Back to School with these 4 Campus Novels

A campus novel is a book set in a school, college or university and the most popular is probably the Harry Potter series. Campus novels have always been popular amongst readers, so I thought I’d share four of them with you here.

Stoner by John Williams
My favourite campus novel by far is Stoner by John Williams. William Stoner comes from a poor farming family and attends University to study agriculture. He soon falls in love with literature and decides to put aside his plan to manage the family farm in order to become a career academic.

Stoner is a deeply honest portrait of an average man, living a lonely, underwhelming and sometimes depressing life.

However his story is told with such reverence I was completely swept away and bereft by the end.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
This is the first in the YA series of historical fiction novels to feature Gemma Doyle. Beginning in late 1890s India, Gemma is shipped off to Spence boarding school for girls in England after the death of her mother.

The school is a complete culture shock for Gemma and she finds it difficult to adjust. Gemma also finds it hard to deal with the boarding school ’mean girls’. A Great and Terrible Beauty is a gentle coming-of-age story told with well drawn characters and a touch of humour and longing.

The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton
Josephine and her best friend Freya attend an elite all-girl boarding school and have an irreparable falling out in 1994. In this dual narrative, Josephine reflects on the events from her perspective 18 years later. The mystery slowly unravels as the novel works towards the ultimate reveal.

The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton will appeal to readers of YA, NA and those who enjoy dissecting female friendships gone bad.

Variant by Robison Wells
Those looking for a male main character in their campus novels will love Variant by Robison Wells. In this YA thriller, Benson Fisher has been moved from foster home to foster home and is understandably excited when he receives a scholarship to Maxfield Academy.

Right away Benson notices something isn’t quite right at the Academy. There are no teachers or adults on campus and the curriculum is strange. There are gangs of students in charge of various contracts at the school. Furthermore, the grounds are surrounded by a large wall patrolled by students on quad bikes. Benson wants to escape but if he’s caught he’ll be given detention. But the rumour is students don’t return from detention. How will he survive?

Will you be adding any of these to your TBR? What’s your favourite campus novel?

The author in front of the camera

Not every author can be as charismatic as Neil Gaiman. When Mr Gaiman talks, everyone listens… especially when he is reading from his own writings. He has a presence and a real sparkle in his voice. He makes it all look so easy. But, of course, it’s not.

Authors are constantly asked to sell their work and to be the public face of their writing — Public appearances, readings, school talks… and even promotional videos. There is a real interest from readers to see the person behind the books they read. But honestly, some authors are better off NOT appearing in the promotional videos for their books.

Go to YouTube and search under “author videos”. You’ll find a fair few videos that fall somewhere between not very good and downright embarrassing. You’ll find a few that range from good to excellent. But the vast majority will simply be rather ordinary. The author may speak well, the author may have something interesting to say — but the author fails to truly engage his/her audience.

Here’s an example. Eoin Colfer. He’s an author who has had enormous success, particularly with his Artemis Fowl books. His stories are loved the world over. But this video for his book, Airman, is rather ordinary…

But… take the same author, direct him a little, add some visuals and music, and do a bit of editing. Suddenly you have something that’s a little more interesting…

I thought that little bit of humour in the last few seconds of the video was a really nice touch. Humour is a powerful way for a speaker to get the attention of his listeners. Here’s a rather brilliant example of an author video that uses humour. Libba Bray talks about her YA novel, Going Bovine, while dressed as a cow. Very entertaining!

Of course, humour is not going to work for every author and every book. So what do you do when you’re promoting a book in which all adults fall victim to a terrible disease that turns them into zombies? Well, in this video, as Charlie Higson tells you about his YA novel The Enemy, he gradually succumbs to the disease. Well acted, nicely directed, with some good make-up effects, this production is a benchmark for author videos.

So, does anyone out there have any author videos they would like to share? Something brilliant? Something tragic? Leave a comment.

And tune in next time for one more post about videos. Come one, you know you love them!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll post a video of myself telling you why you should follow me on Twitter.