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26 Issues

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Rachel’s Reads – April 2024

Not surprisingly, books are my favorite gift to give. I love giving books because they aren’t just presents. They can be stories of adventure or romance, a way to try and step into another person’s shoes, a source of learning or inspiration, or even guidance for the next chapter in life. As graduation approaches, books are a font of wisdom as students transition, whether they are graduating from high school or college. Finding a special book to commemorate their achievement can be appreciated long after the cap and gown are donned. 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
This book has been one of my longtime favorites to give. For years, Cheryl anonymously wrote an advice column called, “Dear Sugar,” where she answered likewise anonymous letters about a variety of topics such as grief and loss, romance, money, and family troubles. These are beautiful, heartfelt, thoughtful, and honest responses that are full of wonderful advice.

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda, illustrated by Jonny Sun
Lin-Manuel has long tweeted short and inspirational messages to himself and his followers at the beginning and ending of each day. This book collects those messages with illustrations and makes for a wonderful source of comfort and motivation. 

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
A fantastic read that is focused on creativity and a great gift for anyone but especially those looking to do something creative. Rick lays out the process from start to finish in a startlingly beautiful and accessible way. He tackles struggles and self-doubt and couples that with wisdom about life and advice that everyone can learn from. 

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
This book is a conversation between the Dalai Lama XIV and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu about finding joy and happiness in the face of suffering and grief. Their conversation was facilitated, translated, and written down by Douglas Abrams, and it contains the wisdom of both spiritual leaders along with an outside perspective on how the two friends interacted. It is definitely a great read for those seeking more happiness and peace in a troubled world. 

Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning by Leslie Odom Jr.
Originating the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton on Broadway, Leslie gives advice in his book as he navigates his professional life. He focuses on failure, and how it is good to fail as it helps us learn and grow. Leslie is all about going for what you want and being your own biggest advocate. Although it does have some of his stories interspersed throughout, it is mainly motivational and great for people who are just starting out. 

Make Trouble by John Waters
John’s commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design ended up going viral and is in its entirety here accompanied by stunning pictures by Eric Hansen. His speech argues that although we are taught to pay attention and follow directions, we must forge our own paths and learn to be creative. He encourages grads to imagine and execute new ideas, to listen, and to never forget to dream big. 

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies by Tara Schuster
In a world full of social media that has images of successful influencers, entrepreneurs, and celebrities, it’s easy to feel inadequate and envious all the time. It’s also important to remember that not everything on those platforms is real. Tara tells her experience as a television executive, and while her life looked glamorous, she was actually suffering from anxiety and depression. This book is about accepting who you are, owning your emotions, treating yourself with love, and building confidence; everything a recent grad needs. 

Happy Gifting!



Rachel became the publisher of The Independent in March of 2017 and then married her husband Jake in May. Their goldendoodle Einstein joined the family in 2019. Rachel is an avid reader and loves to share book recommendations. (Don’t miss her column, Rachel’s Reads in the Magazine!) She can always be found with a book nearby, especially while traveling (another of her favorite things).

Bailey Pianalto Photography