Just in time, novelist Patchett's 2006 commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College has been expanded, postscripted and published in a handsome small-format hardcover volume, cleverly designed by Chip Kidd and priced to sell-making it quite possibly the best graduation present on the market (at least until Bird by Bird gets the full gift-book treatment). Personal but direct, with a warm, searching voice, Patchett (Run, Bel Canto) looks at her own struggle with the perennial question ""what now?"" and finds some surprising moments of revelation: a conversation with an airport Hare Krishna, a job waiting tables at Fridays and, less surprising, the counsel of friends and teachers Allan Gurganus and Alice Ilchman (the late president of Sarah Lawrence). Wise, illuminating observations abound, putting Patchett's talent for cogent, colorful metaphor to brilliant use: ""Receiving an education is a little bit like a garden snake swallowing a chicken egg: it's in you but it takes a while to digest."" Though Patchett's thesis boils down essentially to ""one must never stop learning,"" every example she provides is fresh and worthwhile. A wise, generous and compact primer for life that could well become a touchstone, readers will return to this book, and probably find something new each time they do; deserves to be given often and enthusiastically.