The 5 best novels about campus life

Daily Briefing

The 5 best novels about campus life

We curated a list of new and interesting fiction that captures life on campus for administrators and academics. To create our list, we read reviews by authors, avid readers, and higher ed experts to choose several novels that capture the excitement and chaos of working in higher ed.

Our picks cover topics that range from the drama of a community college on the brink of closure to the antics of an English department wrestling with a shrinking budget. 

What books do you think best capture campus life? Email us at or tweet us at @EAB_Daily and we’ll update the list with our favorite responses.

1: The Shakespeare Requirement, by Julie Schumacher. Professor Jason Fitzger, the newly appointed chair of the English Department, is trying to save his department from a shrinking budget. Schumacher, an English professor at the University of Minnesota, “gets academic life right as only a clear-eyed participant observer can,” writes Joshua Kim for Inside Higher Ed.

2: On Beauty, by Zadie Smith. On Beauty is the story of an interracial British-American family of academics living in the university town of Wellington, Massachusetts.

3: The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. At Westish College, Henry Skrimshander, the star baseball player, wrestles with self-doubt after an injury. The Art of Fielding also explores the lives of Shrimshander’s gay roommate, his best friend, and the college president.

4: Starter for Ten, by David Nicholls. Starter for Ten follows a small-town working-class student as he leaves home to attend a prestigious university. Author Donal Ryan considers Starter “the most relatable campus novel [he’s] ever read” for its portrayal of college culture shock.

5: Cow Country, by Adrian Jones Pearson. At Cow Eye Community College, a ragtag group of faculty members must unite to save their institution from closure.

(Kim, Inside Higher Ed, 8/27/18; Ryan, Wall Street Journal, 9/13/18; Okuniewska, Electric Literature, 9/1/17).

See more books about campus life

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