Book Club: falling into dark academia  

While books and genres aren’t always tied directly to the seasons – unless you’re reading something that blatantly has “Christmas” in the title – oftentimes mood readers crave books that perfectly capture the essence of whatever season they happen to be in. The beauty of blossoms in springtime often inspires the need for a wistful romance, while the freedom of summer leads to the need for books that are just as bright and cheerful as the feeling of sun rays on your arms. When it comes to autumn, on the other hand, we need something that captures the same beautiful intensity and tragedy that the harsh wind blows in once September comes around. One of the most popular genres to capture these sentiments would be dark academia, which often focuses on the romanticism of higher education, the study of classic art and literature, poetry, Greek classics and the Gothic theme. A lot of the works within this genre tackle dark and difficult topics, such as mental health struggles, existentialism, perfectionism to the point of obsession and, to add to the plot, most likely feature some murder. In order to get your TBR pile ready for fall, I’m going to discuss some rather popular dark academia titles you may want to add to your list.  

“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt. Photo from Amazon.

One of the gateway dark academia titles often discussed is “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt. The book follows a group of unique, eccentric students who are influenced by their classics professor to start viewing the world in a new light – thus slowly corrupting them into committing an incredible act of violence that proves itself to be only the beginning of their crimes. The characters, though flawed and ultimately horrendous people, are so alluring and fascinating that you can’t help but fall in love with them. The plot moves at a snail’s pace once in a while, but the buildup redeems all of those moments as the story starts to plummet at breakneck speed after reaching the climax – spoiler alert, it’s a murder. Does the book come off as being a bit pretentious occasionally? Definitely. Is some of the prose absolutely brilliant? Absolutely. Is this 600-page novel actually worth it? Ultimately, it’s not for everyone, but I can honestly say it’s in my Top Ten favorite reads and worth the hype.  

“These Violent Delights” by Micah Nemerever. Photo from Amazon.

Not convinced? Not to worry, for I have a few more titles up my sleeve. Micah Nemerever’s “These Violent Delights” follows the obsessive and toxic relationship between two academic geniuses as they discover what bond ultimately ties them together – spoiler alert, it’s also murder if you haven’t noticed the theme yet. The book is often described to being a cross between “The Secret History” and “Call Me By Your Name,” though I can tell you that you will hate these characters despite being irrevocably caught up in their beautiful trainwreck of a relationship.  

“Sirens and Muses” by Antonia Angre. Photo from Amazon.

If you want more of a Sapphic element added to your next read, look no further than “Sirens and Muses” by Antonia Angress. Though I haven’t read it quite yet, it’s going to be one of my next autumn reads if I don’t get too wrapped up in the horror genre for October’s recommendations. The book takes a bit of a different turn than these last few titles as it A) focuses primarily on the art world in college rather than classics and B) doesn’t seem to involve murder from what I can tell. No promises though! The book follows Louisa and her roommate Karina as they study at the Wrynn College of Art, soon finding themselves in a deeply sensual and artistic relationship, while still being fascinated by their classmate and a visiting professor. The novel is a commentary on identity, art, scandal, success, money and class, and I am absolutely delighted to read it.  

If none of these quite caught your eye, don’t fret, for there’s plenty of other amazing dark academia titles out there. From “If We Were Villains,” “Bunny” and “Ninth House,” to “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Vicious,” I’m sure that perfect autumn read is just a Goodreads search away.