I absolutely love stories in which universities, academies, libraries, or archives are some of the major characters. Didn’t the Hogwarts students have a cool selection of classes? And don’t forget the scholarly stories that involve vampires. What other wonderful works of fiction are set amidst the dreaming spires? There are so many. Here are some of my favorites:
The Physician, by Noah Gordon — Rob Cole lives in England in the 11th century. He wants to be a doctor more than anything and decides to travel across the world to Persia to study medicine. The rich descriptions of his journey, the civilization, the university, and what he and his friends experience as medical students are wondrous.
Rule of Four, by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason — a Princeton student is obsessed with a mysterious Renaissance tome; he and his friends are drawn into a murder on campus that is somehow involved.
Right now I can’t put down Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. Red-haired Kvothe was born into a traveling show troupe, survived what happened next, and used his wits to gain admittance to The University, where he studies such things as alchemy and sympathy (not what you think). He has an excellent reason for being there: he needs to learn about the people who killed everyone, you see. (We don’t own this one, but remember that you can get anything, from anywhere, through interlibrary loan.)
Finally, a hearty Happy Birthday to 101-year-old Bel Kaufman, who wrote the marvelous classic, Up the Down Staircase. Live the life of an idealistic teacher in the mid-60’s New York City school system through a series of memos and notes from the bureaucratic assistant principal, struggling students, and her fellow teachers, both talented and awful. This is an extraordinary book.