Princeton based novels you have to read while you’re still a student here

There’s more to it than just F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the waning hours of my first English class at Princeton, the professor made a throw away comment about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise”. The professor seemed to believe all Princeton students had read the famous author’s Princeton-based and inspired novel before they came to school, but as the professor looked around the room, only one head nodded affirmatively.

With all the connotations of prestige but also pretentiousness and even mystery that the university cannot seem to shake, the small town of Princeton is in many regards an ideal setting for a novel. Here are five favorite novels set in Princeton.

This Side of Paradise by F Scott Fitzgerald.

Inspired by his own time and heartbreak at Princeton, this is the story of  Amory Blaine, an attractive but amorously trouble student at Princeton who dabbles in literature and muses on love and how it is ruined by greed and status seeking.   

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The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

This story features beloved Professor Tony Grafton as the villain. It is the tail of two humanities majors at the University who through their indepednet work are on the verge of solving the key to a Renaissance text which as baffled scholars for centuries. But before they can complete their studies, tragedy strikes when a student is killed.

Americanah  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This highly acclaimed novel follows its Nigerian born heroine Ifemelu, through her time at Princeton, and segways into longs passages modern problems with respect to race, society, and culture. More than the others, this books doesn’t display Princeton or the United States as a whole in a very flattering light.

Mercer Street by John Heldt

In this sequel to September Sky, the protagonist Susan Peterson travels back in time to Princeton in 1938 where she meets here refugee parents and her infant self. Filled with sorrow, joy and intrigue, Mercer Street gives new meaning to courage and sacrifice  as traces its protagonist’s wild adventure.

Princeton Impostor by Ann Waldronint

The last of Waldron’s three Princeton-based mysteries, this novel lives out the thought experiment of Greg Pierre, who assumes the identity of an accepted student and enrolls in courses under his name. When the student who outs Pierre is found dead, suspicion falls on Pierre but his favorite professor comes to his aid.

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