Boarding School Books

25 Best Boarding School books by Sara Ebner at The London Times. This list is very British, as might be expected given the source, although Ms. Ebner does include the Americans, Catcher in the Rye and Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’ve read neither of the American selections, nor have I read many of the other books on the list. However, I do have a few ideas of my own about good boarding school books:

The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom. As far as I know this story of friends at a boarding school who make up their own secret language is the only novel written by the famed children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom. If so, it’s a one hit wonder. This picture of the insular world of boarding schools made me want to attend one just so I could make up my own secret language. MIddle grade fiction.

The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle. Young Katherine Forrester, daughter of two famous musicians, discovers in herself her own musical talent and deals with misunderstanding and prejudice in her Swiss boarding school. And Both Were Young is another of L’Engle’s early novels set in a boarding school. Young adult/adult.

Old School by Tobias Wolff. I read this one last year but never got around to reviewing it. This subtitle/blurb should suffice:” A scholarship boy at a New England prep school grapples with literary ambition and insecurity in this lucid, deceptively sedate novel, set in the early 1960s and narrated by the unnamed protagonist from the vantage point of adulthood.” Young adult/adult.

Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes. This one is the grandaddy of all boarding school books; the setting is Thomas Arnold’s Rugby School in Victorian England. Tom Brown is a typical English boy who grows up to epitomize the virtues of a British public school education and the essence of British manhood.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Semicolon review here. “This novel is a FInding Yourself story, a Coming of Age tale, a Boarding School genre entry, and an all-round good time book. Frankie is typically insecure and desirous of acceptance by her peers, and yet she finds the inner resources to break out of the mold and become someone that no one would expect her to be. The story is comedic, but it has serious undertones and themes.” Young adult.


5 thoughts on “Boarding School Books

  1. There are two I can think of: The Mudhen (Merritt Allen) and The Lawrenceville Stories (Owen Johnson). Both are set in boys boarding schools (one being, obviously, Lawrenceville) in the 1950s, filled with highjinks and pranks and the us (students) v. them (teachers). I remember laughing my way through both when I was younger.

    The Mudhen appears to be out of print, but it’s definitely worth finding and reading!

  2. +JMJ+

    Well, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books come to mind immediately, of course! =)

    My own all-time favourite is What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge. (I haven’t read it in a while, so I hope it will stand the test of time!)

  3. The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson was very enjoyable.

  4. Pam S

    A Great and Terrible Beauty (series) by Libba Bray, The Mysterious Benedict Society (series) by Trenton Lee Stewart, and Pulling Princes (series) by Tyne O’Connell.

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