Mailer graduates from Boy's High School near the top of his 650-member class in June, and in late September enters Harvard planning to study aeronautical engineering. He was also accepted by M.I.T., but preferred Harvard, partly because M.I.T. required a year of prep school is required, and partly because the name Harvard resonated with Brooklyn girls.
Discovers American literature over the winter (1939–1940), including James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan, Dos Passos's U.S.A., and Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. In 1940, he reads D.H. Lawrence's unexpurgated (and unpublished in the U.S.) novel Lady Chatterley's Lover in the Treasure Room of the Widener Library. He said later that it "changed my sex life, or rather, accelerated it". Mailer loses his virginity to a Cambridge girl in late 1940.
- Balbert, Peter (2003). "From Lady Chatterley's Lover to The Deer Park: Lawrence, Mailer, and the Dialectic of Erotic Risk". In Bloom, Harold. Norman Mailer. Bloom's Modern Critical Views. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House. p. 114.