10 Best Dark Academia Books Update 05/2022

Donna Tartt’s first book, The Secret History, came out almost 30 years ago, and a new type of literature was born: dark academia. In the last few years, dark academia has spread beyond the pages of books and become a full-blown cultural style (think: cardigans and tweed blazers, fall weather, vintage filters and a deep and abiding love of Gothic architecture). People are now more interested in reading books that have dark academic vibes. Books in this genre range from fantasy to mystery to fairy-tale retellings to historical and more. They all take place in academic settings and are dark and twisted, but they all have academic settings and are dark and twisted as well.

First-timers and veterans alike can check out our list of the 10 best dark academia books.

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

Zhao writes a book that was hard for her to write because it was so emotionally difficult. She talks about the hyper-competitive environment of Manhattan high school through the eyes of Asian-American students. When a student is killed, an anonymous source starts to suspect her four former best friends, who all have secrets that could hurt their futures. Zhao has another YA dark academia coming out in 2022 called The Lies We Tell, which is set on a college campus. Make sure to get that one, too!

These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

It’s not to be confused with Chloe Gong’s best-selling YA novel of the same name. Nemerever’s debut is a mix of The Secret History and Call Me By Your Name, and the author says it’s partly based on the Leopold and Loeb case from 1924. (head over to Wikipedia for more info on that). TVD is set in 1970s Pittsburg and follows two college freshmen as they meet and fall in love. At times, the relationship is obsessive, destructive, and even violent, but it also has a lot of fun. No, it isn’t an easy book to read, but that’s kind of the norm in dark academia.

Confessions by Kanae Minato

Confessions: Amazon.co.uk: Minato, Kanae, Snyder, Stephen: 9781444732450:  Books

Yuko Moriguchi’s child died on the grounds of the middle school where Yuko teaches. This Japanese thriller is dark, tragic, and full of vengeance. It starts right after the death of Yuko’s child, who was four years old. It was first thought that the death was an accident. Then, from the start, the readers learn that it wasn’t. Is Yuko going to get back at them? Confessions was made into a movie two years after it came out in Japan. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl

A dark retelling of a fairy tale. A group of queer and female people. A Swiss boarding school. Murder is at its heart. All of this and more is in Grimrose Girls, and the fact that it recently made the New York Times YA Paperback List shows that people love it. She was found dead on campus. The local police say it was suicide, but her four best friends disagree and set out to find the truth about it. Take this book now, because there will be a second one in 2022.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Deonn’s first book for young adults is more fantasy adventure than dark academia. It’s set on a college campus, there’s a secret magical society, and, of course, there’s a lot of murder in the book. After the death of her mother, Bree moves away from home and joins a residential program for high school students at UNC-Chapel Hill. On her first night there, she witnesses an attack that ties her to the magical secret society. Legendborn is a well-written, cleverly-planned story that deals with difficult issues like grief and the trauma that happens between generations. It’s not something you should miss.

Legendborn (The Legendborn Cycle #1) by Tracy Deonn

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Bardugo’s first book for adults is set at Yale University, where she went to school. It tells the story of a student’s life filled with ghosts, gore, and trauma. A TV show based on the book is in the works at Amazon, so be sure to check this one out as soon as you can. Her YA series, Shadow and Bone, has already been made into a movie on Netflix. Ninth House is a completely adult book. There is a lot of violence in this book, so be sure to check out the trigger warnings before you start reading.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

It has enough Sapphic dark academic vibes to satisfy even the most ardent fan of the genre. Lee’s beautiful poetic prose pulls you in front of the first lines and doesn’t let you go until the shocking twist at the end. Felicity Morrow goes back to her old boarding school a year after the death of her girlfriend. She moves back into her old dorm, which is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the Dalloway Five, former students who were said to be witches. Felicity is the most untrustworthy narrator in the book. Readers are left wondering whether or not the supernatural events in the book are real. The author’s website has a lot of content warnings, so make sure to check it out before you buy the book!

If We Were Villians by M.L. Rio

Rio’s literary masterpiece is often called the next best thing to The Secret History, but some people say it’s even better. It’s about a group of Shakespeare-obsessed college actors whose friendships break down to deadly consequences. He was released from prison after serving 10 years for a crime he may or may not have committed. The book then flashes back and tells the real story of how things turned out all those years ago.

If We Were Villains: Amazon.co.uk: M. L. Rio: 9781785656477: Books

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Gossip Girl meets Get Out, this YA thriller is about the only two black students at an elite private school who start getting threats from an unknown source after they’re chosen as class prefects. bké-ymdé cleverly combines important social issues like institutional racism with a twisty, fast-paced story, making it a book that will stay with you for a long time. This is the author’s first book, which is hard to believe because it’s so good. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

It wouldn’t be a list of dark academia books without The Secret History, the book that most people start with. Tartt’s first book, which came out in 1992, is a well-written, atmospheric, and intelligent thriller that hasn’t changed much over the years. It features an elite college, a group of intellectuals who love the Classics, secrets and lies, and murder. The best place to start for people who aren’t already familiar with the genre of movies.

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