back to school

The Sunday Salon: School Days

School days, school days. For me, school meant slick new notebooks and paper folders in all colors. Boxes of flinty pencils I could sharpen into lethal points. Backpacks in stylish colors and prints.

And books. Lots of books.

I didn’t even care that most of them were textbooks. I loved them all - the battered, well-thumbed history books passed down from year to year, the shiny new workbooks for French with lovely glossy photos of famous landmarks. With only one exception (math books) each tome thrilled me to the core.

Like many adults, I have fond memories of my school days and feel a tiny bit wistful when September rolls around. One of my friends finds herself with no children to send off to school for the first time in about 23 years. “How strange it feels to walk past the back-to-school displays and not need to make a single purchase,” she sighs.

Here’s my secret. I haunt the school supply aisles every year and stock up on notebooks, index cards, folders and pens. This year I splurged and bought colored markers and some blank white paper for drawing  doodling. My biggest bargain were spiral notebooks for 10 cents. I confess to going slightly crazy on that one.

But really, can you blame me?

So - as often happens - when I’m feeling a need for something I can’t satisfy in real life, I turn to books for my vicarious gratification.

Books about school. That should do it.

Book Riot put together a nice list of books about life at school (Six Books for Back to School). Most of these I’ve read, but I may go digging for my copy of Villette (since I’m on something of a classics kick these days) and re-read it.

Here are some other of my personal favorites:

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, is definitely a look at the darker side of adolescence in a British boarding school, but it’s still a classic and important story about relationships for people of all ages.

Class Reunion, by Rona Jaffe, is the story of four girls who go to Radcliffe in the 50’s and go on to live interesting lives, then meet up again at their 25th reunion. (On a side note, if you go to the Amazon page for this book, you’ll notice that it’s out of print and a resale first edition will fetch a price of $199.00. And my husband doesn’t understand why I save books.)

Goodbye Mr. Chips, by James Hilton, traces a teachers long career at a British boarding school, and although it seems dated in some ways, it’s quite to true to the era in which I grew up, so it’s a nice bit of nostalgia for me.

Admissions, by Jean Korelitz, is a modern tale about 38-year-old Portia Nathan, who has avoided the past, hiding behind her busy (and sometimes punishing) career as a Princeton University admissions officer and her dependable domestic life. This was a fascinating look at life in the “Ivy’s”  from the administrative side.

So even though it’s hot as blazes outside today, I may crank up the air conditioning, put on my school sweater, and pretend it’s fall while I wander back to the halls of academe.

In books, that is.

How about you? did you love school or hate it? do you like revisiting your school days vicariously through novels?

The Sunday