Dark Academia Books is the newest genre of book that we cannot stop reading. The prestigious and exclusive schools, secret societies, and questionable morals make these books as fun to read as they sound.
Our pick for the best Dark Academia book is none of these things though because it’s a thought-provoking fictional account of true events. It won the Pulitzer Prize, it’s a fast read that is poignant and will have you thinking about it for days to come.
What it is? You’ll have to read the list to find out!
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** UPDATED March, 2023 **
What is Considered a Dark Academia Book?
Dark Academia is a genre of book that is often dark or scary and takes place in an academic setting.
Dark Academia Fantasy Books
I picked up the first two books in this YA fantasy series after turning in a few books and quickly fell in love with the first book and the story of Daniel and Luce’s love.
Luce has been sent to Sword and Cross boarding school, a place for other troubled kids like her. The minute she gets to the school, Daniel catches her eye but he will not give her the time of day. But there is definitely more to Daniel and Luce will discover his secrets no matter what the cost.
This Fae series needed to be included in the best fantasy books for teens. This is one of the urban fantasy books that is totally addicting. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Alex Stearn is the sole survivor of a horrible homicide. While recovering in the hospital, she is offered a chance to go to Yale on a full scholarship. What she finds are the Secret Societies of Yale that each practice a unique type of magic.
What Alex uncovers is a world that she never knew existed. The education that she receives is not quite what she had imagined. This is the quintessential dark academia novel and has everything that I love about the genre. It kept me on my toes and dying to read the sequel.
There are so many twists and turns to this fantasy dark academia novel, I am not sure where to begin. I do know that I will be reading the next book!
The Alexandrian Society members are the guardians of knowledge from the greatest civilizations that have ever existed. Six of the most brilliant magical academicians are chosen every decade to take their place in this secret society. Five will go on the secure a life filled with all the wealth and power they could dream of.
When the candidates of this decade are chosen, they each have powerful abilities that could lead to greatness or destruction. When The Society may not be everything it appears, will they have to knowledge and the ability to recognize it before it is too late? This is one of the books about secret societies that has an almost cult-like following and is an urban fantasy book you will not want to miss.
Why did I not read this book before now? In a way, I’m glad I just read this because I only have to wait a few more months for the sequel. If you love YA fantasy books, this King Arthur re-imagining is a must-read in our list of fantasy books for teens!
Bree Matthews’s mother died in a tragic accident and she cannot seem to recover. When she has a chance to attend a special program for bright high school students at UNC-Chapel Hill, she jumps at the chance.
When Bree witnesses a magical attack on her first night there, her world is thrown upside down as she enters the world of the Legendborn. It is a secret society of students with powerful magic who are also descendants of King Arthur! This is my favorite read from our list of books about secret societies and is a perfect dark academia novel to delve into that genre.
Quentin Coldwater is a high school student obsessed with the made up world of Fillory. He finds himself admitted to a magical college that is both secret and elite. If you are looking for books set in college, this one has an almost cult-like following.
The best way I can describe this series is if Harry Potter was admitted to Hogwarts in College. It has a different, darker feel but it is fun, imaginative, and entertaining. The magic in this school is definitely a little bit dark and steamy and for this reason, is perfect for a list of dark academia novels. If you love urban fantasy books, you must read this series of books like Harry Potter. This is a witch book unlike any other.
If you like The Magicians, here are more adult books like Harry Potter.
If you love the witch aspect of Harry Potter, Vampires, fantasy books, or time travel books then you will love The All Souls trilogy. This adult fantasy novel explores the history of witches, demons, and vampires.
Diana Bishop is a witch who accidentally recovers an ancient book that has been missing for hundreds of years. In doing so, she triggers her long-forgotten magic and opens the door for vampires, witches, and demons to search out Diana and the book.
This urban fantasy book about secret societies, witches, vampires, and more is a blend of heart-pounding action, historical fiction, and romance with the perfect mix of fantasy as well. If you have read this dark academia novel and loved it, you should check out our 9 Magical Books Like A Discovery of Witches! This is definitely one of the best fantasy books for adults I have read.
LGBTQ Dark Academia Books
This dark academia novel started out weird but intriguing. Catherine house is a very exclusive boarding school hidden in rural Pennsylvania. Every student accepted will have everything from books to clothes and food provided for them. The catch? They must leave everything behind for three years- and have no contact with the outside world.
As the story progressed, it went from intriguing to weird, to completely ridiculous in my opinion. The story took too long to build to keep my interest.
I started Plain Bad Heroines and I did not know what to think. I was debating giving up on the book for a little while because I just wasn’t sure where the book was going. Fast forward. I loved it and I am glad I stuck with it. This YA fantasy book is unlike any other book I have ever read. It has all the makings of cult horror. It is scary, complex and so well-written.
The lines between reality and fiction are perfectly blurred. It is a book about a book and making a movie about that same book. ( follow that? Lol) The story intertwines the lives of all those that read the book and the mystery and supernatural that follows them 🐝. I don’t usually read horror but I loved this witch book. If you’ve read this dark academia novel, I have to talk to someone about it!!!
Love books with Witches? Then check out this list of more than 25!
Wilder Girls is one of the most unique dark academia books I’ve ever read. Hetty has been quarantined at her boarding school for 18 months because their students have been infected by The Tox.
But soon one of her friends goes missing and Hetty takes matters into her own hands. This is considered an LGBTQ horror novel, it’s graphic and not for people who have weak stomachs.
Thriller Books Dark Academia
November 2022 Read With Jenna Book Club Pick
Ann Stilwell is desperate to escape her small town and her painful past. She arrives in New York City where she is supposed to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Met. When she arrives, she is informed her supervisor is gone for the summer and she does not have a job. Luckily, she is able to get an assignment with The Cloisters, a gothic museum, that is known for its medieval art collection.
Ann suddenly finds herself entwined with a small group of students with secrets of their won. When she finds a 15th-century deck of tarot cards, she is reluctant to share her findings and this starts a dangerous game that Ann is not prepared for. This is one of the dark academia books about secret societies you don’t want to miss.
It is a thriller that had me totally captivated from the first page. There is not a single character that I liked. Think mean girls, push-overs, and narcissists all together in an over-the-top boarding school.
It’s Lord of the Flies in a dorm and I couldn’t put it down. The ending wasn’t surprising but, in this case, I didn’t mind knowing “who dun it”. It didn’t ruin the book at all. A really fun read.
Hello Dark Academia. Centered around Devon and Chiamaka, the only black students at an elite private school, this is one wild thriller.
After being chosen by prefects on the first day of their senior year, Devon and Chiamaka quickly become the targets of the mysterious Aces – a dangerous gossip girl-type character out to ruin their lives.
I was on pins and needles as this thriller unraveled, addressing systemic racism in private institutions in the process. If you love books set in high school or mystery books, you need to put this dark academia novel on your TBR list.
What an amazing thriller. Alex Michaelides did it again! This book was insane with twists and turns. It kept me on the edge of my seat and my heart beating a little faster!
Mariana is a therapist who is still grieving the loss of her husband when she gets a call from her niece, Zoe. Zoe’s best friend Tara is missing and Zoe is afraid something has happened to her.
One by one, When women start dying at Cambridge and Mariana gets deeply involved as she tries to solve the mystery. This is one of my favorite picks on our list of dark academia books.
The story moves back and forth between Vermont in the 1950s and 2014. Idlewild Hall is a school where girls were sent to be forgotten. It was shut down decades ago and is rumored to be haunted but, is suddenly bought by an unknown benefactor who intends to restore it and reopen it.
Fiona Sheridan is a journalist, whose sister died on the property of Idlewild in the 90s. She cannot let go of the past and decides to write a story about the school and its history.
What they discover on the property of Idlewild takes the reader on a thrilling mystery and Idlewild slowly gives up its dark secrets. I loved the mystery and could not put this dark academia novel down. The paranormal component wasn’t over the top which made it readable with just the right amount of fear factor.
Six students come together to play a game of dares and forfeit where the winner takes all. But what started out as fun turns into something much more dangerous. Now, it has been 14 years since the start of the game and the remaining two players have to play the final round.
What started out as a dark book became more twisted and convoluted with each turn of the page. However, there were elements of this story that I wish has a little more depth. Also, reading about all the pneumonic devices the character uses to get through his day became a bit tedious by the middle of the book and I think that was the point. This dark academia novel can truly mess with you head.
Mystery Dark Academia Books
December 2022 Read with Jenna Book Pick
Richard is one of a select group of six students who have been hand-picked to work under the guidance of a classics teacher named Julian Morrow. Richard is narrating the story and he begins by telling about the death of one of the students named Bunny.
As the story progresses, it is clear that this secret society of students rides the line of morality. The strained friendships and sexual tensions continue to push the edge until Bunny is killed.
This is one of the books about secret societies that was deeply disturbing and difficult to read. It certainly earns its place on our list of dark academia books and books about cults! And as with most books set in college, this one is a perfect book for fall.
At a prestigious private school in New England, a group of kids known as “The Players” rule the school. They get top grades, get into the best schools, and rule the social scene.
But when one of the girls in the group is murdered, her best friend Jill begins to investigate who the real murderer is and just how dark their privileged world really is.
I really enjoyed the first book in the Charlotte Holmes Trilogy. I’ve mentioned before that I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. This story was different from the others because it takes place in modern times and the central characters are the teenage descendants of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. I loved how imperfect Charlotte is in this dark academia novel.
The adolescent angle leaves room for error in Holmes’ deductive reasoning skills. Watson is also a more fleshed-out character that has deductive reasoning skills of his own. The novel wraps up nicely and the characters solve the mystery leaving enough open ends to allow for a sequel.
This book takes place at Oxford University in the 1980s when a socialite is murdered. Ursula Flowerbutton, an English country girl, is trying to investigate the murder for the college paper while trying to befriend the glamorous crowd.
It’s a comedic spoof and the outfit descriptions alone had me giggling. I hope it becomes a series because I am totally into reading more of Flowerbutton and her Sloane Ranger friends. The secret societies and prestigious schools make this one of our lighter dark academia books.
YA Dark Academia Books
Thank goodness Hogwarts is nothing like this school. There is not a single first year that would survive. This school for magic, The Scholomance, is bursting with magic that is very dark and unforgiving.
Losing a few classmates is nothing surprising. You either graduate or die. If you love the dark side of Harry Potter, you will love this YA fantasy book. The books from this series are some of my favorite fantasy books for teens and you should add them to your TBR if you have not read them yet.
If you love books like this, check out our list of Dark Academia books.
I have been hearing so much about this book and I knew that I needed to read it. Felicity Morros is back at the prestigious Dalloway school to finish high school after a year away. Her mother has pulled strings to get her back to Godwin house even after the terrible events that led to the death of her girlfriend.
Now, despite her past and despite the history of witchcraft and death at the school, Felicity is determined to move forward. But, when she meets Ellis Haley, nothing goes as planned. If you love dark academia books, this novel is a perfect pick. It definitely has a creepy undertone!
Did someone say Harry Potter for adults?
This book is about a magic school and a chosen one wrapped up in a murder mystery with a not-so-lovable PI, Ivy Gamble.
Ivy has never had magic unlike her twin sister Tabitha. When Ivy is hired to investigate a murder at the school where Tabitha teaches, two worlds come together and Ivy must confront her past. This dark academia novel was such a fun read even with the underlying murder mystery.
If you have read the entire Harry Potter series, you will know that by the time the 7th year comes around, it is nothing like Harry’s first year.
Death Eaters have taken over the school and have taken to using unforgivable curses on some of the students as punishment. If this is not a dark academia novel then I don’t know what is!
Check out more Harry Potter book lists here!
When Jacob experiences a family tragedy, he finds himself on a remote island off the coast of Whales. He Discovers a crumbling ruin that was once Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
As Jacob explores the ruins, he finds clues that lead him to believe that these children might be alive even though it seems impossible. This fantastic story is mixed with vintage photographs that bring the characters to life.
Classic Dark Academia Books
The first time I read this book was actually before I saw the movie Shawshank redemption. I read it a bunch of times and loved it. I did not realize, however, that it was an abridged version.
When I was at University, I embarked on a journey to read the unabridged version of this book. I was so amazed at the brilliance and detail that it has been a favorite ever since.
Edmund Dantès is thrown into the Chateau D’if for a crime that he did not commit. There, he meets a fellow prisoner who teaches him within the confines of their cells before telling him of a treasure. Dantès escapes and seeks his revenge. As the classics go, this one is epic and is a must-read dark academia novel!
This is the book that started it all. Jonathan Harker is a young English solicitor who finds himself in Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. Count Dracula has strange customs and mannerisms and things go from strange to scary to completely horrifying. Of all the dark academia books I have read, this one is by far the scariest.
The story of Dracula is timeless and has been remade into countless movies. But, in my opinion, none have been able to capture the truly terrifying essence of this book. Jonathan Harker unwillingly gets a very dark education during his stay with the Count.
The Best Dark Academia Book
The 213 pages of this book will haunt me for a long time. Mr. Whitehead brings characters to life and holy crap can this man write. There is a reason he has won the Pulitzer Prize two times. I have had this book since the day it was released and needed to find the courage to read it. I’m so glad I did.
Elwood Curtis is a black boy who lives in Florida in the 1960’s. When he is unfairly sentenced to a crime, he is sentenced to live at the Nickel Boy Academy. This horror show is disguised as a school and based on a real school that existed for 111 years.