G is for Grades

It’s back-to-school time! And while that means actual work for the kids  (though, maybe shopping for school clothes and supplies is work), for those of us with our academic days firmly behind us, the season might not have as much impact. Still, if the smell of crayons is making you nostalgic, relive your school days with one of the novels below. Whether they deal with teachers or students – seriously or with humor – they’ll take you back to school without the homework!


Admission – Jean Hanff Korelitz*

  • Thirty-eight-year old Portia Nathan, a Princeton University admissions officer, must decide whether or not to confront the truth when a life-altering decision from her past resurfaces.


Back in the Game – Charles Holdefer

  • Schoolteacher Stanley Mercer relocates to a small town expecting a quiet country life, but he soon becomes involved with the mother of one of his pupils and develops an interest in the struggles of two special education students.


The Blackboard Jungle – Evan Hunter*

  • Rick Dadier encounters insolence and violence as a new teacher at a New York City vocational school as he tries to reach a group of violent, rebellious New York City teenagers, in a fiftieth anniversary edition of the classic novel.


The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia – Mary Helen Stefaniak

  • Narrator Gladys Cailiff is eleven years old in 1938 when a new schoolteacher turns Threestep, Georgia, upside down. Miss Grace Spivey is a well-traveled young woman who believes in field trips, Arabian costumes, and reading aloud from her ten-volume set of The Thousand Nights and a Night.


The Class – Erich Segal

  • The ethos and glamour of Harvard resonate throughout this story of five men–Andrew Eliot, Daniel Rossi, Ted Lambros, Jason Gilbert, and George Keller–from their first days at Harvard through their twenty-fifth class reunion.


Good-bye, Mr. Chips – James Hilton*

  • Depicts the life of Mr. Chipping, a gentle English schoolmaster known familiarly to the schoolboys at Brookfield as Mr. Chips.


Hummingbirds – Joshua A. Gaylord

  • Follows students and teachers through a whole school year at an elite girls prep school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side–from the an ever-popular girl to a smart teen playwright, from an adored teacher to his rival, a charming new English teacher.


Old School – Tobias Wolff

  • During his senior year at an elite New England prep school, a young man who had struggled to fit in with his contemporaries finds his life unraveling due to the school’s obsession with literary figures and their work.


Pay It Forward – Catherine Ryan Hyde*

  • Trevor’s teacher challenges his class to do a project that will change the world. Trevor decides to do something good for people, but instead of them paying him back he asks them to pay it forward by doing good things for more people.


Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld

  • During the late 1980s, fourteen-year-old Lee Fiora leaves behind her close-knit, middle-class Indiana family to enroll in an elite co-ed boarding school in Massachusetts, becoming a shrewd observer of, and eventually a participant in, their rituals and customs.


The Secret History – Donna Tartt

  • A transfer student from a small town in California, Richard Papen is determined to affect the ways of his Hampden College peers, and he begins his intense studies under the tutelage of eccentric Julian Morrow.


A Separate Peace – John Knowles*

  • A conflict of loyalties between Gene and his fearless friend, Phineas, leads to tragedy.


To Sir, With Love – E. R. Braithwaite*

  • Candidly describes the problems overcome by this Black teacher in teaching distrustful, rebellious teenagers in a London slum school.


What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal – Zoe Heller*

  • Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has known none but the most solitary of lifestyles until new teacher Sheba Hart joins St. George’s. Starting by sharing lunches, then family events, the new art teacher draws Barbara into a touching confidence. Sheba has begun a passionate affair with an underage male student. When the details come to light and Sheba falls prey to the inevitable media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend’s defense, revealing not only Sheba’s secrets but her own.


Entries with * have been made into films.

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