The Non-Obvious Insights Blog. Non-Obvious Insights
The Non-Obvious Insights Blog.

Dedicated To Helping Readers
Be More Interesting
Since 2004.

As Featured In:

15 Non-Cliché Books To Give As Useful 2017 Graduation Gifts

Right now the #1 book on is “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss — which means graduation season is officially upon us. Yet is an inspirational kids book really the best choice as a graduation gift for him or graduation gift for her to help explain the world that lies ahead? What if we were to rethink this ultimate cliché of a graduation gift and instead give something much more useful?

For the past year, I’ve been working on updating and republishing my own book of career advice and in the process, I ended up researching hundreds of advice books and scoured my shelves for those that were most useful in shaping my thinking and career over the years. My intent was to find inspiration as I wrote my own compilation of “non-obvious” career advice (which is featured as the first book in the list below). The following is my own personal short list of 15 amazing books that I highly recommend to all my students, colleagues and anyone who is looking for a great book to give as a graduation gift and wants to avoid the usual clichéd choices.

1. Always Eat Left Handed by Rohit Bhargava

As I shared above, this book has been a journey four years in the making since I first wrote an early draft of and published it directly to ebook back in 2013. This all new updated edition is completely rewritten, features new lessons and is now available in a beautiful gift-friendly hardcover edition.   To learn more about the book, download an excerpt, see a visual summary of the book and watch several new videos, you can visit

2. Mindset by Carol Dweck

Most of us don’t realize just how much our mindset controls the success we have in life. This groundbreaking book, which is the product of decades of research from world-renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck helps anyone understand the simple difference between a fixed mindset (where you believe your basic qualities like intelligence or talent are unchangeable) versus a growth mindset (where you believe anyone can be good at anything with the right amount of effort). This is one of those rare books that qualifies as “life changing.”

3. The Art Of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

When it was first published in German, this book quickly became a bestseller and this new translation takes the original short 99 chapters all focused on how humans make decisions and bring the easily readable stories to life for English language readers. Perfect for the millennial attention span, the format and style of this book will appeal to anyone who prefers reading in short digestible chunks instead of long stretches.

4. You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

This is another book that is meant to be read in small bursts, with each chapter offering a fundamental truth from years of psychology research brought to life with a modern story. Like the equivalent of an amazing psychology class with a gifted professor and storytelling, this is a book to take along on a flight and will help to remind the ambitious young grad that no matter how smart he or she thinks they are, there is always something they don’t know.

5. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Everything that any young person needs to know about managing their money is in this book. The author’s no-nonsense approach to everything from recouping credit card fees to what types of investments to avoid is unique and useful. For any recent grad bored with or impatient about taking any sort of financial advice, this book beautifully delivers that advice in an easier to swallow format.

6. What Every BODY is Saying by Joe Navarro

While the art of reading people is often romantically portrayed in spy movies, there are real life experts who use these skills and this book is written by one of them. The insights here will be fascinating for anyone who has noticed odd quirky human behaviours and could just benefit from having a bit more emotional intelligence and ability to understand emotions.

7. To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

The simple premise at the heart of the book is that we are all in sales and we are always selling. Whether we are selling a product or our ideas, there are plenty of moments where we need sell something – but that doesn’t need to make us feel sleazy or inadequate. Most people hate the suggestion that they are acting like a sales person because it feels like an insult. The principles and techniques in this book will help you get better at those situations and embrace the idea of being compelling and selling without becoming a pushy salesperson.

8. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

This gem of a book is an easy read, but the counterintuitive lessons from graphic designer Austin Kleon have helped thousands of people to uncover their creative side … even if they are not designers or people with the word “creative” in their job title. With sections on “the upside of being boring” and “what it really means to be original,” the biggest benefit of this book is that it will teach you something valuable about how artists think and how you can use that in your own life, whether you describe yourself as an artist or not.

9. What The CEO Wants You To Know by Ram Charan

The most successful employees are the ones who have the ability to see the big picture instead of being constrained by their job titles. In this book from famed CEO advisor and professor Ram Charan, graduates who will soon enter the workforce will learn the basics of business to help elevate their thinking far beyond whatever it says on their business card.

10. Influence by Robert Cialdini

This book classifies as a modern classic for anyone in marketing or business, but the lessons here are valuable for any grad who might benefit from understanding how to be more influential and persuasive to the people around them. Cialdini’s work and research stands the test of time, and is a book that any thinking grad should probably read at some point.

11. The Art Of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

This short read from the founder of the now legendary World Domination Summit annual event in Portland is exactly the kind of inspirational read that is almost like a commencement speech with a healthy dose of reality. Plus, it has “Change The World” in the subtitle … which is not a bad life-affirming message to share with your recent grad, right?

12. Works Well With Others by Ross McCammon

What happens when an editor for Esquire magazine puts together a collection of advice for succeeding at work and life that no one else is likely to tell you? This book. If there was ever a career advice book that you could honestly describe as being one that a graduate might actually read, it’s this one. Just be warned, it’s part serious and part satire – so just make sure you’re the kind of friend or family member who can pull off a gift like that.

13. Steal the Show by Michael Port

Public speaking is a life long skill and yet many recent grads have never taken a class in it. Whether they have or haven’t, this book by master speaking coach and former actor Michael Port will offer a crash course for graduates in exactly what it takes to have more presence, command a room and earn the equivalent of a standing ovation at work and in life … when it really matters.

14. The Road to Recognition by Seth Price and Barry Feldman*

Whether you think of it as a personal brand or a reputation, the fact is every graduate needs to focus on how to build their own. This brand new book features interviews with top business personalities who have excelled and building names for themselves and offers an A-Z collection of advice sure to offer any recent grad some food for thought.

15. Top of Mind by John Hall

What if the key to success was making sure you remained “top of mind” among the people in your network that really matter? This newly released book from John Hall offers this career-changing tip that any recent grad would be well advised to learn. Sometimes it’s not who you know, or who knows you, but who you have connected with most recently that matters most.

Always Eat Left Handed is the fifth book from WSJ best selling author Rohit Bhargava. It is an irreverent guide to building a powerful career and being more successful and features many unexpected tips, from the surprising upside of being a cross dresser to why leaders never eat cauliflower. This is the second edition of the popular book and the first time ever it will be available in print. For weekly insights from Rohit Bhargava, subscribe here.

Learn more about Always Eat Left Handed >>

Leave a Comment

The Non-Obvious Insights Newsletter. Non-Obvious Insights
Layer 97
The Non-Obvious Insights Newsletter
Layer 118

Skip the obvious and anticipate the future with our weekly newsletter. Join over 25,000 subscribers and start receiving the stories (and insights) you’ve been missing.

Newsletter Subscribe

All Books

#1 WSJ & USA Today Bestselling Author

Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


Have a Question or Inquiry?

Just fill out this form, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours!


About You

What Are You Contacting Us About*:

Your Message