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.