Dark Accademia, aka boarding school but make it goth, is an aesthetic that has been all over my for you page. Clearly TikTok knows what I like, because I simply cannot get enough. Black turtlenecks, plaid skirts, old stone buildings, and musty libraries are simply the life I want and if I can’t get that life in person at least I can get it in books.
A Victorian London setting, a highborn lady, and a secret obsession with the gruesome practice of forensic medicine? Ahem, yes PLEASE. What says dark academia than a Victorian lady sneaking off between social teas to her uncle’s laboratory to work on a string of savagely killed corpses? Audrey Rose Wadsworth is what everyone expects of a lord’s daughter except for her penchant for forensics. When her investigation of a serial murderer brings her closer and closer to her own sheltered world, the stakes will be rather high.
Alright, 1920’s New York may not immediately scream dark academia, and sure Evie O’Neill might prefer to be downing gin to sticking her nose in a book – but allow me to explain. When Evie is exiled (or is it freed) from her boring hometown in Ohio to live with her Uncle Will in New York City, she’s elated. The only catch is that Uncle Will is obsessed with the occult, even running a museum dedicated to the stuff. Evie worries that he’ll discover her dark secret: a supernatural power that has only brought trouble. But when Uncle Will is called in to advise on a crime scene with supernatural symbols, Evie will discover that her gift could help catch a killer.
Meanwhile across the city, more people with supernatural abilities run into one another, their stories weaving together. Memphis, the healer turned poet. Sam, the pickpocket with an unknown power. Henry, the piano player looking for a lost love. Theta, the Ziegfeld girl with dark secrets of her own.
Suffice it to say that there are plenty of creepy spooks and research sessions in occult libraries to have this absolutely count as dark academia. And while book one starts as a the hunt for a killer, by book four the entire fate of the nation and possibly the world, rests on the shoulders of the Diviners.
Could this very well be the penultimate in dark academia reading? I think it might very well be. Young Victor Frankenstein may mean well, but his researches into the dark science of reanimation prove to be horrific and fatal. We all know the Frankenstein narrative laid out by movies and such, but I encourage you to read the original work. It’s very different from much of the modern media and may have some surprises for you. Besides, what could scream dark academia more than reanimating the bodies of dead corpses after throwing yourself into your scientific studies at an ancient university in Germany while mourning your dead mom?
Okay, this might not scream dark academia at first, but there is a fancy private school and plenty of puzzles. When Avery Grambs inherits a fortune of billions – yes that is billions with a B – from the total stranger Tobias Hawthorne, she’s thrust into a world of wealth and privilege she couldn’t even dream of. She goes from living out of her car to being the wealthiest teenager in the world in a matter of hours. But she has to contend with Tobias’s family, who he completely cut out of the will, and his four grandsons who are as enigmatic as they are handsome (which is very). Never mind that Tobias had a penchant for riddles, puzzles, and hidden doors. But as Avery gets closer to discovering why Tobias would leave his fortune to her, she also gets closer to danger.
Look, if you like your dark academia with hidden compartments, mysterious dead billionaires, and speeding Aston Martins with a mystifying hottie by your side, this is the book for you!
This book is literally about a fantasy librarian, a lost city, and dead gods, and if that’s not dark academia I will eat my patent leather loafers right now. Throw in an alchemist, a crew of scientists and scholars, and a journey to discover what plagues said lost city, and you’ll have a mystery that doesn’t let up. Then throw in a romance for the ages, and you’ll have yourself have a modern classic that is just so, so beautiful. Laini Taylor writes the most gorgeous sentences that go perfectly with a cup of coffee and a rainy day in the library. Strange the Dreamer is the perfect book to read if you like your dark academia with a bit of colorful fantasy thrown in!
An elite boarding school hosted in an isolated manor house with a creepy headmistress? Ahem. Down a Dark Hall really said dark academia before dark academia was a coined aesthetic. Lois Duncan is a YA master, helping define the YA thriller. Add in some creepy ghosts, and you’re bound to fall in love with this read just as you’ve fallen in love with ivy covered walls and libraries with ladders.
This gothic tour-de-force is as frightening as it is strange and, you guessed it, darkly academic. Will Henry is the orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe, a man with an unusual specialty. Dr. Warthorpe is a monstrumologist – a man who studies monsters. When a grave robber comes with a gruesome find, he brings them their most deadly case yet. Late night trips to the graveyard and researching in occult libraries? I think I shall, thank you!
A winter kingdom above a frozen lake, a murderous family, a mysterious sleeping sickness, and a science-minded girl at the center of it all. Magic and science meld in this political fantasy with more twists and turns than the corridors of my dream castle. If you like your dark academia with a healthy slice of the natural sciences and ice, this is definitely for you!
When Ekata’s brother is finally named heir to the Dukedom of Kylma Above, there’s nothing stopping her from pursuing her dreams of studying natural science at the University and escaping from her murderous family. But when her entire family falls under a mysterious sleeping sickness, she inherits her father’s title, her brother’s bride, and whole host of problems. Her only hope is to find a cure. But will she keep her head long enough to do so?