11 Books Set in College

Trests and books on Teacher's desk
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There is something undeniably bewitching about autumn. The season of pensive beauty and glorious metamorphosis, it fills our lungs with the smell of fallen leaves and a promise of new beginnings. Some of us will embark on the journey of self-discovery as they start a new school year, while others will succumb to nostalgia about good old college days when the lines between adolescence and adulthood became blurred. Whether you are looking for a distracting read set in college or full immersion into an alternative life on campus, we have eleven book recommendations that cover every genre under the sun. 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Image Credit: MacMillan Children’s Books

Wren and Cath Avery could not be more different. Despite sharing identical DNA and a childhood trauma, the two sisters are slowly drifting apart during their freshman year at the University of Nebraska. Drunk on her newly found freedom, Wren is often spotted at rowdy student parties, leaving her sister to deal with her social awkwardness on her own. It’s not surprising that an aspiring young writer Cath finds her consolation in fan fiction, which offers a background for her blossoming romance with equally geeky Levi. Infused with anxiety and family drama, this deeply relatable coming-of-age story has all the right ingredients to pull you into the heart of the emotional turmoil of life on campus. 

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Obedience by Will Lavender

Image Credit: Broadway Books

There are a million reasons why Winchester University students might consider The Logic Course a waste of time. But for three sophomores, who receive a rather perplexing assignment from their unorthodox professor, time is of the essence. They have six weeks to find a hypothetically missing girl before it’s too late. As the project turns into a frantic search for some clues, the amateur sleuths begin to wonder if their outlandish investigation poses a real danger to their own lives. Sizzling with secrets and dangerous obsession, this goose bump-inducing thriller makes for one truly rip-roaring read. 

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From Rockaway by Jill Eisenstadt

IMage Credit: Lee Bordreaux

Alex, Timmy, Chowderhead and Peg have been friends since high school. Yet the graduation night becomes a crucial intersection point in their fellowship when Alex takes off on a scholarship to a prestigious college in New England. One year later, their much-anticipated reunion erupts into a brutal confrontation, exposing a social divide between the one who got away and the others who stayed behind succumbing to a dreamy languor of small-town life. Authentic and poignant, From Rockaway accurately portrays the stark contrast between an ambitious young girl and her frivolous friends who are trapped in a vicious circle of idleness. 

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The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

Image Credit: Dial Press

An infamous manuscript by one of the greatest thinkers of the time has tantalised the minds of scholars for centuries. A family legacy for some, a lifelong ambition for others, unravelling a mystery, surrounding an ancient Italian artefact, becomes the matter of honour for any self-respecting researcher. An opportunity comes knocking on the door, when an ancient diary lands in the hands of two Princeton students, who make it their mission to decode the text. Yet suspicions are raised when the discovery of a missing piece of the puzzle coincides with the murder of a fellow researcher on campus. Soon young scholars arrive at a chilling conclusion: sometimes there is a reason why some secrets stay buried for centuries. 

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Black Chalk by Christopher Yates

Image Credit: Vintage

It has been fourteen years since the last round of The Game. An innocent competition, which was conceived within the grounds of Pitt College was played by six friends for their amusement. But everything changed when the rules of the game were altered to satisfy their hunger for an adrenaline rush. As harmless dares and light penalties started escalating to psychological torment and epic humiliation, the childish play grew more sinister with each year passing, turning into a monstrous obsession. Until there were only five players left. 

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Four Years Later by Emma Doherty

Image Credit: Amazon Digital Services

Upon first glance, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that this is just another effervescent romance novel. But don’t be in a hurry to dismiss it just yet- its emotional depth might take you by surprise. Multi-textured and candid, this tale depicts the ripple effect of one fateful night on a long-distance relationship between two college students. Having been together since high school, Becca and Ryan seem to be inseparable until the unthinkable happens. Brimming with angst and confusion, the story offers a sneak peak into the trauma of sexual assault and the party culture on campus, leaving readers to wonder if there is any hope for young lovers driven apart but the cut and thrust of college life.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Image Credit: Penguin Publishing

One of the most astonishing debuts of the twentieth century, this novel has earned an immense international audience and a worthy place among contemporary classics. Set at a private Vermont college, this story follows a group of five like-minded scholars bound by their love for classic studies. Under a watchful eye of their enigmatic tutor, they soon succumb to the allure of Ancient Greece, quoting philosophers and dreaming of immortality until the day when the shadow of death overcasts the life on campus. Exquisitely crafted, this memorable tale invites the readers to take a walk through a killer’s mind and explore a thin line between elitism and sociopathy in his shockingly nonchalant confession. 

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The Professor by Charlotte Brontë

IMage Credit: Wordsworth Classics

When William Crimsworth – an unlikely hero who disavows his family legacy – sets off to seek his fortune in Belgium, little does he know that this foreign land will soon alter his soul. A compelling melange of power, intrigue and redemption, the story weaves an intricate web of intoxicating infatuation, where the only way to escape it is to look beyond the glitz and glamour of deception. Inspired by the author’s continental education, The Professor challenges many preconceptions of romance, religion and societal values circulating in nineteenth-century Europe. Having been published posthumously, this underrated work in Charlotte Brontë’s “long apprenticeship in writing” certainly deserves a wider audience.

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Hackness

Image Credit: Sky UK

Descended from an old line of witches, Diana, a young Oxford scholar, comes across an cursed manuscript in the course of her research. Sensing the significance of her discovery, a horde of daemons, witches and vampires flocks to the Bodleian library for an emergency council. It’s not long before Diana joins forces with a vampire geneticist without realising the ancient line she is about to cross.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Image Credit: Vintage Books

Inspired by The Beatles’s famous song, this coming-of-age memoir invites you to take a trip down memory lane together with Toru Watanabe back to his college years in Japan.

As the memories of his youth come flashing back, Toru reveals a bittersweet story of his first love and his struggles navigating the troubled waters of school, isolation, depression and loss. Murakami’s depiction of life on campus is painstakingly realistic, where each student is forced to find their own unique way of dealing with pressures and responsibilities of adult life.

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This Side of Paradise by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Image Credit: Scribner

Thanks to the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s novels have regained their popularity and This Side of Paradise is no exception!

For handsome Ivy-League student, Amory Blaine, who comes from a privileged background, life couldn’t get better. However, his luck is about to change with the collapse of his family’s wealth. If that was not enough, Amory has to deal with his academic failure at Princeton and face rejection from his love object. But will his charm and wits be enough to save the day?

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Stella is a Marketing Consultant and has been writing content for Full Text Archive since 2015. When she is not writing, she is meticulously planning our social and e-mail campaigns. Stella holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Russian Literature, which has provided a broad foundation from which she continues to explore the written world.

She spends her free time reading, visiting old castles and discovering new coffee shops. She can be reached at stella

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