Popular College Life Books
8 Novels About College Life: Calling All Future, Current, & Former Students
Skip navigation! A college campus is many things: Stimulating, picturesque, teeming with intelligent life. The real world. In this way, the college campus is the perfect place to set a novel. Within the confines of the ivory tower, characters get into situations that might not exist in the outside world. Fast friend groups form during the pressure cooker of orientation, and then alter upon reaching adulthood.
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Young people across the world will head to college this week. We tell them they must go, that in their classes they will find the pleasures of the life of the mind, that the university will teach them to think. We do not tell them that the university also can be a source of absurd intrigue, where professors sleep with students and engage in the pettiest of academic battles. For that, we have campus novels. The campus novel became a literary trend in the middle of the last century. As the experience of an undergraduate study became available to the middle class, it became a natural setting for bourgeois intrigue.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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We are going to try and get teens to read this. So why is it that when we encounter books about teens in college—because college freshmen are usually teens! As a teen, I was intensely curious about what to expect in college, and woefully unprepared for my freshman year. I read a lot of other great books, sure. Plenty of YA novels worry about college, talk about college, prepare for college. Very few actually take us there.
All it takes is a quick once-over of a current college campus to notice the drastic changes these academic havens have undergone in the last 50 years. Long gone are the days of almost exclusively male professors and submissive female students trying to get their M. Thankfully, the campus novel genre has existed to document the vast transitions in both student body and campus atmosphere that have taken place in the last half-century. In its most basic form, a campus novel is a book whose main setting is in and around a university. Later, authors like Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and John Barth honed in on the campus as the setting for their erotic anxieties of intellectual misadventures. Either way, these ten contemporary campus novels will transport you to college grounds teaming with academia, school spirit, and more than a fair share of scandal.