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Take me to your ivory tower.
June 5, 2013 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I like novels that take place in boarding schools (or in colleges that feel like boarding schools). I've been to Brakebills, Ault, Hampden, Devon, the Concent of Saunt Edhar (totally counts), the University of Missouri, Enfield Tennis Academy, and Hogwarts.* Where should I go next?

*(which is to say I've (relatively) recently read The Magicians duology, Prep, The Secret History, A Separate Peace, Anathem, Stoner, Infinite Jest, and all of Harry Potter and the Whatnot of the Whatnot)
posted by davidjmcgee to Media & Arts (75 answers total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
 
About an inclusive little college, not a boarding school, but have you had a chance to root for the Westish College Harpooners yet?
posted by .kobayashi. at 11:03 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving largely takes place at a prep school based on Phillips Exeter Academy in NH.
posted by the_bone at 11:04 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


And what about Goodbye Mr. Chips?
posted by Billiken at 11:05 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a YA novel, but The Chocolate War is awesome.
posted by mkultra at 11:05 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" - the majority of the novel is set at Hailsham, a fictional boarding school.
posted by rdnnyc at 11:07 AM on June 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


Many of Wodehouse's "Mike and Psmith" stories take place while they are both enrolled at Sedleigh.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:08 AM on June 5, 2013


Also YA: I remember the Bruno and Boots (MacDonald Hall) series being pretty funny as a kid, not so sure how they hold up now.
posted by txsebastien at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jane Smiley's Moo may fit the bill. "Moo U" is a large midwestern state school and the nexus for a big sprawling plot encompassing a single academic year. It's mostly about the faculty, however.
posted by carmicha at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2013


Oops, was coming in to suggest The Secret History, but missed that you'd already read it.
posted by goggie at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2013


A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving largely takes place at a prep school based on Phillips Exeter Academy in NH.

Most if not all of Irving's novels feature boarding schools and/or universities rather significantly.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


'Never Let Me Go' is my favorite book and absolutely mandatory.

Other suggestions: 'The White Devil' by Justin Evans (ghost story at Harrow) and 'The Starboard Sea' by Amber Dermont (great melancholy coming-of-ager set at a privileged New England prep school).
posted by eugenen at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2013


I'm guessing you've already read Catcher in the Rye, but it's the first thing I think of when I think of this genre.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:17 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Caroline Stevermer, A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics

Neil Stephenson, The Big U

Pamela Dean, Tam Lin

There are a ton of period or modern YAs set in boarding schools, from the Enid Blyton to the Dana Girls to the Mandie series and beyond.
posted by pie ninja at 11:18 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]



A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving largely takes place at a prep school based on Phillips Exeter Academy in NH.

Most if not all of Irving's novels feature boarding schools and/or universities rather significantly.

Including, The World According to Garp.

In YA, there's Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
posted by knile at 11:18 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Name of the Wind takes place largely at a school a la Hogwarts.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Fell series, by M. E. Kerr is haunting YA fiction about a young man who is drawn in to a secret society at a boarding school.

pie ninja beat me to Tam Lin, but allow me to second. It's a retelling of the Scottish ballad, set in 1970's Carleton, or a Carleton-analogue.
posted by BrashTech at 11:24 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jay McInerney, The Last of the Savages (boarding school)

Brett Easton Ellis, The Rules of Attraction (college that feels like a boarding school)

Richard Russo, Straight Man (college that feels like a boarding school)

Louis Auchincloss, The Rector of St. Justin (boarding school)

One non-fiction recommendation, that I think you'll like: John McPhee, The Headmaster (boarding school)
posted by ewiar at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2013


another YA novel:
The Daring Game by Kit Pearson
posted by winterportage at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2013


GoodReads has more than a few relevant lists:
Boarding School Stories
Private School Paranormals
Boarding Schools, Camps & Private Academies

paranormal academys, boarding schools, schools and camps

modern boarding school
boarding school books.
posted by knile at 11:26 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Earthsea series features a proto-Hogwarts in the first and third books.
posted by Tevin at 11:29 AM on June 5, 2013


Stephen Fry's The Liar.
posted by elizardbits at 11:32 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Skippy Dies follows the lives of a group of students and faculty members at the fictional Seabrook College, a Catholic boarding school in Dublin. The title character, Daniel "Skippy" Juster, dies during a donut eating contest in the novel's opening scene. The rest of the novel explores the events leading up to Skippy's death, as well as the aftermath within the Seabrook community."
posted by mattbucher at 11:32 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


St. Gallway School. Special Topics in Calamity Physics is such a great book.
posted by The Michael The at 11:37 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think Auchinschloss is the closest thing the later half of the 20th century had to Wharton or James--tight, small and emotionally devestating novels, aside from the one recommended, try The Headmasters Dilemma.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:38 AM on June 5, 2013


Fool on the Hill
posted by seemoreglass at 11:41 AM on June 5, 2013


Seconding the recommendation for Skippy Dies. I LOVED that book.
posted by palomar at 11:41 AM on June 5, 2013


The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies.
posted by hydatius at 11:42 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lake of Dead Languages
posted by tan_coul at 11:42 AM on June 5, 2013


I read it years ago, and it's nonfiction, but I remember really liking Michael Ruhlman's Boys Themselves: A Return to Single-Sex Education, because it gave you such a great insight into what a year in the life of a boarding school was like. There is mainly one chapter that goes into the history of single-sex education and all of that, which you can skip if you aren't interested, but the rest of the book is just the day-to-day life during one academic year at the University School.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 11:48 AM on June 5, 2013


This is the second time I've recommended this book on AskMe (it's good but I swear I read other things) but Among Others fits your criteria. YA, serious, big on the magic, but she lives in a boarding school for sure.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:50 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Tell Me If the Lovers Are Losers by Cynthia Voigt

And Both Were Young by Madeline L'Engle
posted by Kriesa at 11:50 AM on June 5, 2013


Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall (not Waugh's best. Many of the above are better.)

Le Carre's A Murder of Quality and a small but insightful part of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
posted by Jahaza at 11:52 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the classics of the genre, The Browning Version.
posted by mykescipark at 11:58 AM on June 5, 2013


I can't believe no one has mentioned yet the great To Serve Them All My Days.
posted by Jahaza at 12:02 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the Jellicoe Road, an Australian novel about a girl about to leave boarding school.
posted by jacalata at 12:03 PM on June 5, 2013


Raaaad. Yes, I have also read The Chocolate War, Never Let Me Go, Catcher in the Rye, The Big U, The Name of the Wind, and Special Topic in Calamity Physics, and am currently reading Earthsea. And enjoyed them all. Um. Except for The Big U.

Thank you. These are awesome. The New York Public Library is already seeing dollar signs from all of my soon-to-come overdue fees.

MOAR PLEEZ.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Borderliners by Peter Hoeg
posted by myselfasme at 12:16 PM on June 5, 2013


Picnic at hanging rock by Joan Lindsay
posted by b33j at 12:16 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you'd like Lord Dismiss Us. Also, John Le Carré's A Murder of Quality is set at a boarding school, and is a bit of a curiosity in the Le Carré canon, being a murder mystery rather than a spy novel.
posted by pont at 12:24 PM on June 5, 2013


Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L Sayers takes place at Shrewsbury College at Oxford University at the end of the 1930's. It's a Lord Peter Wimsey story, but he's pretty much out of it until the last part of the book.

One that's not as nice is The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman.

Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes. Takes place during the time when Matthew Arnold would have been headmaster at Rugby. Features some serious bullying scenes. Has been made into a Masterpiece Theatre twice (the most recent with Stephen Fry!) Interestingly, there is a series of books written about the bully Flashman by George McDonald Frasier. Fan Fiction if you will....
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:28 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Naughtiest Girl series by Enid Blyton.
posted by aniola at 12:29 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh! The first part of Jane Eyre starts out in a Boarding School. A pretty horrible one, at that!

Emma, a fragment of another Charlotte Bronte novel, has been finished by another author and takes place at a girls finishing school.

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster takes place in a women's college. It's NOTHING like the Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire movie. (This is a GOOD thing.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:34 PM on June 5, 2013


Although the whole thing doesn't take place there, F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise takes place partly at Princeton and has somewhat of a glimpse of the eating club tradition there. Before the protagonist enters Princeton, he attends a prep school.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:41 PM on June 5, 2013


You might like Handmaid of Desire by John L'Heureux. Like Moo, it's more about the faculty than the students. I really enjoyed it.
posted by OrangeDisk at 1:13 PM on June 5, 2013


I believe you will enjoy The Cornish Trilogy and Robertson Davies in general.
posted by ourobouros at 1:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I Am Charlotte Simmons felt like a boarding-school novel to me, but it's set in a college.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks fits but it's YA. Read it a few years ago and enjoyed it.

3rding Skippy Dies
posted by jabes at 1:49 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Swimming with Jonah. It gets pretty mixed reviews overall (though I enjoyed it), but isn't a huge reading committment either.
posted by jferg at 2:14 PM on June 5, 2013


Two Australian classics: The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson and Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. Both about girls' boarding schools at the turn of the 20th century, the latter a mystery.
posted by goo at 3:02 PM on June 5, 2013


Miss Pym Disposes by the incomparable Josephine Tey.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:26 PM on June 5, 2013


If you would count it, I suggest "Ender's Game."

It's a boarding school... in SPAAAAAACE!
posted by tacodave at 4:14 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, The Big U is definitely a... niche taste, shall we say.

Another boarding school IN SPAAAACE -- Unwillingly to Earth, Pauline Ashwell.

If you're up for Victorian (and arguably schlock), there's Burnett's A Little Princess.
posted by pie ninja at 4:28 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh! The first part of Jane Eyre starts out in a Boarding School. A pretty horrible one, at that!

Emma, a fragment of another Charlotte Bronte novel, has been finished by another author and takes place at a girls finishing school.


Don't forget Villette.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:36 PM on June 5, 2013


Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Vladmar series.

Not exactly boarding schools, but many themes around young people leaving home for the first time, living with others, undergoing training and challenges.
posted by yohko at 5:20 PM on June 5, 2013


Just released: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. (The camp in the title is also a boarding school; the main character thinks she's just going for the summer but ends up staying).
posted by ella_minnow at 5:39 PM on June 5, 2013


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Stand Before Your God (a memoir but highly recommended)
posted by gudrun at 5:43 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


If Anathem counts, you might find that Umberto Eco's The Name Of The Rose, which also takes place in a monastery, counts as well.
posted by value of information at 8:07 PM on June 5, 2013


Daddy Long-legs !
posted by Mchelly at 8:47 PM on June 5, 2013


So I haven't read it in oh, at least 10 years, but Bloomability (YA) was almost entirely responsible for instilling a desire in me to 1) attend boarding school, 2) in Switzerland. I don't remember any (real) angst-- the entire book was like one long glorious wish-fulfillment fantasy!!
posted by leedly at 9:03 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris
posted by betweenthebars at 9:42 PM on June 5, 2013


I asked a simliar question a few months ago, though its focus was on girls boarding schools, and got a lot of great suggestions. Nthing Skippy Dies.
posted by book 'em dano at 10:22 PM on June 5, 2013


Roald Dahl's Boy.
posted by oceano at 11:04 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Prep.
Mallory Towers series
posted by dinosaurprincess at 11:54 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not a boarding school, but Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings has a similar feel as it's set at a summer camp for the arts.

Also, I LOVED A Little Princess as a child.
posted by mippy at 3:43 AM on June 6, 2013


Tobias Wolf's Old School is canonical and includes one of the best extended beatdowns of Ayn Randism ever put to paper.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:22 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm seconding (thirding) The Secret History for anyone else who hasn't read it, which takes place at a Virginia Ivy League. Beyond its Ivory Tower qualities, it's a novel unlike anything I've ever read; well written, subtly suspenseful, with deep character intricacies.
posted by goblue_est1817 at 5:44 AM on June 6, 2013


Ah... I hadn't seen that you listed Stoner! If that sort of thing counts then you should read Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim tonight!
posted by Jahaza at 6:45 AM on June 6, 2013


Hex Hall is a fun YA supernatural story. Vampire Academy is pretty funny too.

The Dream Catcher by Monica Hughes is almost a boarding school -- instead it's a school inside an ark where everyone lives (and gets in each other's way all the time).

Moab is my Washpot by Stephen Fry is the non-fiction story (comparable to the fiction The Liar).
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:49 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spud is the diary of a fictional South African boy in boy set in a boarding school and a very funny and sometimes touching book.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 11:21 AM on June 6, 2013


>(Donna Tartt's The Secret History isn't set at "a Virginia Ivy League"--it's set at a fictional clone of Bennington College in Vermont. Good book, though.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:57 PM on June 6, 2013


Giles Goat-Boy's central conceit is that the world is one giant university system.
posted by benzenedream at 9:21 PM on June 6, 2013


I really enjoyed A Song for Summer, by the wonderful Eva Ibbotson; it takes place at "Hallendorf School, a progressive school for children stocked with characters of all sorts".

I haven't read her The Dragonfly Pool, but it sounds good, too.
posted by kristi at 10:03 AM on June 7, 2013


Some of Susan Minot's short stories take place at boarding school. I don't have copies on hand, but I think they're in Lust and possibly Monkeys.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:14 AM on June 7, 2013


Not a novel, but so good: George Orwell's Such, Such Were the Joys.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:15 AM on June 7, 2013


Thank you all. Reading party time!
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:59 AM on June 12, 2013


Spence Acadamy for Young Ladies, a boarding school for girls, in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy that begins with "A Great and Terrible Beauty."
posted by taz at 7:41 AM on June 17, 2013


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