When it's time to leave the comfy confines of home and school, a few words of wisdom about the real world can save new graduates a lot of time, money and aggravation. We've found four new books all great gift ideas that will help grads ace the transition. (And for those of you who have been out there for a while but could still use a few clues, these books are definitely worth reading.)

Stepping out Your old life is behind you and what lies ahead is a great big grown-up world. How do you get a job, an apartment, a car, a life? How do you clean from top to bottom, or cook a chocolate cherry cake? Two new books that are informative on their own and even more comprehensive together will help you through. No one likes to be lectured about this stuff, but the authors present their information as a trusted big sister might with humor, knowledge and care all of which makes for an enlightening and entertaining read. Rebecca Knight, author of A Car, Some Cash, and a Place to Crash: The Only Post-College Survival Guide You'll Ever Need (Rodale, $17.95, 334 pages, ISBN 1579546269), offers smart insights into navigating and negotiating your way in the real world. Drawing on her own experiences and those of many recent graduates, as well as directing the reader to helpful books and websites, she covers the basics of jobs, apartments and cars as well as insurance and investing, food and friendships. In Real Life, Here I Come: A Survival Guide to the World After Graduation, author Autumn McAlpin starts with surviving college, then progresses to finding your first home away from home and thriving financially, physically and socially. Witty, three-question quizzes begin each chapter and help you assess your understanding of the topic to follow, but no matter what your score, there is good, sound information to be learned about life.

On the right road When it comes to choosing a career, "to thine own self be true" is the focus of Roadtrip Nation: A Guide to Discovering Your Path in Life (Ballantine, $13.95, 248 pages, ISBN 0345460138). Authors Nathan Gebhard and Mike Marriner, with Joanne Gordon, believe that if you have a broad understanding of what's out there, you can better determine how to realize your dreams and passions. Gebhard and Marriner, not knowing what to do after college, set out in an RV and took a cross-country road trip to meet with successful people and learn how they found their paths in life. More than a hundred people were interviewed during the authors' travels and a couple dozen of the more captivating interviews are in the book, including Arianne Phillips, stylist for Madonna and Lenny Kravitz; Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks and owner of the Seattle Supersonics; scientist and human genome decoder Craig Venter; and Manny, a lobsterman in Maine. The book urges readers to go on their own road trips and gives guidance on whom to meet (answer: anyone you want), how to get the meeting and what to do and say during the conversation. Hit the road you can only regret the roadtrip not taken.

On-the-job nightmares You might just make it in the workplace after all, and with The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Work (Chronicle, $14.95, 176 pages, ISBN 0811835758) you'll be that much more savvy and have that much more fun. In the latest book in the The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook series by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, you'll learn such skills as covering mistakes and covering tattoos, making yourself seem more important and making yourself invisible. Presented in a deadpan, businesslike style laced with humor, the book's step-by-step instructions tell you how to get a job you're not qualified for, stay awake during a meeting or restore a mistakenly shredded document. Ellen Marsden is a writer in Jackson, Tennessee.


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