Novels about being a teacher at a university

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” - said someone real wise. What makes a teacher and her character? Who is the teacher beyond the walls of the classroom? These books might have some answers
Wonder Boys
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Wonder Boys

by Michael Chabon

About the book:  A deft parody of the American fame factory and a piercing portrait of young and old desire, WONDER BOYS is a modern classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of THE ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY.

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White Noise
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White Noise

by Don DeLillo

About the book:  Jack Gladney is the creator and chairman of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill. This is the story of his absurd life; a life that is going well enough, until a chemical spill from a rail car releases an 'Airborne Toxic Event' and Jack is forced to confront his biggest fear - his own mortality. White Noise is an effortless combination of social satire and metaphysical dilemma in which Don DeLillo exposes our rampant consumerism, media saturation and novelty intellectualism. It captures the particular strangeness of life lived when the fear of death cannot be denied, repressed or obscured and ponders the role of the family in a time when the very meaning of our existence is under threat.

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Straight Man
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Straight Man

by Richard Russo

About the book:  The author of Nobody's Fool chronicles a singularly eventful week in the life of William Henry Devereaux, Jr., a once-promising novelist and now the middle-aged chairman of a university English department in hilarious disarray. Reprint. 60,000 first printing. Tour.

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Stoner
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Stoner

by John Williams

About the book:  WATERSTONES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2013 'It's the most marvellous discovery for everyone who loves literature' Ian McEwan, BBC Radio 4 Colum McCann once called Stoner one of the great forgotten novels of the past century, but it seems it is forgotten no longer – in 2013 translations of Stoner began appearing on bestseller lists across Europe. Forty-eight years after its first, quiet publication in the US, Stoner is finally finding the wide and devoted readership it deserves. Have you read it yet? William Stoner enters the University of Missouri at nineteen to study agriculture. A seminar on English literature changes his life, and he never returns to work on his father's farm. Stoner becomes a teacher. He marries the wrong woman. His life is quiet, and after his death his colleagues remember him rarely. Yet with truthfulness, compassion and intense power, this novel uncovers a story of universal value. Stoner tells of the conflicts, defeats and victories of the human race that pass unrecorded by history, and reclaims the significance of an individual life. A reading experience like no other, itself a paean to the power of literature, it is a novel to be savoured.

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Pictures from an Institution
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Pictures from an Institution

by Randall Jarrell

About the book:  Beneath the unassuming surface of a progressive women’s college lurks a world of intellectual pride and pomposity awaiting devastation by the pens of two brilliant and appalling wits. Randall Jarrell’s classic novel was originally published to overwhelming critical acclaim in 1954, forging a new standard for campus satire—and instantly yielding comparisons to Dorothy Parker’s razor-sharp barbs. Like his fictional nemesis, Jarrell cuts through the earnest conversations at Benton College—mischievously, but with mischief nowhere more wicked than when crusading against the vitriolic heroine herself. “A most literate account of a group of most literate people by a writer of power. . . . A delight of true understanding.”—Wallace Stevens “I’m greatly impressed by the real fun, the incisive satire, the closeness of observation, and in the end by a kind of sympathy and human warmth. It’s a remarkable book.”—Robert Penn Warren “Move over Dorothy Parker. Pictures . . . is less a novel than a series of poisonous portraits, set pieces, and endlessly quotable put-downs. Read it less for plot than sharp satire, Jarrell’s forte.”—Mary Welp “One of the wittiest books of modern times.”—New York Times “[T]he father of the modern campus novel, and the wittiest of them all. Extraordinary to think that ‘political correctness’ was so deliciously dissected 50 years ago.”—Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph “A sustained exhibition of wit in the great tradition. . . . Immensely and very devastatingly shrewd.”—Edmund Fuller, Saturday Review “[A] work of fiction, and a dizzying and brilliant work of social and literary criticism. Not only ‘a unique and serious joke-book,’ as Lowell called it, but also a meditation made up of epigrams.”—Michael Wood

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My Education
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My Education

by Susan Choi

About the book:  In the heat of September, and the heady rush of starting her graduate degree, Regina Gottlieb is entranced by her seductive, controversial English professor, Nicholas Brodeur. Against all advice, she becomes embroiled in his world, only to betray him in a passionate love affair with the person closest to him. Their romance destroys the equilibrium of all those around them, and threatens to capsize their lives, as Regina and her lover struggle to bridge the gap between duty and desire, obsession and self-preservation. Only years later, when Regina - by now a married mother and bestselling novelist living in Brooklyn - crosses paths again with Nicholas, do we see the full impact of her first, devastating love. My Education is a classic coming-of-age novel with a delicious twist - one of the most intoxicating stories of erotic obsession fused with literary style to emerge in a long time.

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A New Life
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A New Life

by Bernard Malamud

About the book:  Sy Levin, a high school teacher beset by alcohol and bad decisions, leaves New York for the Pacific Northwest to start over, imagining that an extraordinary new life awaits him there. Soon after arriving, he realizes that he had fallen for the myth of the West as a place of personal reinvention.

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The Lecturer's Tale
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The Lecturer's Tale

by James Hynes

About the book:  The author of Publish and Perish returns with a Faustian tale of the horrors of academe Nelson Humbolt is a visiting adjunct English lecturer at prestigious Midwest University, until he is unceremoniously fired one autumn morning. Minutes after the axe falls, his right index finger is severed in a freak accident. Doctors manage to reattach the finger, but when the bandages come off, Nelson realizes that he has acquired a strange power--he can force his will onto others with a touch of his finger. And so he obtains an extension on the lease of his university-owned townhouse and picks up two sections of freshman composition, saving his career from utter ruin. But soon these victories seem inconsequential, and Nelson's finger burns for even greater glory. Now the Midas of academia wonders if he can attain what every struggling assistant professor and visiting lecturer covets--tenure. A pitch-perfect blend of satire and horror, The Lecturer's Tale paints a gruesomely clever portrait of life in academia.

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The Human Stain
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The Human Stain

by Philip Roth

About the book:  'The work of a genius at full throttle' Sunday Telegraph It is 1998, the year America is plunged into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town a distinguished classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues allege that he is a racist. The charge is unfounded, the persecution needless, but the truth about Silk would astonish even his most virulent accuser. Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who comes upon Silk's secret, and sets out to unearth his former buried life, piecing the biographical fragments back together. This is against backdrop of seismic shifts in American history, which take on real, human urgency as Zuckerman discovers more and more about Silk's past and his futile search for renewal and regeneration.

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The Name of the World
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The Name of the World

by Denis Johnson

About the book:  The acclaimed author of Jesus' Son and Already Dead returns with a beautiful, haunting, and darkly comic novel. The Name of the World is a mesmerizing portrait of a professor at a Midwestern university who has been patient in his grief after an accident takes the lives of his wife and child and has permitted that grief to enlarge him. Michael Reed is living a posthumous life. In spite of outward appearances -- he holds a respectable university teaching position; he is an articulate and attractive addition to local social life -- he's a dead man walking. Nothing can touch Reed, nothing can move him, although he observes with a mordant clarity the lives whirling vigorously around him. Of his recent bereavement, nearly four years earlier, he observes, "I'm speaking as I'd speak of a change in the earth's climate, or the recent war." Facing the unwelcome end of his temporary stint at the university, Reed finds himself forced "to act like somebody who cares what happens to him. " Tentatively he begins to let himself make contact with a host of characters in this small academic town, souls who seem to have in common a tentativeness of their own. In this atmosphere characterized, as he says, "by cynicism, occasional brilliance, and small, polite terror," he manages, against all his expectations, to find people to light his way through his private labyrinth. Elegant and incisively observed, The Name of the World is Johnson at his best: poignant yet unsentimental, replete with the visionary imaginative detail for which his work is known. Here is a tour de force by one of the most astonishing writers at work today.

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