While starting a new academic year is a refreshing experience, getting back into that school mindset is tough, especially when summer was so great. But nothing says back-to-school like a good book. As September quickly approaches, days spent reading on the beach must come to an end, but no worries, here are eight classic novels that’ll have you in the school spirit in no time.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Miles “Pudge” Halter has lived a very uneventful life, constantly in search for the “Great Perhaps,” which are famous last words by François Rabelais, a French Renaissance writer. It’s not until Pudge attends Culver Creek Boarding School that his life takes a major 180 degrees. There he meets Alaska Young, a clever, sexy and self-destructive girl who is anything but ordinary. Alaska takes Pudge on a crazy ride, helping him find his Great Perhaps one wild adventure at a time. It’s a story you won’t see coming, and a novel sure to get you in that back-to-school mood.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
There is arguably no better book series to get you excited for the school year than Harry Potter. Timeless classics, the Harry Potter books are full of lovable characters, high-stakes adventures and of course, magic. Readers follow Harry Potter, the only person to have ever survived a killing curse by Lord Voldemort, as he navigates his newly discovered magical abilities as a wizard at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sometimes being in college we forget about the fictional characters that gave us so much joy as children, that can still have the same impact today.
Bilgewater by Jane Gardam
Who doesn’t love a good coming-of-age read for the first few weeks back to school? The story follows Marigold Green, an awkward 16-year-old girl who is the daughter of a headmaster at a private all-boys school. Bilgewater is actually the nickname Marigold is given by the boys because of her appearance. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop her from daydreaming about the magnificent head boy, Jack Rose. The novel takes you back to all the cringiest moments of young love, and how one peculiar girl takes control of her own story.
Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
Being a new student on campus, you can relate to the main character of this psychological thriller, but hopefully not completely. Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. Her new life with a new family is a breath of fresh air from the wild highs and lows of living with her explosive mother. She finds herself part of a close knit group of friends that do everything together, but all of a sudden, they begin to distance themselves from Kacey. It’s a story about appearance versus reality, and the power of manipulation among teenage girls. Sometimes a good drama-filled mystery makes for a killer back-to-school read.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A true work of American literature, this novel deserves another read outside of your high school required reading list. Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, the novel follows two unlikely friends as they navigate the war and the innocence of their boyhood. Gene Forrester, the protagonist, returns to his old prep school, 15 years after he graduated, bringing back memories of his time as a student at Devon. The book is filled with nostalgic school memories that are perfect for preparing you for the academic year.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Books about boarding schools must be where it’s at. Another great read that involves magic, this novel is about Simon Snow, the "Chosen One" of the magical world prophesied to defeat the Insidious Humdrum, an evil force that has been wreaking havoc on the World of Mages for years. The novel is told through several narrative voices, including that of Simon, his roommate and enemy Baz, his best friend Penelope and Simon’s ex-girlfriend Agatha. A classic Rowell young adult novel, the book explores homosexuality, class tensions and fulfilling destinies. It proves anything can happen in that last year of school, so prepare yourself.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Anybody with high hopes for the school year should read this novel about a disastrously overweight, ghetto nerd who dreams of finding love. Oscar craves nothing more but finding love, but fukú — a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to ill-starred love — may keep him from getting just that. The novel explores Dominican-American history through a quirky, fictional family from New Jersey. You’ll be empathizing with Oscar in no time as you navigate the new school year.
The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury
Speaking of history, travel back in time and read about the radicalism and hypocrisy that was so commonly found in ’70s-era academia. Howard Kirk is a lecturer in sociology at the local university. Him and his wife, Barbara, are trendy leftist people who oppose traditional gender roles. Nonetheless, common practices of the day still have found their ways into the Kirk’s home. Howard writes books, while Barbara — stranded with much of the housework and two little children — would like to but never gets round to doing it. The book will have your eyes glued to the pages, just waiting to see if Howard and Barbara will break the social norms of the ’70s.