Dark academia is among the most popular aesthetics readers search for when looking for a new book. An aesthetic that puts a dark veil over classical academia, one that’s filled with old libraries, pleated uniform skirts, loafers, and skulls filled with melting candles.
If you’re looking to peer into mysterious student life, fantastical dilemmas, and poisonous love, here are five book recommendations I’m sure will help you find your way. Please be aware that most of these books contain triggering content.
1. These Violent Delights – Micah Nemerever
Set in the halls of 1970’s Pittsburgh University, a grieving Paul is isolated and disgusted by society after the death of his father. As a sensitive artist, Paul is vulnerable when he meets a cruel intellect named Julian, a boy with intense standards which Paul fears he may not live up to. Despite these fears, the two connect instantly and Paul idolizes him for his assured demeanor and the excitement Julian brings back to his life .
As their relationship evolves, the two recognize their inability and unwillingness to separate as they spiral into chaos. Hand in hand they fall further into intimacy, madness, and violence until they reach a summit of vicious truth.
2. The Magicians – Lev Grossman
It’s no secret that a magical world trumps that of senior year and the turmoil ahead. Quentin Coldwater finds escape from his monotonous human life in the pages that capture Fillory, a fantastical land he’s clung to since childhood.
When Quentin receives an invitation to a secret school of magic in New York to hone the craft of modern sorcery, he also experiences relationships, alcohol, boredom and other coming of age lessons, but he’s still not satisfied.
His life finally picks up when he and a group of friends discover that the land of Fillory is a very real and dangerous place teaming with living nightmares.
3. If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio
A group of acting friends studying Shakespeare at an exclusive arts college find themselves tangled in accusations and terror when a fellow actor is found dead. The story begins as the accused actor, Oliver Mark, is being released from his ten year sentence for the death. Detective Colborne, the man responsible for locking him up, is now retiring and asking Oliver for the truth about what happened ten years ago.
Through these pages, the death of one of seven friends is unraveled as the roles of actors mirrors their true characters until a switch of roles lethally effects life off stage.
4. Summer Sons – Lee Mandelo
Bestfriends with an unfathomable connection, Eddie and Andrew are separated for Eddie’s graduate program. Andrew is left with a lapful of secrets, death, and sinister family history when only days before their reunion, Eddie commits suicide.
Andrew now wades through the secret life of his best friend, trying to find answers all while a gory phantom haunts him, seeking revenge. Follow Andrew as he tries to walk in Eddie’s shoes through the bustling nightlife, toxic academic atmosphere, and the group of boys his best friend knew.
5. Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson
Elisabeth was raised in the walls of one of the Great Libraries of Austermeer, home to thousands of magical grimoires. Some of the books simply murmur on the shelves, while more powerful volumes are chained down and doused in salt to contain their powers.
Elisabeth is training to be a warden to protect the kingdom from evil sorcery when she’s found in the wake of destruction from one of the most dangerous grimoires’ release. Assumed guilty, she’s brought to the capitol to be tried where she finds help from the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, who makes her question everything she’s ever known while fighting to save what she loves.
One of the best things about searching for book recommendations based on aesthetics is that they are not limited by genre. The dark academia aesthetic can plunge you deep into a darker fantasy whether you’re looking for mystery, romance, magic and more.
I hope this list sends you on your way to discovering the dark academic lives of enthralling characters and captivating plots.
Stay curious, and happy reading!
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