The Best Dark Academia Books of All Time 

Dark Academia is a subgenre that has seen a rise in popularity in the past few decades. That made us curious and we decided to look at this emerging genre as well as the best dark academia books of all time. 

What is Dark Academia?

The Best Dark Academia Books of All Time 

Before we dive into the best books, we need to know a little more about the genre. Dark Academia is described as being mysterious and moody in narration and takes place in a university or boarding school, often esteemed ones. Clothing is also important with Ivy League uniforms as well as buildings and schools with a gothic style.  

Different authors incorporate their own preferences and that is what makes reading fun. The genre has risen in popularity in recent decades. Many people credit Donna Tartt’s The Secret History as the book that made this subgenre popular. There is a debate as to which author first started it because this genre wasn’t something that existed and some books do meet the criteria.  

The Best Dark Academia Books of All Time 

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt 
  • Trust Exercise by Susan Choi 
  • The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn 
  • Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas 
  • These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever 
  • Under the Porticoes by S. Sharpentier 
  • Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R. F. Kuang 
  • The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark 
  • The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue 
  • A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee 
  • If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio 
  • Notes On A Scandal (What Was She Thinking?) by Zoë Heller 
  • The Maidens by Alex Michaeledis 
  • Vita Nostra by Marina Dyachenko & Sergey Dyachenko, translations by Julia Meitov Hersey  
  • Heaven by Mieko Kawakami 
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo 
  • Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight 
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro 
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik 
  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power 
  • Four by Four by Sara Mesa 

Different Takes on the Genre

When Donna Tarrt wrote The Secret History, little did she know that she was going to inspire many authors to do the same. Something about schools and the mysterious aura that colleges and boarding schools have make for a great setting. Especially when the schools are centuries old and have their own traditions.  

This list includes many recent bestsellers such as Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. While I don’t actively seek out this genre, I do find myself reading some of these novels here and there. 

Babel by R. F. Kuang was such an amazing read and I loved how Kuang had her own interpretation of the genre. The novel is also a fantasy novel where Kuang creates her own magic system while choosing Oxford as the setting for her book. Not many authors would be able to pull all of that off as well as Kuang does. 


That is all for our list of the best dark academia books of all time. What books should we have included on our list? How many of these have you read? Let us know in the comments below! 

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3 thoughts on “The Best Dark Academia Books of All Time 


    I recommend Shadow of the Wind by Ruiz Zafon for the mysterious library setting.

  2. Lorna Dupre says:

    Agree about R. F. Kuang’s Babel. An astonishing novel.


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