15 Novels About College Parents Should Read

woman with book


Novels about college are practically a rite of passage for college students. Reading about others who are in the thick of the college experience can be enlightening and entertaining. But what about their parents? What books should parents of college kids be reading to get some literary insight into the college experience? These books offer a variety of points of view, from professors to students, insiders to outsiders - and they are all entertaining, provocative and great reads.

From the early 1920's to present day, these books cover college with a wide range of locations, eras, and protagonists. 


Admission - Jean Hanff Korelitz - A college admissions counselor at Princeton University is confronted with a secret from her past that she thought would never come back to haunt her. A look at both the admissions process and the emotional toll long held secrets can take.

The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach - Yes, it's about college baseball, but there's so much more to this intricate and intriguing novel. The characters come to life at Westish college, where Henry Skrimshander's baseball career is thrown off course, as are the lives of many around him.

Early Decision - Lacy Crawford - A novel about the crazy-making world of college applications and admissions to elite universities. Read it if you dare!

The Group - Mary McCarthy - This post-college novel follows 8 women who comprised "the group" at Vassar College as they find their way in the world and continue to return to each other and their college selves over the years.

I Am Charlotte Simmons - Tom Wolfe - A naive young girl from small town North Carolina, Charlotte Simmons arrives at the elite DuPont college with no idea what awaits her among the privileged elite and other unfamiliar types she encounters. As she adapts to her environs, she changes, and so do the people around her.

Joe College - Tom Perrotta - A Yale junior spends his spring break contemplating his past, his future, and the women in his life while selling food from his father's roach coach in a parking lot in New Jersey. Satire, higher education and fast food all in one.

Love Story - Erich Segal - You've seen the movie - now read the book about two lovers from opposite sides of the track.

The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides - Studying the novels of Jane Austen and George Eliot to understand how marriage influenced literature makes Madeleine Hanna a bit of an oddball in the early 1980's. While she's studying about marriage, she finds herself enmeshed with two very different kinds of men, turning her own life into a melodrama.

Moo - Jane Smiley - At a midwestern university, murderous thoughts and other intrigue beset the faculty, from dean to assistant, horticulture to literature. A lively, fun novel.

The Paper Chase - John Jay Osborn Jr. - Midwesterner James Hart arrives at Harvard Law School and finds himself in the classroom of the imperious and brilliant Professor Kingsfield, who demands much more from his students than Hart ever imagined. 

The Rules of Attraction - Brett Easton Ellis - College in the 80's, complete with a love triangle, disaffected young adults and a liberal arts college in New England.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Secret History - Donna Tartt - The story of a group of college friends who find themselves caught in the classic pull between right and wrong, good and evil at the bucolic New England school. 

Straight Man - Richard Russo - What is it about college professors that gets them into so much trouble? A week in the life of William Henry Devereaux, Jr., chairman of the English department at a school in the rustbelt of Pennsylvania. An entertaining look at a mild midlife crisis.

This Side of Paradise - F. Scott Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald's classic novel of a disaffected young Princeton student who falls in love with a woman who rejects him. The story of the "lost generation" of the 1920's, this is a book for the ages.

The Wonder Boys - Michael Chabon - The misadventures of self-indulgent but greatly talented professors and a student who joins them in their escapades at a small Pennsylvania college.



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