It’s that time of year again. The humidity’s dropping, the leaves are changing, and hordes of academia-chasing millennials are invading college campuses from Cal U to Columbia.
So there’s no better time to hit the books. Please see your syllabus below; it’s full of the best contemporary campus-set novels that just may take you back to that animal house you call your alma mater. Toga parties and all.
Changing Places (Campus Trilogy), by David Lodge
You know you’re in for a fun read when a flamboyant professor from California and a money-hungry professor from Britain swap places for a year during the turbulent sixties. Culture shock, snobbery, academic intrigues, this witty and satirical novel delivers everything you’d expect it to, and then more.
Mathematicians in Love, by Rudy Rucker
What do you do if your boss is a mad scientist and you’re stuck working ungodly hours with your love interest? You travel to parallel universes, befriend jellyfish deities, win the love of your life, and save Earth from alien mathletes along the way.
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
Imagine being told you are destined for greatness. Then as you’re about to seize success, you drop the ball. That’s what happened to Henry, a star baseball player in a Midwestern liberal arts college, when one throw nearly ended his career. Follow his quest for regaining confidence in this coming-of-age story of ambition, discovery, and commitment.
Moo, by Jane Smiley
Nothing makes you appreciate your alma mater more than a situational irony about a remote agricultural college, complete with a murderous departmental head, an assistant-provost who knows where the bodies are buried, and a professor who advocates eavesdropping for his creative writing assignments.
I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe
Bully jocks and privileged elite? Underage drinking and horny hedons? A small group of “intellectuals” with hyper-inflated egos? This top-tier university has them all. Add a sheltered Southern girl on a full scholarship and witness a volcano erupt in this gritty novel that was born from Wolfe’s interviews with actual college students.
The Boo, by Pat Conroy
Ever wondered what it’s like to study in a military academy? Now’s your chance to find out! The Citadel is a cadet school where physical excellence is valued above all, and weakness is ridiculed. Lt. Colonel “The Boo” Courvoisie has a lousy mouth and isn’t beyond severely punishing his cadets. Yet his uncompromising character and fatherly advice inspire his students to survive the brutal academy conditions.
This edition also includes a glossary of military terms. So you can impress your friends with post-WWII military slang.
Joe College, by Tom Perrotta
Meet Danny, a Yale junior from a working-class New Jersey family. He enjoys beer, weird food, and dodging responsibility. He knows when he’s doing something wrong, but he does it anyway. Ride the college waves with Danny as he navigates college life and interacts with characters who make that weird dude in English Lit look like a saint.
The Paper Chase, by John Jay Osborn, Jr.
A Harvard law student is trying to achieve two seemingly contradictory goals: a) be on the good side of his McGonaggalesque professor, and b) date his willful daughter. Bonus trivia: This novel has been adapted into a critically acclaimed movie of the same name.