This time of year has always been a bit tense. It is the time of new beginnings - the start of the new school term.
We have all been there but for me, as a former teacher, it was doubly so. The classroom was ready, the first set of lesson plans printed off, new books, clean board. All that was needed were the new students in their new uniforms. Aware of how essential education is.
"Don't smile until Christmas," we were told.
So there is a kind of nostalgia about books set in schools. Not all memories of school are good - far from it. As a child I hated every minute of school. Or so I tell myself. But reading some of these books as an adult brings out some of the good things that I have somehow buried.
Here is my top selection:
Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton
I saw the film first and read it years later. It is a story about the career of a teacher and focuses on the teacher-student relationship. Lovely story.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
There was always that solitary weird pupil in every class. Can you imagine if he turned out to be a vampire? And if he was the kind of boy that set girls' heart a-flutter? A different sort of teenage romance.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Mystery and death at an elite American school. The book is detailed and the characters well-drawn and equally unlikable, a book to get lost in if you can cope with all the drinking, smoking and drug taking. Oh yes, it's about teenagers. Great dark fiction.
Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes
Set in a Victorian public school, this book alerted me to bullies before I had ever come across any. The concept of being away from home at a boarding school such as this left an indelible mark on me. Great characters and an excellent study of Victorian values, everyone should read this.
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
A girl from an American school disappears after a sleepover (or a slumber party as they say in the US). The story is full of gossipy secrets and the missing girl is the centre of all of them.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This was one the books I read at an early age and was shocked by the death of one of the characters. I think it was the first death in a book I had ever experienced. Again it is depicting a bleak life in an English boarding school with a cruel headmaster. Fortunately all teachers are warm and fun these days!
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
A disturbing story about a girl who has committed suicide because of events in school. She leaves a video tape explaining the thirteen reasons why she decided to take her own life. This book demonstrates how simple actions have huge consequences.
Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris
A dark psychological thriller set in a north-east England grammar school. Strange things start happening and they are set to escalate to murder. Just your everyday secondary school then. Themes focus on teaching, learning and modern-day social class.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
For many years Miss Brodie was my perfect fantasy teacher. There was none of the stuffy classroom lecturing, but Miss Brodie used the Latin word educere - to lead out - as her motto to teach a specially chosen group the finer things in life. She was, as she says, 'in the prime' of her life. Love it.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The school for wizards, Hogwarts, is as significant to this series as the main character Harry Potter. Wonderful Gothic architecture with magic staircases, doors and guard dogs, complimented by an amazing teaching staff, Hogwarts is the school of schools. Breathtaking.
All books available from Amazon