MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

While many graduate students are just getting started with their studies, commentator Adam Ruben is glad to have grad school behind him. Now, he suggests some extracurricular reading to help other students survive the process. It's part of our series Three Books, in which an author recommends three books on one theme.

ADAM RUBEN: Graduate students need higher stipends and easier access to poorly guarded bagels. You might think the last things they need are more books. After all, if you're in grad school, you're already busy writing your dissertation, which, of course, is a thick book that no one will ever read.

But sometimes, you need a break from doing the things grad students do, such as avoiding their advisers and listening to NPR. Here, then, are three books to help you survive grad school.

If you've walked through an academic building in the past 10 years, chances are you've seen photocopies of Jorge Cham's hilarious comic strip, "Piled Higher and Deeper." Grad students love to tape his drawings on office doors, next to takeout menus and that photo of the post-doctoral fellow's dog wearing a hat. The comic strip, which chronicles a grad student's struggle through a Ph.D. program, offers insight while hitting horrifyingly close to home.

While earning your graduate degree, you also need the reassurance that others have undertaken riskier missions and survived. In "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage to the Antarctic," Alfred Lansing tells the true story of one such group.

In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his party sail for Vahsel Bay, to make the first overland crossing of Antarctica. When their ship becomes stuck in pack ice, they decide to camp until the spring thaw, only to watch the boat get crushed, instead of released.

Like grad school, "Endurance" is a tale of discovery for discovery's sake, followed by hopeless entrenchment in an overwhelming situation. The story also offers encouragement: No matter how bored you are during your department's next seminar, at least you aren't being attacked by a sea leopard while clinging to an ice floe in the Weddell Sea.

And finally, if you've ever had to grade an undergraduate's essay and you're sick of the misspellings, arbitrary grammar and emoticons, find solace in "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," Lynne Truss's emphatic campaign against improper punctuation. Truss empowers the reader, armed with Wite-Out and a Sharpie, to fix the world's extraneous or missing apostrophes.

Featuring a list of fitting punishments for those who confuse I-T-S (its) and I-T apostrophe S (it's), this book is perfect for any grad student. You may even want to give a copy to the undergrad who sent you the email saying: im in ur 10:00 class, can i have xtension - smiley face.

Armed with these three books, you're ready for the languorous slog of post-baccalaureate education. Now, if only you had time to read them.

BLOCK: That's commentator Adam Ruben, the author of another book on this theme. It's called "Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School."

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