Saturday, April 26, 2014

Graduation Books

Every year, there's a new book or two featuring graduation speeches, a famous person's advice to college graduates. I doubt, though, that any of them will ever be as popular as Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go. That doesn't stop authors from trying.

This week, I have two small books of advice taken from graduation speeches. George Saunders gave his convocation address at Syracuse University. It became the book Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness. The opening is funny as Saunders admits he's going to follow the tradition of giving advice to bright young people. His advice? Be kind. His biggest regrets in life come from the times he wasn't kind. And, he suggests they learn to be kind now.

Interestingly enough, when Cassandra King provides a six-point list for graduates at the University of Montevallo, she leads off with "Be Sweet", meaning be nice to people, whether you mean it or not. And, she starts that point by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson. "You can never do a kindness too soon because you will never know when it will be too late."

King's book is The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life: Advice from a Failed Southern Belle. With
an introduction by Rick Bragg, this is a book that uses humor to point out the lessons of life. As I said, King lists six essential things she learned about life. But, my favorite was actually the seventh one, a lesson she added for the book, "Become a lifelong reader." She says, "Cultivate an appreciation and passion for books." And, then she talks about her own passion. "For me, reading has always been a sensual experience. I lust after books. I love everything about them: how they look, how they feel, and how they smell. If I really like a book, I've been known to embrace it and stroke its cover reverently." That one paragraph made me revere Cassandra King's advice. And, her book, with its gorgeous illustrations, is worth embracing.

Most of us don't need graduation advice telling us how to live life. However, it doesn't hurt to be reminded once in a while that we should be kind and grateful. Cassandra King and George Saunders just remind us that graduation advice is almost always practical for the living of day to day life.

Cassandra King's website is

Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders. Random House, 2014. ISBN 9780812996272 (hardcover).

The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life: Advice from a Failed Southern Belle by Cassandra King. Maiden Lane Press, 2014. ISBN 9781940210032 (hardcover), 95p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Saunders' was a library book, and King's was sent by the publicist, hoping I would review it.

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