Friday, February 16, 2024

Five of the best campus novels

At the Guardian Kate McCusker tagged five top campus novels, including:
On Beauty by Zadie Smith

The title of Zadie Smith’s third novel was taken from a poem by her husband Nick Laird. There is a long precedent of the novelist borrowing from the poet: the story goes that when they were students at Cambridge she turned up at his bedroom and asked for all of his notes the night before an exam. More recently, she borrowed the title of her 2018 essay collection Feel Free from her husband’s then unpublished poetry collection. But it’s hard to think of a better title for On Beauty: a brilliant novel about two clashing intellectuals set in a haughty New England liberal arts college. Part send-up of the self-seriousness of East Coast academia (the author herself makes a cameo), part paean to Howards End, it’s one of her best.
Read about another entry on the list.

On Beauty is among Michael Woodson's top ten campus novels, Michelle Webster-Hein's eight titles that wrestle with the complexities of religion, Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Brian Boone's twenty books that are absolute dorm room essentials, Ann Leary's top ten books set in New England, and Tolani Osan's ten top books that "illuminate how disparate cultures can reveal the mystery and beauty in each other and make us aware of the hardships, dreams, and hidden scars of those we share space with."

--Marshal Zeringue