I’m so glad we are finally in the midst of the spookiest season, especially with Halloween only a few days away! I’m also glad that I’m currently living in a place that actually gets cold because I finally get to live out all of my dark academic fantasies. I’m wearing layers upon layers and looking like I’m studying in England. It’s fantastic! For those of you who don’t know, dark academia is defined as “a subculture centered around higher education, writing/poetry, the arts, and classic Greek and Gothic architecture.” The subculture is associated with ancient art and classic literature.” I’ve worked very hard to make this aesthetic my entire personality, and now that it’s cold outside, I feel that I am at the height of my power. But, enough about me. Do you want to start making dark academia your whole personality but you don’t know how? I suggest you start with reading! While the fashion is fun, it can come later (perhaps in a separate blog post). Lucky for you, I’ve chosen three of my favorite dark academia books to get you started!
- The Secret History
Written in 1992, The Secret History is Donna Tartt’s first book. She would later go on to write The Goldfinch and receive a Pulitzer Prize in 2014. The Secret History is told by narrator Richard Papen, who was once a part of an elite group of classics students at Hampden College in Vermont. While there, he and his fellow classmates have a series of, let’s say, unfortunate events, which leads to the murder of one of their friends, Bunny Corcoran. Bunny’s death, as well as what happened after, affects all of the members of the group in different ways. This book is a classic in the dark academia sub-genre and some say that it was the book to pave the way for other works featuring dark academia.
- If We Were Villains
If We Were Villains is the first book by author M.L Rio. Published in 2017, the novel follows Oliver Marks, a man who has just served 10 years in prison for a crime he may not have committed. As the story progresses he recounts what happened a decade ago at the elite Dellecher Shakespeare conservatory. If you love theatre, especially Shakespeare, this book will speak to you (speaking from experience!). Like the other two books, I had no idea what would happen next, and no clue as to who committed the murder!
- The Maidens
The Maidens, published in 2021 and written by Alex Michaelides, follows group therapist Mariana as she investigates the murder of one of her niece’s friends at her alma mater, Cambridge. When she meets Edward Fosca, the handsome professor of Greek Tragedy, and learns that he just happens to have a secret society of college girls, she is certain he did it. But did he? With an insane twist, The Maidens will keep you interested until the very end! I loved this book because it was full of Greek stories and myths, along with beautiful imagery of Cambridge and the surrounding town.
As you can see, there’s certainly a formula when it comes to dark academia novels! Murder, betrayal, and mystery, all set against the background of a beautiful (and often prestigious) university. The themes of friendship, and my favorite, found family, are able to shine in these books in a way that’s different than what you’ve seen before. Put on a turtleneck and a pair of fun-patterned pants, and pick up one of these stellar books before fall is over! Allow yourself to be transported to the wonderful world that is dark academia. Once you enter, you won’t want to leave.