Top Ten Tuesday: Campus Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme created by The Broke and the Bookish blog, and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week’s topic is a Back to School Freebie, so I’ve decided to share ten Campus Novels.

These books all take place (at least in part) on university, boarding school, or high school campuses.



The Secret History by Donna Tartt

What list of campus novels can be considered complete without this quintessential campus novel?! I’m forever searching for books that will evoke the same vibe and reading experience as The Secret History. Although a few books – including some on this list- have come close, none have been able to steal the top spot.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

This debut novel is certainly a solid choice for anyone seeking a The Secret History read-alike. Set at an elite high school, Special Topics includes a gifted, outsider protagonist, an insular clique, and a suspicious death.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Although the sections set at Oxford were not my favorite parts of the novel, the relationship between Charles and Sebastian that is established during their first year of university set the foundation for the rest of this phenomenal classic. I always find it interesting to read about collegiate life in the 1920’s/30’s as well.

Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann

Speaking of books set at a university in the early 1920’s, Dusty Answer is a gem of a coming-of-age novel told from the perspective of a young woman who attends Cambridge. We follow Judith as she spends her childhood summers with a group of vivacious cousins, as she navigates academic and social life at university, and as she experiences love and loss after graduation.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Not all is what it first seems at the English boarding school in Ishiguro’s unforgettable masterpiece. The familiar and timeless campus setting makes the slow-building and horrifying secret even more of a gut-punch when it is revealed.


If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

If We Were Villains is a riveting look at the build up to, and the repercussions of, an act of violence committed on opening night of a student performance at a renowned arts school. There’s plenty of mystery and drama both on and off the stage.

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë drew from her own personal (and painful) experiences working as a teacher in Belgium for this, her final novel. Her complex and unreliable narrator Lucy Snowe takes up a position at a French boarding school in the fictional town of Villette. This isn’t an easy read, but it is a rich and rewarding one.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides 

The Marriage Plot is certainly not without its faults, but I did love the academic setting and the focus on literature. After all, I’m always going to find something worthwhile in a book with an English major and Jane Austen lover for a protagonist.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

The Parisian boarding school setting is what made this novel so charming and fun. Okay, so Étienne St. Clair may have helped too…

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

A girl’s school in Edinburgh forms the background of this character driven novella. Miss Jean Brodie is an unconventional teacher who exerts her powerful influence on her group of pupils in ways big and small.


What are your favorite campus novels?

25 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Campus Novels

Add yours

  1. Great list! I just reviewed ‘The Marriage Plot’ today! I really want to read ‘Secret History’ and of course ‘Never Let Me Go’ is one of the best novels ever!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that The Secret History is hard to beat! I was a little disappointed in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie too, but there was a lot I still liked about it.


  2. Great list. I’d add ‘Porterhouse Blue’ by Tom Sharpe, a satirical novel about a revolutionary new head of an ancient Cambridge College, and ‘Nice Work’ by David Lodge, a comedy where university academics actually come into contact with industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great list. I haven’t read The Secret History or Dusty Answer and now must! and I hadn’t really thought of Never Let Me Go as a campus novel, but of course it is!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So many favorites of mine here! What a super list!! Calamity Physics! Yes! Awesome cover for Miss Jean Brodie–I haven’t seen that one. Brilliant! And the Wodehouse-ian cover for Brideshead, too–wow! Nice to see Vilette in here.

    Sorry, I’m just now getting to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sadly I haven’t read any of your choices Jessie! However Villette is on my Classics Club list, so I will hopefully read that in the near future. If I’d been able to make a list, I would have had to include Harry Potter and Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cool! I love campus novels, and Villette is one of my favorites of all time. Lots of great ones here, and some I haven’t read. I do want to read at least one campus novel this month, and there are so many good ones to choose from!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s