A Dark Academia Reading List
12 titles to begin exploring the genre.
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Today, I want to talk to you about a particular type of literature that has been gaining popularity in recent years: dark academia.
What exactly is dark academia? Well, it's a genre that's been described as Gothic-tinged literary fiction with a focus on intellectualism and the dark side of academia. It's often set in prestigious schools or universities, where the characters engage in intellectual pursuits while grappling with their own personal demons.
One of its defining characteristics is its melancholic tone. It's a genre that celebrates the beauty and sadness found in academic pursuits. Characters are driven to achieve intellectual excellence but struggle with inner turmoil. Another key aspect is its focus on classic literature and philosophy. Many dark academia books reference works by Shakespeare, Dante, and other great thinkers. It's a genre that celebrates the pursuit of knowledge and the importance of a well-rounded education.
But dark academia is not just about intellectual pursuits. It's also about exploring the darker aspects of human nature. Characters in these books often grapple with issues like mental illness, addiction, and trauma. It's a genre that's not afraid to tackle difficult topics and shine a light on the complexity of the human experience.
One of the most appealing aspects of dark academia is its aesthetic. The genre is often associated with moody lighting, old libraries, and tweed blazers. It's a celebration of the beauty and romance found in academic pursuits.
If you're looking to explore the world of dark academia, there are plenty of books to choose from. So, by request and in no particular order, here are 12 dark academia books to start you off.
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
This is the book that sort of kicked off the genre. Students, murder, denouement.
If We Were Villains, by M.L. Rio
This is my personal favorite. You had me at “a ton of Shakespeare references”.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Mad scientists in Gothic settings are very dark academia.
Perfume, by Patrick Suskind
A genius perfumier in 18th century France tries to create the ultimate perfume.
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
A talented woman slowly succumbs to a mental breakdown.
The Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
A freshman student at Yale can see ghosts.
The Cloisters, by Katy Hays
A woman becomes obsessed with a deck of tarot cards she finds.
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Students at a boarding school learn a dark secret.
Picnic At Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay
The year 1900. A college for young ladies. A picnic. Three girls disappear.
Wilder Girls, by Rory Power
Lord of the Flies at an isolated girls’ school where a plague has killed the adults.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
Vanity, morality, immortality, someone called this the bible of dark academia.
Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
A frantic letter, a mysterious house in the countryside, and dark secrets.
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A dear friend of mine recommended The Secret History to me. We read it together. Our friendship has since fragmented and we've gone our separate ways, but I'll always remember the day she got me reading books in the genre of Dark Academia.
Of your list, other than The Secret History, I have only managed to read Frankenstein, Perfume (my favourite), and The Picture of Dorian Grey. Though I recently came across The Cloisters and splurged on the hardback - well worth the investment.