Honestly, there is very little I love more than a good campus novel. It's the perfect setting for a book to read in the autumn when the back-to-school feeling is in the air no matter what your age.
You could, of course, read anything by the great Louis Auchincloss, but that sort of college and academic atmosphere is rather outdated and so different than what school looks like today. I have a pretty good mix, but I'd say that most of the books on this list are set on modern campuses.
Harry Potter series
It goes without saying that Harry Potter is probably the best series of campus novels ever written. In fact, while I love the magical aspects of the books, the school setting is probably what makes these books so beloved to me.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This is a story about the fictional descendants of Sherlock and Watson, who pair up to solve a series of mysteries on their boarding school campus in New England.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Perhaps the most classic campus story, this is set during World War II at a boys boarding school. The main character Gene returns to his old boarding school as an adult and revisits the major events that happened while he was there during World War II. If you like campus novels and haven't read this, it should be number one on your list.
Rush by Lisa Patton
This is one of the few books on the list that I haven't finished just yet, so I can't vouch for its quality but it's entertaining so far. Set at Ole Miss, the story follows several characters involved with a sorority house on campus. It explores the complex traditions of sororities and female sisterhood.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The end all, be all of campus novels, as far as I'm concerned and my favorite book of all time. This is a super atmospheric story about a group of classics students at a Vermont liberal arts college who are very otherworldly and involved in a lot of weird things, eventually leading them to commit a major crime.
My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
American student Ella Duran is accepted to Oxford University where she meets a man who changes the course of her life. I've heard that this is perfect for people who like Jojo Moyes, so I imagine it's a romantic story similar in tone to Me Before You.
The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch
I shared this (and the next) book in a post on my old blog and was so excited to see that both Charles Finch and Amber Dermont shared the post on Twitter. This book, also set at Oxford, is about an American student who graduates from Yale and goes to Oxford where he falls into an interesting group of friends.
The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
This is another of my all-time favorite campus novels and it's one I actually think about a lot even years after reading it. It's about a boy at a boarding school in 1987, class privilege, sailing, a mysterious girl, and teenage recklessness. So good!
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Probably the most recently published book on the list, this one is set at Harvard in the mid-90s. Selin is a freshman and is book smart but totally clueless when it comes to social cues and the ways of the world. The author did such an amazing job of characterizing that time in your life when you think you're very smart, but you're actually quite dumb and naive.
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
This follows a a biracial, British-American family living in a college town in New England. It analyzes family life, marriage, and the intersections of personal and political.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
I have to admit, there was a lot about this book that was not enjoyable to me at all but it is one of my best friend's favorite books, so you might love it. The setting is Brown University (which I loved) in the 80s and the story follows Madeleine, an English major writing her thesis on the 'marriage plot' used in novels by Jane Austen and George Eliot. I absolutely loved this part of the book, but a really big plotline is that Madeleine's "boyfriend" Leonard is severely depressed. I couldn't deal with those parts because the way it was portrayed was very off-putting to me, but that's not to say it makes it a bad book. I recommend trying it out and seeing what you think!
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
I've been told this is similar to The Secret History, but instead of classics students, they are theater students who are obsessed with Shakespeare.