Cap, gown, diploma: now what? Having many options can be as difficult as having none, but the risk-taking and wisdom in these books will help any new grad make the important decisions.

After graduating from college, Sean Aiken was overcome with pressure to live up to his potential. Still living in his parents’ basement at 25, searching job boards and newspaper ads, he thought: Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what these jobs were like before committing to them? The One-Week Job Project documents Aiken’s brazen, funny and often fascinating search for the job that will make him happy (and pay the bills). Aiken starts by accepting an offer to be a bungee “jump master,” a fit symbol for his plunge into uncertainty. Then, using connections and media buzz to find work, he travels more than 46,000 miles in a year-long journey, taking on 52 jobs from snowshoe guide, florist and dairy farmer to NHL mascot, Air Force recruit and firefighter. Along the way, he notes the salary of each position and what he took away from the experience. In the end, he concludes that a career is “merely a vehicle to fulfill our passion”—and that happiness depends greatly on your co-workers, and the chance to do meaningful work.

What do you do with your life when you’re the offspring of a billionaire, expected to use Dad’s money to zoom to the top? If you’re Peter Buffett, son of renowned investor Warren Buffett, you ditch the silver spoon and forge your own path. Buffett, now an Emmy Award-winning producer and composer, details his road to personal and professional accomplishments in Life Is What You Make It. When he reached adulthood, Buffett received a relatively small inheritance (under six figures), along with fatherly advice to find what made him happy and try to help others. The modest sum allowed him to discover a passion for music and spend a few frugal years getting established without worrying about the bills. Buffett shares what he learned working his way up in the competitive world of TV and film composing in thoughtful, inspiring sections including “No One Deserves Anything” and “The Gentle Art of Giving Back.” He believes that anyone can have the “advantages” of discipline, integrity and vision that produce the best careers—and the best lives.

Like most of us, Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett and Amanda Pressner talked about quitting their jobs (in their case, high-powered New York media jobs) to backpack around the world. The difference: They actually did it. The Lost Girls is the story of their 60,000-mile journey, told from their perspectives as newbie world travelers and searchers. The book places the reader smack-dab in the moment as the three friends hike up for sunrise over Machu Picchu, try to design a volunteer project for orphaned girls in Kenya (their solution is heartwarming) and discover a mystical $4 day spa near a forest temple in Laos. There are amusing and sometimes frightening culture clashes aplenty, but the real appeal of the story is the long road they take together, each supporting the others on a soul-searching quest to create a life that matters.

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