Academic Books Perfect For Back-to-School Season

I’m personally fine with not going back to school, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some parts of it that I am nostalgic about. The community of learning, seeing the same people nearly every day, and the routine of it provide a sense of comfort. It’s that nostalgia during autumn that has many readers reach for a book set in academia. Here are a few of our favorites.


There’s a good chance that you’ve watched, or at least seen, the adaptation of this nonfiction book on XX. In case you’re unfamiliar with the topic, Beth Macy reveals the origins of America’s opioid crisis (in particular OxyContin) as a small Virginia town where one dealer turns high school football stars into heroin users.


Award-winning Harvard educator Brandon P. Fleming narrates his personal growth in Miseducated. Fleming went from an abusive upbringing where he passed classes in high school due only to his basketball skills, slung drugs at fourteen, dropped out of college due to an injury in his first semester, and worked on an assembly line to complete self-reinvention. His inspiring memoir tells the truth about self-education and how others can use his experience as their prototype.


Speaking of inspirational—this memoir will make you appreciate the opportunity for an education. When the Taliban took control of her town in Pakistan and forbid girls from attending school, Malala Yousafzai refused to let that new law stand. She almost paid for her resistance with her life when she was shot in the head at point-blank range. Nonetheless, she recovered miraculously and continues to advocate for education.


While completing her undergraduate degree at Harvard, Becky Cooper heard that back in 1969, a Harvard student had an affair with her professor, and the professor had murdered her. When Cooper investigated more into the story, not only was the rumor false, but the murder was real—and the woman was not only murdered, but bludgeoned to death. Cooper spent ten years researching this murder, and she unveiled a complex web of misogynistic, fatal academic culture.


Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.