10 Novels About College That Will Help You Choose The Right Place To Matriculate
It's university-pickin' season, and these 10 novels about college should help make the decision-making process just a little bit easier. Whether by providing awesome examples of what to look for in a school, or highlighting what you're sure you don't want, books can help you figure out your future — something I wish I had done some to make my decision process a little bit smoother.
Making choices is not exactly my forté. When I look back on the spring of my senior year of high school, what I remember most (other than developing a close personal friendship with our local mailman) are the flurry of spreadsheets, piles, and checklists lying around the house, and the endless campus visits I insisted upon before I could finally make the choice of where to matriculate.
In the end, I frustrated my parents and shamed my spreadsheets by deciding on a school that hadn't even been on my lists (it was a last minute, I'm destined to be here kind of a thing... did I mention I'm terrible at decision-making?). Of course, epiphany is not necessarily the best way to make the decision that will shape the next four years of your life, so rather than looking to the utterly unreliable personal experience of others for guidance, consider finding answers in fiction about higher education.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami's lyrical meditation on loss, loneliness, and the heartbreak of growing apart illustrates the pain of separation that inevitably follows the matriculation process. If you're considering following your best friend of your true love to the college of their choice, make sure to give Murakami a read before you devote yourself to a path not entirely your own.
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Belonging is never as simple as it should be, and Zadie Smith's singular story of one interracial family testing boundaries in a Massachusetts college town is perhaps the funniest explicit exploration of difference and deviance ever to take on the college experience. Because getting in isn't always enough to ensure that you feel like you fit in, Zadie Smith's On Beauty is a must-read for anyone concerned about acceptance and belonging throughout the college experience.
The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy
Whatever your political, economic, or environmental proclivities, taking a stand is one of the hallmarks of a college education... or at least, it can be, if you're into that kind of thing. So, while you are considering just how political you'd like your higher education experience to be, Mary McCarthy's The Groves of Academe might just give you the insight you need to make the perfect choice.
I’ll Take You There by Joyce Carol Oates
Diving headlong into the social structures that make up the foundation of every college experience, Joyce Carol Oates' I'll Take You There follows the beautiful and brilliant (if somewhat neurotic) Anellia as she falls in love and faces her past in the dorms, on the quad, and in the classroom. While you're giving some thought to how your social life will shape your experience at each of the many institutions to which you've been accepted, spending a little time with Anellia may just help you work out which type of social milieu will suit you best.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
With The Secret History, Donna Tartt conjures up an eccentric group of misfits who forge a path all there own within the hallowed halls of a highly traditional New England institution. If you're considering taking one of the many roads less travelled as you make your way towards a Bachelor's degree, be sure to give The Secret History a good read first, it might be the best decision you ever make.
Moo by Jane Smiley
When the utter significance of it all starts to weigh on you, and you're just about ready to close your eyes, spin in a circle, and pick whichever school you end up pointing to, take a moment and relax with Jane Smiley's Moo. With delightful dark humor and piercing insight into the dark underbelly of college life, Moo should help to remind you that you can't know all the answers before you even start taking the classes. No matter what choice you make you're going to be taking a lot on faith and learning to trust yourself as you go, so take a deep breath, relax, and remember to find the funny in this whole crazy process.
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
If you're considering making your way to one of those elite enclaves of ivy-covered halls and centuries-old traditions, take a moment with F. Scott Fitzgerald's debut novel before you send in that deposit. After all, private clubs and legions of legacy students might be right up your alley, but they're certainly not for everyone, and it's best to know what you're getting yourself into before you arrive on campus.
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
If you're planning on taking the literary route (and if you're here reading this right now, I'd like to think you're at least considering it), there's no better book than Wonder Boys to prepare you for the journey ahead. Settle in with academic writers young and old and breath in the noxious scent of fear, promise, desperation, and writer's block before you decide exactly where you'll be focusing your oh-so-significant potential.
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
There were many a dark and stormy college night when it occurred to me that a residence hall like mine (cold, gothic brick perched at the top of a lonely hill with legendary tunnels running below) would be the perfect setting for a murder mystery, and that may just have been my favorite thing about dormitory life. So before you decide exactly what those (very occasional) lonely nights of yours will look like, treat yourself to the murderous charm of one of the world's great campus mysteries, and maybe that will sway you in one direction or another.
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
If you're imaging your life as the perfect mix of brilliant professors, leafy quads, and literary outings with wonderfully witty new friends, burst that bubble just a few months early with this practically perfect piece of satire and I promise you you'll be glad that you did. College life won't looks exactly like you expect it to, but that doesn't mean it won't be thrilling in a thousand new ways you've never even considered. Keep your goals realistic and your dreams alive with Lucky Jim as you're considering your options, and wherever you end up you won't be disappointed.