One of the few times that TikTok trends overlap, the "dark academia" trend is popular as both a fashion aesthetic and a book genre on BookTok. The "dark academia" subculture key traits are, per BookRiot, "books about privilege being pushed to its extreme" and frequently touch on "the rot in the foundations of an [academic] institution."
With this in mind, it's no surprise that anyone who enjoys the occasional Lord Byron poem or the movie Dead Poet's Society might enjoy dark academia books as well. Here are some of our favorite dark academia books — both adult and YA — to read for the beginning of school or spooky season.
"Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution" by R.F. Kuang
Babel takes place in 1829 when orphan Robin Swift is brought to London, where he trains to enroll in Oxford's Royal Institute of Translation. There, scholars manifest the meaning of texts lost in translation through enchanted silver bars. However, when England goes to war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide if institutions can be changed from within, or if revolution requires violence.
"Catherine House" by Elisabeth Thomas
Ines attends Catherine House, a wildly selective, experimental liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. Students live at the school for three years completely separate from the outside world, leaving all traces of their former lives behind. Ines works to exchange hard-partying ways for intellectual discipline, but when her roommate's obsessive study of a mysterious curriculum ends in tragedy, she begins to wonder if the school has a more sinister agenda.
"Ace of Spades" by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Young Adult)
At Niveus Private Academy, perfection is the expectation and money is no option. Head Girl Chiamaka rules the school and shy Devon is a talented musician at the lower end of the popularity spectrum. When Chiamaka and Devon, two of very few nonwhite students, are targeted for harassment by anonymous text messages, the unlikely duo must team up against a greater evil before it's too late.
"The Secret History" by Donna Tartt
The book that essentially founded the dark academia subculture, The Secret History was reportedly written as a loose reflection of author Donna Tartt's time attending Bennington College in Vermont. The book follows a group of exclusive classics students in the pursuit of enlightenment who accidentally commit murder instead.
"How We Fall Apart" by Katie Zhao (Young Adult)
When Nancy Luo's former best friend and academic rival Jamie Ruan is found dead, she and her friends Krystal, Akil, and Alexander, are the prime suspects. The group has been framed by an anonymous social media source known as "the Proctor." Nancy thought she knew her friends' darkest secrets, but as it turns out, the Proctor knows them too. All four friends must race against the clock to clear their names, but how well do they really know each other?
"The Atlas Six" by Olivie Blake
TikTok sensation The Atlas Six follows six magical academics from across the globe who are invited to compete for entry into a secret society known as the Alexandrian Society. However, initiation into the society requires a deadly price, and mysterious caretaker Atlas Blakely refuses to offer any helpful advice. As the group spends one year together working on contributions to arcane knowledge, they are also competing for their survival.
"The Whispering Dark" by Kelly Andrew (Young Adult)
When Delaney Meyers-Petrov is accepted to the prestigious Godbole University which trains students to jump between parallel worlds, she's excited to prove that being Deaf doesn't mean she's fragile. However, when one of her classmates, Colton Price, is almost literally a ghost from her past, Delaney must form a shaky alliance with him to investigate a string of student deaths.
The Whispering Dark will be published on Oct. 18, 2022.
"If We Were Villains" by M. L. Rio
As one of seven young actors attending liberal arts college to study Shakespeare, Oliver Marks and his friends are desperate to break out of their typecast roles. But when elements of onstage drama begin to seep into their real lives and someone dies, the actors take on their greatest roles yet: convincing the police of their innocence.
"As I Descended" by Robin Talley (Young Adult)
A new retelling of Macbeth, As I Descended follows Acheron Academy power couple Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten. When their academic rival, Delilah Dufrey, stands in their way of a prestigious academic prize, the duo plot to harness dark power rumored to be housed beneath their school to achieve their goals.
"Ninth House" by Leigh Bardugo
Galaxy "Alex" Stern is in recovery from a near-fatal drug overdose when she is mysteriously accepted into Yale University, free of charge. As Alex begins to search for the reason for her acceptance, it becomes abundantly clear: She is tasked with monitoring the magical activity of New Haven's secret societies. But when their occult activities start to get out of hand, Alex wonders what else Yale is hiding, and why she's suddenly become a target.
"A Lesson in Vengeance" by Victoria Lee (Young Adult)
When Felicity Morrow returns to the Dalloway School after the tragic death of her girlfriend, no one is certain how her recovery will go. To make matters worse, the dormitory in which she resides is reportedly home to the Dalloway Five, a group of witches that died mysteriously on school grounds. When prodigy novelist Ellis Haley moves into Felicity's dorm, they bond over their love for the arcane ... until it returns to haunt them.
"Plain Bad Heroines" by Emily M. Danforth
In 1902, boarding school girls Flo and Clara become obsessed with a little-known book called The Story of Mary MacLane and form a secret society dedicated to the text. When they die under mysterious circumstances, the Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors — but not before three more murders take place. In the present, prodigy writer Merritt Emmons' first novel about the girls is turned into a Hollywood sensation ... but is the production doomed to repeat history?
"Truly Devious" by Maureen Johnson (Young Adult)
Eccentric tycoon Albert Ellingham founded Ellingham Academy to cater to students with unique interests. Shortly after the school first opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped, the only clue being a frightening letter signed "Truly, Devious." In the present, Stevie Bell is obsessed with true crime, especially the Ellingham case. But when Truly Devious makes a surprise return and students begin turning up dead, can she crack a hundred-year-old cold case in time?