I remember graduating from college and feeling like I was riding a cloud. Everything leading up to the actual ceremony was nothing short of a celebration–we literally had a farewell tour.
More than a handful of my close friends were from New York City, we traded in our MetroCards for a more subtle suburban college experience. We’d shared moments that bonded us together for life, we also equally shared being the first ones out of our immediate families to graduate college. Oh, and we were from our own respective hoods now going back with degrees.
So while we were celebrating this huge accomplishment there was this nag of not knowing exactly what happens after we moved our tassels from right to left.
How long would it take to get the dream job? How soon should we get married and have kids? Would I be Joan Clayton or more like Toni Childs? (She had a never going back to Fresno account)
The questions were endless, there wasn’t anyone who had been through what we’d been through. We were young black women who didn’t have anyone in our immediate circle to say, “This is what will happen once you leave college.”
Now I’m not saying that every black girl who graduates undergrad will be in this predicament. But if you are, here is a list of books that have helped me navigate life post-grad as a black woman living in America.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Sis, I know you have probably heard about this book and you may have already read it, but if you’ve never picked it up I’d advise you to read it ASAP. If you’ve already read it I’d highly suggest you read it again.
Whether you are about to enter corporate America, venture off into entrepreneurship, or keep furthering your education by going to graduate school this book will change your outlook on how you view people and how you view the journey that is life.
The Personal Touch: What You Really Need to Succeed in Today’s Fast-Paced Business World by Terrie Williams
Terrie Williams is a name that rings bells. For years she successfully ran her own public relations agency, think of your favorite celebrity–she’s probably worked with them. Williams dropped so many gems in this book about being a successful businesswoman.
There are a ton of books out there that tell you what to do when conducting business, but there are very few written by black women who have the portfolio (receipts) to back up their claim to success. The book is straightforward, she digs into building a solid reputation, admitting and learning from your mistakes, making a good first impression, and so much more.
The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women by Elaine Meryl Brown, Marsha Haygood, and Rhonda Joy Mclean
If you haven’t found a mentor yet but your actively seeking one out, you should definitely read this book until you find the right mentor for you. This book is filled with wisdom from successful black women who have walked through the fire and have shared their stories.
Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki
This is another book you may have already read, I’d hate to break it to you but after college money is going to get a whole lot tighter for a while.
Whether you’re saving up to move out of your childhood home or you now have to deal with rent, money is going to be a determining factor in a lot of your decision making. After graduation, the party doesn’t necessarily stop but you do start to look at those receipts more. This book helps you to think about money differently than you may have been accustomed to.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
It’s one thing to want to be rich it’s a whole other thing to have the mindset in order to achieve your goals. This book will help you change your mindset about money.
Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
Our ego is one of the biggest roadblocks that stop us from achieving all the success we want in life. Yes, there are people out there who are just sucky for no reason but this book will help you deal with your own ego so you can succeed.
I swear by this book, reading it has changed the way I deal with other people and how I approach things.
Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko
In today’s world, you want your personal and business brand to stand out. Everyone will give you a million ways to achieve this goal but which way is the correct one? Marc Eckō broke down the process of building a successful brand using his own life and company as an example.
Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media by Brittany Hennessy
Ever wanted to be the girl on social media who just took trips and posted about them all day? (Sis, I’m still trying to find the application)
If you’re trying to become an influencer and you don’t feel like spending money on master classes and a bunch of conferences that you can’t afford–grab this book. Hennessy provides tips on how to gain a following, monetize that following, and land an agent. It’s worth the read.
The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren
There was a time where I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know if it was my purpose. This can happen to anyone at any given time but I know it especially happens to people after they graduate. You wonder, “What am I put on this earth to do?” If you’ve ever questioned your purpose or don’t know what it is I’d say give this book a chance.
The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey
This is another book that will help you discover what your purpose is and how to get to work once you’ve found it.
Why? because You’re Anointed by T. D. Jakes
No matter how good you are or how many good deeds you do there will come a time where something bad will happen to you. After graduating college I went through a series of moments where all I could do was ask God, “Why was this happening to me? What had I done that was so bad to deserve this?”
I read this book and it helped and continues to help me immensely.
Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer
After you’ve cried and asked God why I would also suggest grabbing this book. It’s an interactive book that will teach you how to become a powerful prayer warrior.
Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
There is a poem in the book titled, “Commencement Address,” I remember reading this poem in particular and saying, “What I did was huge! I graduated from college!”
For a while graduating college didn’t seem like a huge accomplishment especially when I didn’t come out the gate with the dream job. At one point, dare I say it, I felt like a failure. I was interning at a record label for pennies still trying to figure it all out. I read that poem and it was as if Maya herself reached out to me and gave me a hug.
Yesterday, I Cried: Celebrating the Lessons of Living and Loving by Iyanla Vanzant
In life, you are bound to go through things where you sit back and simply wonder, “What was the point of this?”
If you ever get to that point and don’t have a soul to turn to, I encourage you to pick up this book. Iyanla would recite these words when she had to do something she didn’t want to do: “You can do anything for a little while.”
When I didn’t get my dream job, I sucked it up and got a part-time job to help hold me down while I interned for free. Every time I wanted to quit my part-time job I would repeat those same words.
No Disrespect by Sister Souljah
I like when people tell their stories without all the glitter–tell me what happened and please be honest. I’ve noticed that a lot of people want us to take their advice but they only want to share the best parts of their life experiences. “I worked hard until I reached my dreams and then I finally got there.” Sis, I know you got there but what did you do in the meantime? What happened when all hell broke loose? How did you bounce back from the mistakes you made?
In No Disrespect, Sister Souljah gives us the answers to all of those questions. I first read this book in high school, even then I appreciated Souljah for being honest. Her honesty showed me that it was okay to mess up or make a mistake because you can come back from it.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
This book of essays and speeches by Lorde will never get old, once you have it in your possession you will constantly refer to this book. If you read it now I promise you this same book will speak to you differently in two years.
Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Every black girl should read this book.
My Voice: A Memoir by Angie Martinez
Memoirs are one of my favorite genres to read. It’s easy to see someone you want to model your life after and think they had it easy because you know them at the height of their success.
The great thing about memoirs is that the author takes you back to a time when their names didn’t ring bells. You get to read stories in their lives that helped elevate and grow them. You see their grit, hard work, and you learn to appreciate your own journey a little more. Angie Martinez has been the voice of the people in New York City and beyond for as long as I can remember. Using her voice she has transcended what it means to be a radio personality.
She’s broke some of the biggest stories in hip-hop and has interviewed your favorites in music and their favorites. Even if you don’t care about radio or hip-hop her story is remarkable, it shows what happens when you show up, work hard, and bet on yourself.
Rabbit: A Memoir by Patricia Williams
I recently read this memoir by comedian Patricia Williams, it was so good I read it in two nights. While the story is heartbreaking, there is a comedic tone that Williams uses throughout the book that allows you to keep reading.
I selected this book because we often truly believe that our problems are unique and we question how we will ever get out of them. Williams story is damn near unbelievable, she was a teen mom who began selling drugs while being in a domestic violence relationship and she eventually landed in jail. She turned her life around and became a comedian–and that’s not even half of her story.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
If I told you this book was one of the most magical books in the world you would give me the side eye–but it is! This book is magical because it shows us what can happen when we follow our dreams and believe in ourselves.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
“Let people have their opinions. More than that–let people love their opinions, just as you and I are in love with ours. But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
This book is for anyone who wants to live a creative life and needs that push. Big Magic is the book you didn’t know you needed until you read it. I read this book when I didn’t know if I could hack it being a writer, a friend recommended it to me, I purchased it and never read it.
And then crazy enough an old mentor recommended it to me out of nowhere from a conversation, I read it and trust me when I tell you, this book will change your life.
Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage
“It is so important to be conscious even when it makes you realize how much negative stuff you have enjoyed all your life until you realized it was all anti you.” -Pearl Cleage, Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons, & Love Affairs
Things I Should Have Told My Daughter chronicles the life of the author, poet, and playwright Pearl Cleage as she finds her voice in a collection of journal entries from the 70s through the 90s. You get an inside peek into her thoughts and views on just about everything.
The 8×8 Cookbook: Square Meals for Weeknight Family Dinners, Desserts and More In One Perfect 8×8-Inch Dish by Kathy Strahs
Sis, gone are the days of living solely off of takeout, pizza, and ramen. I’m not saying you have to turn into a gourmet chef overnight but knowing how to whip yourself up a few meals will save you some money and help you out in the long run.
Remix: Decorating with Culture, Objects, and Soul by Jeanine Hays
You might be at the point of wanting to trade in your pink cute comforter and futon for something a little more grown up. If you’re looking to give your living space a fresh start consider this book.
And there you have it, 23 books that have helped me move through life just a little bit easier. If you have a book that you think should be added to the list, please drop the title in the comments section.
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