In recent weeks, I've fielded several requests for gift ideas for graduating seniors, either from college or high school. Of course, my default answer is always: "books!" But I know it helps to be a little more specific.

Instead of buying a grad a gift card to a book retailer--although there's certainly nothing wrong with that!--think about the following gift ideas, instead. (And yeah, yeah, Dr. Seuss's Oh, The Places You'll Go is perennially appropriate; I got a cherished copy myself. But below, I've focused more on practical suggestions.)

For a high school grad, you can't go wrong with William Zinsser's timeless guide On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. This is by far my favorite book on the craft of writing because the thesis is pretty much foolproof ("simplify, simplify, simplify"); the examples are amusing; and the advice successfully guided me through all of my college papers. I still consult my 25th Anniversary Edition, and now the 30th Anniversary Edition is on sale.

Any college grad should be happy to receive a cookbook. Boring, right?! Wrong. When I graduated from college, the last thing I wanted to spend precious cash on was a nice cookbook. (Silly, since what was I going to do. . . eat all my meals in restaurants?) Though we can all find recipes on the internet now, no sort of meal planning can beat flipping pages and seeing pretty pictures of potential dinners. Browse our cookbook archive for ideas. My first cookbook was from trusty Rachael Ray (30 Minute Meals), and I still use it all the time.

High school or college grads would be lucky to receive Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar's On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance. As the title suggests, the intended audience for the book is women--the assumption being that more women than ever are in charge of their own or their family's finances--but I think the advice is universal. I'm usually skeptical of personal finance books, but Thakor and Kedar break down budget and savings plans and explain investing in terms that even a teen could understand. This book will make concepts like "saving for retirement" much easier to grasp. (For coupled readers, Thakor and Kedar have a new book out called Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey.)

Do you have any suggestions for graduation gifts?

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