9 campus novels to help you linger in academia all autumn

Campus novels feel most appropriate in September when the air is just beginning to cool and we’re either returning to school or longing to do so. But I for one am eager to stay in the pages of academia a little longer. If you’ve devoured the campus novels we recommended in episode 29, and are still craving that back-to-school feeling, check out these 9 additional novels transported me right back to my campus days.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. If you always wanted to go to boarding school, this book may be the one to change your mind. It follows Lee Fiora, a sharp but quiet scholarship student during her four years at the Ault School in New England as she adjusts to the customs and rituals common among her wealthy classmates.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon. The Incendiaries combines two sub-genres with die-hard fans: it’s both a campus novel and a cult novel. The book follows the devolution of the friendship between Will and Phoebe as Phoebe becomes enamored with a cult-like group and Will fails to understand her grief and desires.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. A campus novel for English majors, The Marriage Plot follows Madeleine over the course of her senior year as she writes her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot and navigates a romance of her own.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman. Set between the Harvard campus, Paris, and Budapst, The Idiot explores the Ivy League from the perspective of the compassionate and creative daughter of Turkish immigrants.

The Other’s Gold by Elizabeth Ames. The quick and unbreakable bonds that form between college friends is one of the reasons we pick up campus novels. The Other’s Gold explores the friendship of four very different women who support and push each other in their life together as roommates.

Members Only by Sameer Pandya. This sharp and witty book tackles campus culture wars from the perspective of an Indian-American professor. Over the course of a week, Raj’s missteps leave him in a precarious position on campus, at home, and at his beloved tennis club.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Taylor’s debut is the story of a passionate weekend love affair between two biochemistry graduate students. This beautiful and heart wrenching story also offers commentary on race and class in higher education.

We Wish You Luck by Caroline Zancan. Set during the on-campus weeks of a low-residency MFA program, We Wish You Luck is keenly observant and sharply cunning. Zancan uses first-person plural narration to convey the intensity and closeness that comes with campus life.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith. Witty, expansive, and biting, Zadie Smith turns the campus novel on its head with On Beauty, her gorgeous retelling of Howards End. This novel examines cultural clashes on campuses and who exactly elite universities serve.

5 Upstairs-Downstairs Books to Read with The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

As a classic, The Remains of the Day combines a few of my favorite things: lush but quiet writing, an examination of the British aristocracy, and a gradual revelation that shapes your understanding of the book and its characters. It’s also full of secrets and gossip. Our episode about The Remains of the Day is one of my favorites from the past six months.

Today, I’m excited to share five more books to pair with The Remains of the Day that explore the fascinating world of the monied classes. Ranging from serious to silly, each of these novels touches on the complicated relationship between servant and employer and the secrets these great estates can hold.

The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn. I received this compilation in a Page One subscription box back when they offered theme boxes. The subscription I chose was Downton Abbey and these Edward St. Aubyn novels, while darker, really do have Downton vibes. The Patrick Melrose Novels are a series of five books that span over forty years. They begin with a novel that takes place in one day in 1960s England and as the Melrose family waits for a visit from guests, we see the level of abuse and neglect five-year-old Patrick is experiencing. The rest of the books (I haven’t finished the series yet!) deal with the lingering impact of Patrick’s childhood and his eventual sense of freedom and redemption. While these books deal with heavy topics, St. Aubyn’s writing, much like Ishiguro’s, is witty and sharp, making this a great pairing for The Remains of the Day.

The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. In The Remains of the Day, Stevens is fixated on the concept of dignity and what makes a great butler. He’s determined to fashion himself into that definition of greatness no matter the cost. P. G. Wodehouse’s series of short stories and novels that follow the oblivious Bertie Wooster and his manservant Jeeves offer a more humorous and riotous depiction of servitude and the British aristocracy. You can start with any of the stories in the series (and many of the short stories are available online) but The Code of the Woosters is considered the best and most famous so it’s the one your bookstore is mostly likely to stock.

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin. Goodwin is now famous for novelizing the real lives of glamorous and wealthy women, and her debut American Heiress is sparkly, gossipy goodness. The book follows the life of wealthy and beautiful Cora Cash (I promise you, that’s her real name) as she travels Europe in search of a titled husband. When Cora gets her wish and marries one of England’s most eligible bachelors, she’s swept into a monied world of scandals and betrayals and must decide if her title is worth the price of admission.

Pale by Edward A. Farmer. Set in 1966 Mississippi, this is a book about a family’s secrets and the insidiousness of white supremacy. When Silva, a Black house servant at the Kern plantation, invites her sons to the property to pick up some odd jobs, it awakens a spiteful and vengeful streak in the Missus, who has long felt envious of Silva. The Missus begins a malicious campaign against Silva, flirting with her son, Jesse, and drawing the boys into a dangerous game that will shatter families and destroy lives. This book is compelling, unnerving, and increasingly intense, and it’s a uniquely timely work of historical fiction that exams white rage and the racist roots of American life.

Snobs by Julian Fellowes. Stemming from the brain of Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes, this is a must-read for Downton fans. It features a marriage that may be motivated more by money than by love, a fiery and cantankerous Dowager Lady called “Googie,” and a TV crew filming a period piece at the family’s estate. Fellowes is a master at bringing the English aristocracy to life and this comedy of manners is particularly fun in its portrayal of the intersection between titled British elites and the glamorous world of film and television.

Readers, what books would you pair with The Remains of the Day? Tell us in the comments!