back to school in 52 books


Two facts that are not related, but seem as though they ought to be:

1) Autumn is my favorite season

2) I love both campus novels and campus thrillers

What’s not to love: brisk weather, fresh notebooks, hungry, impressionable minds, maybe a murder or two… So, to celebrate the return of fall and all its academic possibilities, here is a back-to-school reading list for you: 52 adult fiction titles winnowed down through the same process of blood, sweat, tears, alcohol and research as defined my own years of academic rigor.

It’s a “something for everyone” bridge mix list of classic and contemporary titles in a variety of treatments: traditional campus novels having a laugh at pompous academics, nostalgic coming-of-age school days, comedies about the hopeless bureaucratic tangle of academia and politics, plus some murder and light cannibalism.

Whether you are going off to school yourself or are the proud parents of students, whether you remember your long-past school days with nostalgia or relief, there are bound to be a few books here with something to teach you, and you don't even have to get out of your pajamas for this class.

  • Brutal Youth: A Novel

  • Dear Committee Members

  • Zuleika Dobson: Or, An Oxford Love Story (Neversink)

  • The Lessons

  • Skippy Dies: A Novel

  • The Campus Trilogy: Changing Places; Small World; Nice Work

  • The Devil and Webster

  • Cow Country

  • Welcome to Braggsville: A Novel

  • A New Life: A Novel (FSG Classics)

  • The Idiot

  • Wilberforce: A Novel

  • Pnin

  • Rebel Angels (Cornish Trilogy)

  • The Likeness

  • As She Climbed Across the Table: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)

  • The Secret History

  • Handmaid of Desire

  • Porterhouse Blue

  • Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane