Wednesday, July 24, 2013

List: Campus Novels

The Ivory Tower has never tempted me. I have no interest in being a college professor. I wasn't even particularly fond of being a college student. But I absolutely love novels with an academic theme, featuring college professors, set on college campuses. The Campus Novel is my favorite genre.

So this is my list of Campus Novels -- those I have read or want to read. Suggestions for additions to this list are always welcome.

I followed David Lodge's distinction between "Campus Novels" primarily featuring college professors and other faculty, and "Varsity Novels" primarily featuring students. The later don't appeal to me much. There may be a few on here that could cross over, but I think they all fall on the professor side of the line.

Those I have read are in red, with links to reviews if I wrote one. Those on my TBR shelf are in blue. If you have reviewed any of these books, and would like me to link to your review, please leave a comment with a link either here or on my review post and I will add it.

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

Jake's Thing by Kingsley Amis

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

One Fat Englishman by Kingsley Amis (reviewed here)

Death of an Old Goat by Robert Barnard

End of the Road by John Barth

The Dean's December by Saul Bellow

More Die of Heartbreak by Saul Bellow

Herzog by Saul Bellow

Ravelstein by Saul Bellow

The Morning After Death by Nicholas Blake

Eating People is Wrong by Malcolm Bradbury

The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury

Possession by A. S. Byatt

The Professor's House by Willa Cather

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Falconer by John Cheever

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

The Archivist by Martha Cooley

Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin (and rest of his Gervase Fen series)

Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie

In the Last Analysis by Amanda Cross (and the rest of her Kate Fansler series)

The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies (reviewed here)

What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies

The Lyre of Orpheus by Robertson Davies

White Noise by Don DeLillo

Death is Now My Neighbour by Colin Dexter (from his Inspector Morse series)

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn by Colin Dexter (from his Inspector Morse series)

The English School of Murder by Ruth Dudley Edwards

The Trick of It by Michael Frayn

Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes

The Weight of the Evidence by Michael Innes

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (reviewed here)

Redback by Howard Jacobson

Pictures from an Institution by Randall Jarrell

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova 

My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman (reviewed here)

The British Museum is Falling Down by David Lodge

Thinks by David Lodge

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge (reviewed here)

Changing Places by David Lodge (reviewed here)

Small World by David Lodge

Nice Work by David Lodge

The War Between the Tates by Alison Lurie

A New Life by Bernard Malamud

All Souls by Javier Marias

An Oxford Tragedy by J. C. Masterman

The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy (reviewed here)

Irish Tenure by Ralph McInerny (and the rest of his Notre Dame mystery series)

The Search Committee by Ralph McInerny

Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain by Jeffrey Moore

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen

Blue Angel by Francine Prose

Japanese by Spring by Ishmael Reed

Letting Go by Philip Roth

The Professor of Desire by Philip Roth

The Breast by Philip Roth

The Dying Animal by Philip Roth

The Human Stain by Philip Roth (reviewed here)

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Straight Man by Richard Russo

The Small Room by May Sarton

Gaudy night by Dorothy L. Sayers

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe

Moo by Jane Smiley

On Beauty by Zadie Smith (reviewed here)

The Masters by C.P. Snow

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

Memories of the Ford Administration by John Updike

Stoner by John Williams

The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams (reviewed here)

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson


Updated on January 6, 2019.

If you have suggestions for additions to this list, please leave a comment!


  1. I didn't get to start college until I was in my 30s and got my B.A. the day after my 42nd birthday. I loved every minute of college - could have been a professional student. Yet I haven't read much fiction set in college or involving faculty. Guess I should consciously do that.

  2. I've read 19 of these! I love books with an academic slant too.

    Others to consider:

    The Weight of the Evidence by Michael Innes
    The Search Committee by Ralph McInery
    Holy Disorders (and rest of Gervase Fen series) by Edmund Crispin
    Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey
    The Morning After Death by Nicholas Blake
    Death of an Old Goat by Robert Barnard
    The English School of Murder by Ruth Dudley Edwards
    Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie
    the Carolus Deene series by Leo Bruce

  3. Barbara: I would have appreciated college so much more in my 30s!

    Bev: You're a peach! I hoped you would add some vintage mysteries to this list. I am going to look them up now.

  4. Gaudy Night is so excellent! I'm glad you had it on your list. I liked Lucky Jim too, but haven't read any others by Amis.

    Did you like the Gervase Fen series? I read the first one and was not at all impressed, vowed I'd never read another. I wonder now if it was just that one, and maybe I should give him another try?

    I am also a HUGE Nabokov fan, but those are two of the few I've yet to read. The only other one on your list that I've read is Persuasion; since I enjoy campus novels, too, I'm bookmarking this list!

    I loved college the first go round, in my teens, but found I loved it even more in my mid twenties. I did another round in my mid-late thirties and liked it even better (though I was the annoying Hermoine Granger, straight A, always with hand raised and over-done homework type of student then, to everyone's annoyance LOL).


  5. edit: I read too quickly; now that I see your color coding system, I retract my question about the Fen books. LOL

  6. I love books set in academia too although the two I have read most recently actually take place in a prep school, not college - Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld and The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller.

    I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe is set on a college campus and very good.

    Great idea for a list!


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