College can be difficult-especially when you’re a vampire, a wizard, a de facto politician in academia, or simply a young adult trying to find their way. Check out these nine amazing novels that are all set on college campuses.
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
In this preposterous tale, the not-so-athletic faculty wizards of the fictional Unseen University must form a student football (soccer) team or face starvation, per a new school contract. The story follows four outlandish characters who each have their own challenges to overcome but who eventually team up to help coach the Unseen Academicals of the university. Will these studious wizards be able to take on the fierce street footballers? Unseen Academicals allows readers to take a break from the stress of coursework and enter an adventurous and magical world.
~Michah Fontenot, Marketing Board
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy L. Sayers’s Gaudy Night is a clever novel well-steeped in the tradition of classic British detective fiction. The writing is artistic while refraining from superfluity, and the plot compellingly illustrates university life from the perspective of nostalgic alumni. Sayers begins with an apology to Oxford University for supplying the illustrious campus with the fictional Shrewsbury College “of 150 women students, in excess of the limit ordained by statute.” This is somewhat ironic considering the unapologetic vigor with which the characters defend the legitimacy of their institution. One, Harriet Vane, is a detective novelist who trepidatiously attends her class reunion purely out of a sense of obligation. Once there, she is liberated from the petty gossip of estranged peers by investigating a series of misconducts. Are these the substance of suppressed student spite or something more sinister?
~Madeleine McQuilling, Nonfiction Board
The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy
When literature professor Henry Mulcahy, a Joycean scholar and self-proclaimed “prophet of modern literature,” learns that he’s being fired from Jocelyn College (a fictional, progressive liberal arts college in New York), he’s infuriated by what he sees to be a trite act of academic politics. Mulcahy concocts a plan to avenge his unjust termination, rallying colleagues and students in his crusade against what he perceives to be the intrusion of anti-intellectual bureaucracy in academia. However, as the novel progresses, we begin to see a much uglier, manipulative side of Professor Mulcahy unravel as he uses his erudition and acuity for not-so-noble causes. What I love about Mary McCarthy’s novel is her wonderfully sardonic and detailed character descriptions. She expertly utilizes pedantry and verbosity (and I use these words in the most complimentary sense!) in her hilarious representations of pompous academics, haughty administrators and everyone in between.
~Luis De La Cruz, Poetry Board
The Masters by C. P. Snow
The Masters, set at the University of Cambridge during World War II, delves into the politics of the election of a new Master of the University. The novel is essentially a microcosm in the face of the Nazi invasions of 1937, describing the strife of civilians as they deal with issues outside of military conflict. The importance of scholastic politics is also brought to the forefront as the two candidates seeking the position have radically different opinions on whether the university should be submissive to Hitler or take a stand for the sake of their country. This novel really demonstrates the role of the university in our culture and the political importance of the post-secondary education system, as universities tend to be political centers in some of the most crucial moments in history–whether that be protesting foreign wars or promoting civil rights.
~Xavier Richardson, Poetry Board
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
As far as Fitzgerald goes, this is a must-read for college students and book lovers. The story depicts the interesting tale of Amory Blaine as he begins a glamorous life at the prestigious Princeton University. Amory participates in various liberal arts events and activities, often discussing which form of literature is most enriching. In his various excursions, Amory falls in love, is rejected, serves in the war, and returns a changed man. Not only is this story full of the beautiful, resonating language Fitzgerald was beloved for, it is a great tale of how us liberal arts students can go a little crazy sometimes.
~Jackie Galindo, Marketing Board
Straight Man by Richard Russo
Richard Russo, best known for his 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, delights with his 1997 satirical novel Straight Man. Set at a fictional New England university, Straight Man follows William “Hank” Henry Devereaux, Jr., interim chairman of the English department, as he navigates inner-office politics and familial relationships in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Although the book spans only four days, Hank’s escapades are numerous, from threatening a duck on live television to hiding in the rafters to eavesdrop on a departmental meeting. Russo avoids devolving into outrageous absurdity through his witty and wry dialogue, moments of emotionally raw character study, and an underlying sense of sincerity. Straight Man is simultaneously farcical and genuine and proves to be both an immensely enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
(Book One of the Morganville Vampires series)
Most college students struggle with balancing school, sleep and their social lives, but Claire Danver’s to-do list also includes dealing with vampires. After embarrassing the mayor’s daughter, the 16-year-old genius ends up smack dab in the middle of an all-out vampire territory war. The series contains 15 novels, and each one boasts unforeseen twists. Buckle up because this is not your average college experience. Oh, and look out for the vampire with the fanged bunny slippers-he’s my favorite.
~Madison Brock, Fiction Board
Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
Anne Shirley has always been a kindred spirit to me–she’s imaginative, hot-tempered, fiercely independent, and she likes to hang out in graveyards (that’s not weird… right?). Over the years, re-readings and experience have only made me appreciate the Anne of Green Gables books more. In Anne of the Island, Anne attends the fictional Redmond College where she faces issues that still affect modern students, from the common frustration of learning to live with roommates to more profound growing pains. As she struggles to balance the fancies of childhood with the realities of adulthood, Anne learns to accept that dreams have their place but also learns that sometimes reality is even sweeter. The older I get, the more this sentiment rings true, and like Anne, I’d rather have my plain “string of pearl beads” than all the diamonds in the world.
~Rebecca Skrabanek, Nonfiction Board
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
A young adult novel set at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Fangirl tells the coming-of-age story of a college freshman, Cath, who learns how to pave her path in a world not built for introverts. Cath writes fanfiction for the Simon Snow series (a Harry Potter-esque franchise), and upon leaving for school has gained a large following in the online fandom. Her twin sister, Wren, takes to the social waters of college much easier and faster than Cath, causing some friction. But with a little help from some people she meets along the way, Cath finds acceptance, balance and even romance. As a self-proclaimed fangirl, I could not put this book down when I first read it. Rowell’s writing and unique story elevate the category of young adult fiction to a new and exciting level.
~Alex Arias, Marketing Board
Cather “Cath” Avery, our protagonist, is starting off her college career at UNL as a freshman when this modern coming-of-age novel begins, and we get to see her find her way around the campus and through college life, all while trying to complete a popular fanfiction she’s been writing for her thousands of online followers. Nothing comes easy to Cath, however, because of her social anxiety disorder; she fears going out to parties, making new friends, and even eating in the public dining hall. If you are a college student like Cath, you can probably relate to these fears of starting this daunting chapter in life–I know I can! But the great thing about college is that you can always find your place there. After a lot of ups and downs, Cath finds hers with a cool group of colorful characters and through the love she has for creative writing.
~Kendall Talbot, Marketing Board
All images courtesy of Amazon.