Back to School Reading

Labor Day weekend means school is right around the corner. If you’re feeling nostalgic for your school days, or you just want to get into the spirit of Back to School time (since are only so many times you can go to Staples to smell the tape and freshly sharpened pencils the before they decide you’ve gone too far,) here are some stories about students, semesters, headmasters, and that often painful journey toward independence. In the meantime, see you in the aisle with the white lined notebook paper.

Headmaster Ritual by Taylor Antrim – Dyer Martin, a new history teacher at the prestigious Britton School, arrives in the fall ready to close the door on the failures and disappointments of his past: a disastrous first job, a broken relationship, and acute uncertainty about his future. James, a lonely senior, just wants to make it through his last year unscathed, avoiding both the brutal hazing of dorm life and the stern and unforgiving eye of his father, the school’s politically radical headmaster, Edward Wolfe. Soon, however, both Dyer and James are inescapably drawn into Wolfe’s hidden agenda for Britton, as the headmaster orders Dyer to set up and run a Model UN Club for students. As the United States moves steadily toward a conflict with an increasingly hostile North Korea – whose pursuit of nuclear technology is pushing the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon – Wolfe’s political fervor begins to consume him, and he sets in motion a plan that will jeopardize his job, his school, and even the life of his own son.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld – Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves behind her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel. As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of – and eventually a participant in – their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Dean -Recent Yale graduate Megan Smith comes to Manhattan with big plans for a career in journalism and even bigger student loan debt: $75,000. When she flails at her trashy tabloid job, she’s given an escape hatch: tutor seventeen-year-old identical twins Rose and Sage Baker–yes, the infamous Baker heiresses of Palm Beach, Florida, best known for their massive fortunes and their penchant for drunkenly flashing the paparazzi — and get their SAT scores up enough to get into Duke. Impossible job — yes. But if she succeeds, her student debts are history. Unfortunately for Megan, the Baker twins aren’t about to curtail their busy social schedules for basic algebra. And they certainly aren’t thrilled to have to sit down for a study session with dowdy Megan. Megan quickly discovers that if she’s going to get her money, she’ll have to learn her Pucci from her Prada. And if she can look the part, maybe, just maybe, she can teach the girls something along the way.

Chloe Does Yale by Natalie Krinsky – Go back to college with Natalie Krinsky in this frothy, first novel from the sex columnist for the Yale Daily News, now in paperback Chloe Carrington is a typical Yale student, except that along with toiling through the usual grind of coursework, she pens a notorious and much-dished-over sex column for the campus newspaper. This touch of scandal has wrought havoc on her social and love life, turning it into an open book. Chloe doesnt help matters much; she likes to share, and can’t resist divulging the gory details of her most recent date (or lack thereof) in her column, baring her soul, and sometimes the souls of others, for all to see. And thats where the trouble begins. As Chloe probes the campus hot spots, we get a peek at what goes on behind the Ivy Leagues dormitory doorsfrom drinking at Toads, to Exotic Erotic, Yales answer to a Playboy mansion bash, complete with coeds in skimpy bikinis and a lacrosse team clad only in socks. Of course theres perhaps the most favorite extracurricular activitylots and lots of sex. Teeming with exuberance and late-night shenanigans, Chloe Does Yale is filled with humor and candor about typical college situations, both inside and outside the dorm rooms.

I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe – Dupont University–the Olympian halls of learning housing the cream of America’s youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition… Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from North Carolina. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that for the uppercrust coeds of Dupont, sex, Cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time. As Charlotte encounters Dupont’s privileged elite–her roommate, Beverly, a Groton-educated Brahmin in lusty pursuit of lacrosse players; Jojo Johanssen, the only white starting player on Dupont’s godlike basketball team, whose position is threatened by a hotshot black freshman from the projects; the Young Turk of Saint Ray fraternity, Hoyt Thorpe, whose heady sense of entitlement and social domination is clinched by his accidental brawl with a bodyguard for the governor of California; and Adam Geller, one of the Millennial Mutants who run the university’s “independent” newspaper and who consider themselves the last bastion of intellectual endeavor on the sex-crazed, jock-obsessed campus–she gains a new, revelatory sense of her own power, that of her difference and of her very innocence, but little does she realize that she will act as a catalyst in all of their lives.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.

The Professor’s Daughter by Emily Raboteau – “My father is black and my mother is white and my brother is a vegetable.” When Emma Boudreaux’s older brother winds up in a coma after a freak accident, she loses her compass: only Bernie was able to navigate–if not always diplomatically–the terrain of their biracial identity. And although her father and brother are bound by a haunting past that Emma slowly uncovers, she sees that she might just escape. In exhilarating prose, The Professor’s Daughter traces the borderlands of race and family, contested territory that gives rise to rage, confusion, madness, and invisibility. This astonishingly original voice surges with energy and purpose.

Size 12 is Not Fat: A Heather Wells Mystery by Meg Cabot –

Heather Wells Rocks! Or, at least, she did. That was before she left the pop-idol life behind after she gained a dress size or two — and lost a boyfriend, a recording contract, and her life savings (when Mom took the money and ran off to Argentina). Now that the glamour and glory days of endless mall appearances are in the past, Heather’s perfectly happy with her new size 12 shape (the average for the American woman!) and her new job as an assistant dorm director at one of New York’s top colleges. That is, until the dead body of a female student from Heather’s residence hall is discovered at the bottom of an elevator shaft. The cops and the college president are ready to chalk the death off as an accident, the result of reckless youthful mischief. But Heather knows teenage girls . . . and girls do not elevator surf. Yet no one wants to listen — not the police, her colleagues, or the P.I. who owns the brownstone where she lives — even when more students start turning up dead in equally ordinary and subtly sinister ways. So Heather makes the decision to take on yet another new career: as spunky girl detective! But her new job comes with few benefits, no cheering crowds, and lots of liabilities, some of them potentially fatal. And nothing ticks off a killer more than a portly ex-pop star who’s sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong . . .

-Andrea

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