Campus Novels

14 Campus Novels Every Book Lover Should Read

Get in the back-to-school mood or serve up some nostalgia with these campus novels.

Last Updated on August 19, 2023 by BiblioLifestyle


Fall brings cooler weather, scarves, leaf piles, plus pumpkin spice and apple cider, everything.  If you’re like me, you love getting lost in a good book.  And when it comes to books, there’s nothing better than sinking into a campus novel.  These novels are set in or around school campuses, and they’re always filled with drama, intrigue, and heart-warming moments.  So if you’re looking for something to cozy up with this fall, check out one of these campus novels.  You won’t regret it!


14 Campus Novels Every Book Lover Should Read

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People is the story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find that they can’t.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university, is drawn into a cult’s acts of terrorism.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasionis about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

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Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

A gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, set within a secluded, elite university and following a dangerously curious, rebellious undergraduate who uncovers a shocking secret about an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

Talent by Juliet Lapidos

A modern twist on the Parable of the Talents, Lapidos’s debut is a many-layered labyrinth of possible truths that reveal at each turn the danger of interpreting another person’s intentions — literary or otherwise.

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On Beauty by Zadie Smith

On Beauty is the story of an interracial family living in the university town of Wellington, Massachusetts, whose misadventures in the culture wars–on both sides of the Atlantic–serve to skewer everything from family life to political correctness to the combustive collision between the personal and the political.

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Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

Three Daughters of Eve is set over an evening in contemporary Istanbul, as Peri arrives at the party and navigates the tensions that simmer in this crossroads country between East and West, religious and secular, rich and poor. Over the course of the dinner, and amidst an opulence that is surely ill begotten, terrorist attacks occur across the city. Competing in Peri’s mind, however, are the memories invoked by her almost-lost Polaroid, of the time years earlier when she was sent abroad for the first time, to attend Oxford University.

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We Wish You Luck by Caroline Zancan

An exhilarating novel about a group of students who take revenge on a wunderkind professor after she destroys one of their own– a story of collective drive to create, sabotage, and ultimately, to love.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

The Other’s Gold by Elizabeth Ames

An insightful and sparkling novel that opens on a college campus and follows the friendship of four women across life-defining turning points.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

A pulse-pounding psychological thriller examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies, and the desperate lengths people will go to in order to protect their secrets.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.

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The Secret Place by Tana French

A year ago a boy was found murdered at a girlsʼ boarding school, and the case was never solved. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of the boy with the caption: “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case–beneath the watchful eye of Holly’s father, fellow detective Frank Mackey. With the clues leading back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends, to their rival clique, and to the tangle of relationships that bound them all to the murdered boy, the private underworld of teenage girls turns out to be more mysterious and more dangerous than the detectives imagined.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

What do you think about the campus novels on this list?

Have you read any books from this list?  Are any of these books on your TBR?  What is your favorite campus novel?  What campus novels would you add to this list?


Book List - Must Read Campus Novels

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