The most recommended books about boarding school

Who picked these books? Meet our 113 experts.

113 authors created a book list connected to boarding schools, and here are their favorite boarding school books.
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What type of boarding school book?


Book cover of Gentlemen and Players

Katie Munnik Author Of The Aerialists

From my list on characters who assume new names.

Who am I?

I was named after my father’s aunt, who moved from Canada to Switzerland in the 1920s to join a travelling church. Family lore remembers she rode a bicycle in the mountains and when she was dying, her sisters sent her maple leaves in the mail to remind her where she started. As a child, I was fascinated by this mysterious other Katie. Why did my father choose her name for me? Would I be like her? Did I get to choose? As a novelist, I love choosing names. Their power is subtle but strong, and when a writer gives a character more than one name, new layers emerge and stories bloom.

Katie's book list on characters who assume new names

Katie Munnik Why did Katie love this book?

Gentlemen and Players is a boarding house story with a dark heart. I picked this one from an aunt’s bookshelf and read it expecting something of the sweetness of Chocolat, but found a far more satisfying story, with twisting questions of identity, class, and revenge. I liked the clever split narrative, which used chess imagery, and the mystery of the Black Pawn, whose identity is deftly concealed until the close of the book. This is a surprising psychological thriller that would make a great book club pick, and I will not forget the rooftop chase nor that bonfire night.

By Joanne Harris,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Gentlemen and Players as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Perfect for fans of Ann Cleeves, Susan Hill, Nicci French and Val McDermid, this is an astute and intelligent psychological thriller centring around obsession and rage from international multi-million copy seller Joanne Harris. Fast paced with unexpected twists and turns, it will get right under the skin...

'[A] gripping psychological thriller... Harris is one of our most accomplished novelists and Gentlemen & Players, with its pace, wit and acute observation, shows her at the top of her form' -- DAILY EXPRESS
'[A] delicious black comedy ... the plot is so cleverly constructed, the tension so unflagging, you'd think she'd been…

Book cover of Max and the Millions

Rachel Hamilton Author Of Louie Lets Loose!

From my list on by British authors to get kids laughing out loud.

Who am I?

I am Rachel Hamilton and I’m the author of the Exploding series with Simon & Schuster and the Unicorn in New York series with OUP and Scholastic. I love making people laugh, especially when it's intentional rather than accidental. As well as writing books, I write comedy sketches and have performed standup as part of the Funny Girls tour in the Middle East. It's hard to do humor well, so I have huge respect and admiration for the authors on this list, because they do it fantastically. I hope you love their stories as much as I do. 

Rachel's book list on by British authors to get kids laughing out loud

Rachel Hamilton Why did Rachel love this book?

I want to live inside Ross Montgomery’s head. It seems full of magical people and places, including a school janitor’s room filled with huge feuding civilizations! The story hops masterfully from the school janitor to the tyrannical Headmaster to the story’s brilliant ten-year-old protagonist Max, without missing a beat. Max is deaf, which doesn’t need to be an issue, if people can just make a few small accommodations to help him fit in. But, instead, the horrible Head treats him like some kind of strange school mascot, constantly singling him out for special attention.

Max and the Millions seamlessly combines action, mystery, struggles with hearing aids, and a warning about the abuse of power. All with a sense of the surreal that will have you sniggering throughout.

“Max was hiding in a cupboard
He usually hid in the toilets, but they’d all exploded that morning – again – and Mr.…

By Ross Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Max and the Millions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

From Costa-shortlisted superstar, a highly anticipated standalone adventure about what happens when you find a tiny, living, breathing civilization on the floor of your school dorm room.

Max is used to spending time alone - it's difficult to make friends in a big, chaotic school when you're deaf. He prefers to give his attention to the little things in life . . . like making awesome, detailed replica models.

Then Mr Darrow, the school caretaker and fellow modeller, goes missing. Max must follow his parting instruction: 'Go to my room. You'll know what to do.'

There on the floor he…

Book cover of Gallant

Matt McMann Author Of Escape from Grimstone Manor

From my list on horror for kids (and kids at heart).

Who am I?

I was a scared kid who loved spooky stories. I can still remember sitting on the couch, reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, mumbling the words aloud, both terrified and enthralled. I checked out every book in the library on Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness Monster, werewolves, and vampires. I’ve hiked the Pacific Northwest, sailed Loch Ness, and chased a ghost light on a mountain. While I missed Bigfoot and Nessie, I caught the ghost. Now I write the kind of spooky monster mystery books I’ve loved for a lifetime.

Matt's book list on horror for kids (and kids at heart)

Matt McMann Why did Matt love this book?

Gallant resists being categorized. It’s a middle grade book that feels like a literary adult novel. It’s a horror story, but also a gripping coming-of-age tale. It’s about ghouls, ghosts, and Death, but also found family, self-sacrifice, and acceptance.

A wonderfully Gothic atmosphere pervades this melancholy book, yet there’s hope in this story of a family called to give everything to protect the world from a great evil. And did I mention the young protagonist never says a word?

Beautifully written in a way that makes me jealous of the author’s skill, its haunting effect lingered with me for weeks after turning the final page.

By V. E. Schwab,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Gallant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

The Number 1 Sunday Times-bestselling novel, from the author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, and A Darker Shade of Magic.

A darkly magical and thrilling tale of a young woman caught between the world and its shadows, who must embrace her legacy to stop the approaching darkness. The Secret Garden meets Crimson Peak, perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black and Susan Cooper.

Fourteen-year-old Olivia Prior is missing three things: a mother, a father, and a voice. Her mother vanished all at once, and her father by degrees, and her voice was a thing she never had…

Book cover of Madam

Luke Dumas Author Of A History of Fear

From my list on Scottish-set thrillers to keep you up reading.

Who am I?

I’ve loved Scotland ever since I spent a year studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh. In fact, I loved it so much that I returned to the University a couple of years later to complete my master’s degree in creative writing. Between the rugged dramatic landscapes, the stunning Gothic architecture, and the dark cold weather, Scotland was the perfect place to inspire a young aspiring suspense author such as myself—and the ideal setting for a creepy, atmospheric thriller like my debut novel. Although I’ve since moved back to the U.S., I’m always on the lookout for a Scottish-set thriller to take me back to the country where I left my heart but—blissfully—found my husband.

Luke's book list on Scottish-set thrillers to keep you up reading

Luke Dumas Why did Luke love this book?

I love atmospheric novels that tantalize the reader with a slow, creeping sense of dread.

I love novels with dark, moody, rain-lashed settings, especially Scottish ones. I also love novels that are smart and beautifully written, with a literary style all their own. Madam had all of that for me.

With its boarding-school setting and feminist themes, it reminded me of The Stepford Wives meets The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie—two of my all-time favorite novels.

By Phoebe Wynne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Madam as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A contemporary gothic debut with a feminist edge, for fans of Naomi Alderman and Madeline Miller

'The simmering menace and mystery kept me absolutely gripped' - Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne

'A highly entertaining and atmospheric read' - Kate Sawyer, Costa Book Awards nominated author of The Stranding

'Rebecca meets The Secret History. Gloriously dark, gloriously gothic' - Sara Collins, Costa First Novel Award-winning author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton

For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for…

Book cover of Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

Jacqueline West Author Of Long Lost

From my list on mysteries to keep you reading all night.

Who am I?

I’m the author of eleven novels for young readers (so far!). I’m also a lifelong bookworm, and I’ve got a special love for all things creepy, fantastical, and odd. Growing up, I adored mysteries from Scooby-Doo to Sherlock Holmes, and you could often find me hiding under the covers with a stack of books and a flashlight long after I should have been asleep. Here are five more recent middle-grade mysteries that I've loved. If they’d been around when I was a kid, they would have kept me up hours past my bedtime.  

Jacqueline's book list on mysteries to keep you reading all night

Jacqueline West Why did Jacqueline love this book?

This story has so many delicious ingredients—ancient boarding schools, secret societies, enigmatic notes slipped into pockets, young allies banding together against a powerful enemy—and they all combine to make the kind of book that classic mystery fans will devour.  

By Julia Nobel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mystery of Black Hollow Lane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

For fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Blackthorn Key series comes an award-winning boarding school mystery about twelve year old Emmy, who's shipped off to a prestigious British school. But her new home is hiding a secret society ... and it may be the answer to Emmy's questions about her missing father.
With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who's a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England, where she's sure she won't fit in.
But then she finds a box of mysterious medallions in…

Book cover of The Doll Maker

James Stoorie Author Of AfterWitch

From my list on supernaturally troubled teenagers.

Who am I?

As long as I can remember I have found the world a terrifying yet magical place. My first memories are of reading ghost stories, the best mirrors for my emotional experiences. As a teenager supernatural tales continued to inspire me and still do. Sometimes a starkly realistic approach can prove too dull or intrusive; far better to process or confront issues by presenting them as fantastical. When I return to these books, or discover similar stories, I listen hard to what they are trying to tell me. I won’t learn overnight for, as the villain in The Doll Maker states: “the life so short, the craft so long to learn.”

James' book list on supernaturally troubled teenagers

James Stoorie Why did James love this book?

“He was at once The Evil and The Exorcist.” Considering the date of publication, a very modern account of grooming, toxic masculinity, and the objectification of women. Feeling deserted by family and friends, a bored boarding school girl entertains herself by sneaking out of the grounds after dark. One night in the woods she encounters an older man who claims to be an artist and invites her back to the workshop where he creates suspiciously lifelike dolls. Apparently oblivious to the fact he spouts creepy comments like “the craftsman must feel the willingness of his material” and undeterred by rumors of young girls going missing in the neighbourhood, our heroine embarks on a doomed (and vaguely BDSM) relationship with the stranger. An unforgettable novella about living dolls and manipulative relationships. 

By Sarban,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Doll Maker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Described by no less an authority than E.F. Bleiler as “excellent”, “The Doll Maker” is the story of Clare Lydgate, a young woman studying at boarding school for her Oxford scholarship examinations. In the evenings, she escapes the school grounds by climbing over the wall of Brackenbine Hall. It is here that she encounters the charismatic and mysterious Niall Sterne, the “Doll Maker” of the title. This is a subtle, intelligent and compelling tale of horror. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural describes Sarban’s stories as “nicely written, with solid characterizations, convincingly detailed backgrounds . . . and…

Book cover of A Study in Charlotte

Sedonia Guillone Author Of The Boy on the Lawn: Young Adult Suspense

From my list on YA thrillers with fearless brilliant teen sleuths.

Who am I?

My passion for the mystery genre began when I read Nancy Drew back in second grade. I chain read the series. I think it’s a natural impulse to want to understand mysteries and the one thing we can solve is a mystery on paper since so many things don’t lend themselves easily to explanations. The first incarnation of my writing career was as an M/M romance author and one of my romantic suspense novels, Acts of Passion, featured Dr. Michael DiSanto, a genius, quirky, and handsome profiler with a fascinating past. I grew to love that character so much that his backstory was born in The Boy on the Lawn.

Sedonia's book list on YA thrillers with fearless brilliant teen sleuths

Sedonia Guillone Why did Sedonia love this book?

I love anything Sherlock Holmes. So a YA teen detective story with the present-day descendants of Sherlock Holmes with mysterious deaths to solve? The title alone got me, then when I read the blurb, I was on it. Sherlock Holmes’ great great great granddaughter, Charlotte Holmes, already a brilliant sleuth consulting with Scotland Yard and Jamie Watson, the great great great grandson of John Watson are in America where they have ended up in the same boarding school. When a student dies under mysterious circumstances, Jamie and Charlotte’s paths cross, throwing them together, and they can only trust each other in a world where the enemy lurks very close… If I was a fish and you wanted to catch me, put this book on a hook and dangle it.

By Brittany Cavallaro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Study in Charlotte as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The first book in a witty, suspenseful new series about a brilliant new crime-solving duo: the teen descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. This clever page-turner will appeal to fans of Maureen Johnson and Ally Carter.

Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She’s inherited Sherlock’s volatility and some of his vices—and when Jamie and Charlotte end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she’s not looking…

Book cover of Charlotte Sometimes

Carole McDonnell Author Of The Constant Tower

From my list on unplanned or obsessively-planned journeys.

Who am I?

I'm a wife, mother, writer—and the mother of a disabled non-verbal thirty-three-year-old man. I'm also Black and a Christian, both of which can be problematic to many readers. I write fantasy and mainstream stories, Christian and non-Christian. Some fantasy readers have certain fears, stereotypes, and expectations of fantasy books written by minorities. Others have those same fears, stereotypes, and expectations of books written by Christian writers. I'm very good at accommodating my readers. For the most part, my readers never feel as if they’re being preached at or lectured. Some aren’t even aware that I'm Black or a Christian, even though my concernsimperialism, injustice, spirituality, ethnicity, disability, and feminismare throughout my stories.

Carole's book list on unplanned or obsessively-planned journeys

Carole McDonnell Why did Carole love this book?

I love time travel stories. Stories where protagonists swap lives with other people are so much about acculturation and “passing.” Dislocation, confusion, etc. aside, the main issue is to not be found out. In the story, Charlotte is not always herself. Sometimes she’s in a boarding school in the fifties and sometimes she’s back in time at the same boarding school in the First World War. So we’re dealing with a borrowed life here. The life that Charlotte sometimes borrows belongs to Clare. Charlotte has very little in common with Clare. And even less knowledge of how establishments like this worked back in the day. Some quick learning and imitative skills are needed if she is not to be caught. For instance, she has to deduce what others expect and require of her. But she also has to not lose herself in all this pretense. 

When I came to the…

By Penelope Farmer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Charlotte Sometimes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

It is Charlotte's first night at boarding school, and as she's settling down to sleep, she sees the corner of the new building from her window.

But when she wakes up, instead of the building there is a huge, dark cedar tree, and the girl in the next bed is not the girl who slept there last night.

Somehow, Charlotte has slipped back forty years to 1918 and has swapped places with a girl called Clare.

Charlotte and Clare swap places ever night until one day Charlotte becomes trapped in 1918 and must find a way to return to her…

Book cover of Education Beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929

Farina King Author Of The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century

From my list on U.S. Indian boarding school experiences.

Who am I?

My Diné (Navajo) family stories drew me into history including studies of Indigenous experiences in boarding schools. Two of my uncles were Navajo Code Talkers, and I loved asking them about their life stories. My uncle Albert Smith often spoke about his memories of the war. I was struck by the irony that he was sent to a boarding school as a child where the Navajo language was forbidden, and then he later relied on the language to protect his homelands. I then became interested in all my relatives' boarding school stories, including those of my father, which led me to write my first book The Earth Memory Compass about Diné school experiences. 

Farina's book list on U.S. Indian boarding school experiences

Farina King Why did Farina love this book?

Gilbert worked closely with his Hopi people and nation on this book, and he demonstrates how a book can take different forms such as a documentary film, blog, and other more publicly accessible projects. In his book, Gilbert shows how to apply Indigenous methodologies and intellectual processes to understand Indigenous perspectives of boarding schools. He contextualizes Indian boarding school experiences as part of larger historical dynamics and a sense of being for Hopi who have faced and navigated challenges of colonialism for generations.

By Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Education Beyond the Mesas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Education beyond the Mesas is the fascinating story of how generations of Hopi schoolchildren from northeastern Arizona "turned the power" by using compulsory federal education to affirm their way of life and better their community. Sherman Institute in Riverside, California, one of the largest off-reservation boarding schools in the United States, followed other federally funded boarding schools of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in promoting the assimilation of indigenous people into mainstream America. Many Hopi schoolchildren, deeply conversant in Hopi values and traditional education before being sent to Sherman Institute, resisted this program of acculturation. Immersed in learning…

Book cover of The School at the Chalet

Debbie Young Author Of Dastardly Deeds at St Bride's

From my list on fiction set in boarding schools.

Who am I?

As the author of comedy cosy mystery novels, including a series set in an eccentric boarding school for girls, I’m always attracted by the notion of closed, clearly-defined worlds as colourful settings for stories of crimes and misdemeanours. Having worked for 13 years in a girls’ boarding school, where I loved being part of its lively and spirited community, I am very familiar with the quirks and foibles, as well as the practicalities, of boarding school life, and I really enjoy reading other people’s impressions and interpretations of boarding schools of all kinds. 

Debbie's book list on fiction set in boarding schools

Debbie Young Why did Debbie love this book?

Moving on now to something more serious, this is the start of a very long and very popular saga set at a girls’ boarding school, founded in the 1920s, by a pair of sisters without any apparent qualifications, in a Swiss chalet, as a means of supporting themselves. It’s a children’s book but has a huge following among adults, with its many adventures featuring an ever-changing range of pupils and teachers from all over the world. They’re now very dated (not least for their cavalier attitude to health and safety and indeed towards education), but they have a timeless charm.

By Elinor M. Brent-Dyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The School at the Chalet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Madge Bettany's plan to start a school in the mountains of the Austrian Tyrol is very exciting for her younger sister Joey - because Joey will be the first pupil.