around the kitchen. With that I offer you two of my very favorite books. The first, How to Boil Water, is a necessity for any first-time cook and takes you step by step through several beginner recipes. The second, The Unofficial Tiktok Cookbook, is filled with beautiful pictures of aesthetically pleasing dishes. With it, cooking becomes fun and relevant, and they can try that viral whipped coffee like they've always wanted to. Having gifted both books several times I cannot more personally recommend them.

My next recommendation, Milk and Honey, may sound like a cookbook, but it is in fact poetry by the well-renowned Rupi Kaur. Reading her poetry has allowed me to take a pause and really consider my values, thoughts, and emotions. Her beautiful prose is an ever-growing ode to self-discovery. During this vital time of life, nothing is more important than remembering to slow down and reflect. (I did get you there though, you thought it was going to be a cookbook, didn't you?)

Now that we have addressed this college kid's emotional and physical health, may I recommend a lifestyle book? What quickly became a bestseller and continues to stay at the top of our list is: The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up. With a new dorm or apartment comes more space to clean.

Compounded with other roommates, even a tidy person can end up with a messy room. (My family can attest, even my Type-A personality was no match for independence and roommates). This book richly incorporates an emotional connection to tidiness, elevating cleaning beyond the basic put-dishes-away chore it can seem, and the beautiful cover makes it a nice addition to your young adult's shelf.

I would like to end my recommendations with a new favorite. Stephen King's most recent release, Billy Summers, is a must-have. While this isn't strictly a self-help or coming-of-age recommendation, fiction should not be overlooked! And, this well-renowned American author will help your college kid dip their toes into some adult literature. We all love YA love triangles, but there's nothing like Stephen King to help you delve into the horror and action genre.

While gift cards are a staple, I hope you consider these 9 books as you send your college kid off into the world. A book, carefully gifted with thought and love, will help to fill this young adult's bookshelves and create a personal library that they can be proud of. With a personal note and date in the inside cover, you can do so much more than give a little cash. Share with us your success stories and brag about that kid of yours with a picture of them and their new book! Thanks for reading the thoughts of an All-Knowing-19-Year-Old, and I'll see you both at college this fall.

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