Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope your week is going great. Otherwise, I hope that it will start looking up in the coming days. It is my fervent hope that it will usher in positive energy, blessings, healing, and forgiveness for everyone. I hope and pray that 2022 will not only be a good year but a great one. As it is Tuesday, it is also time for a Top 5 Tuesday update. Top 5 Tuesday was originally created by Shanah @ the Bionic Bookworm but is now currently being hosted by Meeghan @ Meeghan Reads.

his week’s topic: Top 5 Books Set in School

Hmmm. This one is an exciting topic. At first, I struggled to come up with a list. I had to dig very deep into my memories for books set in schools. Sure, Hogwarts was the first school that came to my mind. Beyond that, I cannot recall that many campus books that impressed me or at least made me excited. Eventually, my memory started flooding with books set in school. Without more ado, here are five of the standout reads I had in the first half of the year. This is in no particular order. Happy reading!

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The first book by American writer Donna Tartt I read was her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Goldfinch. However, it was through The Secret History that I first came across her name. The book was recommended by several must-read lists, thus, piquing my interest. In 2017, I was finally able to read Tartt’s debut novel. I admit I struggled a bit at the start but as the story moved forward, I found myself engrossed by the mystery story involving a group of friends who met in the elite Hampden College in Vermont. These friends were the only students by Classics professor Julian Morrow; he had a reputation for handpicking his students. It appeals to the intellectual side but it was no ordinary campus story as within the story is a bachannalian ceremony and a murder contrasted by the story’s deep appreciation for beauty and the arts. The Secret History is not your ordinary campus story. It is no surprise it is listed as one of 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Kate Elizabeth Russell’s debut novel, My Dark Vanessa, was certainly one of the most anticipated book releases of 2020. On the other hand, it was also one of the most controversial. The book immediately captured my interest when I was searching for books to add to my 2020 Books I Look Forward To List. The book easily made it to my list. Besides, I have been reading interesting reviews of the book. While the story opened in 2017, the crux of the story occurred in 2000 when the titular Vanessa Wye was still fifteen-years-old when she transferred to a boarding school in Maine. Unlike The Secret History which careened towards the intellect, My Dark Vanessa grappled with a dark reality that hounds schools: grooming, use of influence, and sexual abuse. These are seminal subjects that deserve a second look as they can leave trauma that will haunt a person his or her entire life.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

If there is a genre that I am not particularly fond of it would be young adult fiction. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally indulge myself in works of this genre. One of the few that stood out for me was John Green’s Looking for Alaska; of the four novels by Green, it was my favorite by a mile. It is the story of Miles Halter who left his “normal” school to attend Culver Preparatory High School in Alabama for his junior high. There, he met new friends such as Chip “The Colonel” Martin (his roommate), Takumi Hikohito, and the titular Alaska Young. There was something about Alaska that immediately caught Miles’ eyes. While she was beautiful, she was also emotionally unstable. What I liked about the book was its exploration of death, grief, loss, and, of course, mental health. These are subjects that sets it apart from the first two books on this list.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I can’t remember where I first heard of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian because when I encountered it on must-read lists, the title rang a bell of familiarity. Anyway, it didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to include the book on my growing reading list. It did, however, take me years to finally read the book. The award-winning book reverberated with autobiographical overtones as Alexie recounted his own experiences through the story of 14-year-old Arnold Spirit, a member of the Spokane Indian Tribe. Born to a dysfunctional family, he broke the paradigms of the tribe when he left the reservation school for Reardan High School. What made the novel stand out was its exploration of identity and the indomitability of the human spirit once one resolves to fight for one’s dreams. It illuminates in its message that reminds us that if there is a will, there will always be a way.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Of course, the list wouldn’t be complete without one of the most popular fictional schools in the world: Hogwarts. Unlike most of my books, I actually watched the movies first before I read the entire Harry Potter series. Back then, I wasn’t into reading fiction but the movie really impressed me. Ten years later (I think), I finally was able to read the entire series, when I was studying at the university. The movies left me in awe but the books gave me an entirely different experience. Hogwarts, magic, and fantasy were, interestingly, more vivid and irresistible in the published texts than in the movie. Needless to say, I loved the book and I also loved the friendship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Their camaraderie and loyalty was the single aspect of the book that I enjoyed the most. Well, I did enjoy rolling my tongue trying to pronounce those spells.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Because my brain is really churning out books right now, let me add another book that I liked. I think most of us struggled with our first few books by Japanese master wordsmith Haruki Murakami. Magical realism is a territory that is quite challenging to decipher and Murakami’s works more so. By the time I read Norwegian Wood, I gave up hopes of being able to unlock Murakami’s prose; 1Q84 is not an ideal work to start a venture into Murakami’s repertoire. Thankfully, I pushed through for this novel was a pivotal point in my appreciation of Murakami’s works. It was easier to digest and the elements of magical realism were not as pervasive as in the first books by Murakami I read. Oh yeah. Before I forget, the story is in the form of a flashback like The Secret History. A Beatles song heard by 37-year-old Toru Watanabe was enough to stir his memories. This song, the titular Norwegian Wood, transported him to the 1960s when he was still a student. It is an examination of loss, grief, and romance in the Murakami-verse.