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While dark academia books do not have a single definition, they tend to involve elite or prestigious academic settings, gothic aesthetics, and twisted secrets. They sometimes include magic or murder, or a thrilling combination of both. If you’re looking for some addicting dark academia reads to add to your TBR, here are 15 great recommendations.
Babel by R.F. Kuang
As a Chinese orphan living in London, Robin has trained in different languages for years and enrolls at Oxford University’s renowned Royal Institute of Translation–also known as Babel. While Babel is the world’s center for translation, it is also the center of magic. Scholars use enchanted silver bars to make Britain unstoppable in their quest for colonization. Robin soon finds himself pulled between Babel and a secret society trying to stop imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war against China, Robin knows that serving Babel means betraying his home country, and he must decide where he will stand.
The Truants by Kate Weinberg
Jess has arrived on campus to learn from the daring, unconventional, and mesmerizing Dr. Lorna Clay. Her seminars make Jess rethink her beliefs on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Jess soon joins a group of rule-breakers all hypnotized by Lorna until a tragedy ruins everything. As a terrible secret comes to light, Jess must decide what she’s willing to pay for an extraordinary life.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Devon and Chiamaka are both seniors at the elite Niveus Private Academy, and their year is off to a great start when they are both selected as class prefects. Soon after, however, an anonymous person using the name ‘Aces’ starts revealing secrets about Devon and Chiamaka. These secrets threaten everything they’ve worked for, and the sick prank quickly turns into something much darker.
The Cloisters by Katy Hays
When Ann gets to New York City, she is assigned to work at The Cloisters, a gothic museum known for its medieval art and mysterious researchers. Trying to escape her past, Ann plays along with the bizarre theories some researchers come up with. But harmless curiosity takes a dark turn into obsession when Ann discovers an old deck of tarot cards that might hold the secrets for predicting the future. When the desire for power turns deadly, Ann is on a race for the truth as history and reality blur together.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy spent many years at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school in the English countryside. They were cared for and trained in art and literature, but never taught anything about the outside world. Years later, Ruth and Tommy re-enter Kathy’s life, and as she reminisces on their past, Kathy begins to realize what exactly Hailsham is.
The Ancient Nine by Ian Smith
Spenser comes from a humble background while Dalton grew up rich and privileged. Despite their differences, the two become friends after being selected to join Harvard University’s exclusive Delphic Club. However, Spenser and Dalton soon learn about the Ancient Nine–a group of all-powerful and anonymous alums with dark secrets and darker intentions. As they dive deeper into the past, Spenser and Dalton find themselves in the middle of a dangerous inner circle.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
The Scholomance is a school for the magically gifted filled with dangerous monsters and cursed artifacts. The only goal is survival, and El is prepared for this. She has no one on her side, but her power is so dark and powerful that she can easily kill millions. But as she slowly learns the school’s secrets, El realizes there’s dangers she never expected. And while she has no issue using her power to kill monsters, it might not be as easy to keep herself from killing other students.
How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao
When her ex best friend is found dead, Nancy is shocked to learn that she and her friends are the prime suspects. The accusations and supposed evidence come from ‘the Proctor’, an anonymous person posting about Nancy and her friends on their prep school’s social media app. As all of their deepest, darkest secrets are revealed, Nancy questions how well she truly knows her friends.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Alex Stern dropped out of school and got involved with drug dealer boyfriends and dead end jobs, and she’s the only survivor of an unsolved multiple homicide. She’s the last person who should be attending an Ivy League school, which is why it’s so shocking when she is offered a full ride to Yale University. Alex is told by her mysterious benefactors to monitor the secrets and activities of Yale’s secret societies, but nothing could have prepared her for the sinister, occult, and paranormal things she witnesses.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
In college, Victor and Eli’s shared brilliance led them to an incredible discovery—that an individual could develop extraordinary abilities under the right conditions. But when their work moved from academic to experimental, everything went wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison and is determined to find his old friend turned enemy. He is aided by a young girl with a stunning ability. At the same time, Eli is on the hunt to destroy every other super-powered person in existence, aside from his sidekick. Both fueled by power and the thirst for revenge, the arch-nemeses will face each other, but who will be left standing?
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Edward Fosca is a charming Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University. He’s also a murderer, according to Mariana Andros. A secret society at Cambridge known as The Maidens have a particular adoration for Fosca, and when one member is found murdered, Mariana becomes obsessed with the group. She believes that underneath the beauty of ancient traditions, something sinister is taking place. When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with The Maidens and Fosca starts to spiral into insanity, but she will not give it up, even if it costs her her own life.
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
Every decade, the six best magicians are selected to earn their place in the Alexandrian Society, the most prominent and elite secret society in existence. Those selected will live with power and prestige they never could have dreamed of. But in order to make it in, the recruits are forced to grow close to dangerous enemies, risk betrayal, and fight for their lives like never before.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
While Zachary is a graduate student in Vermont, he discovers a mysterious book buried in the stacks. The book contains many strange things, but one stands out as stranger than the others—a story from Zachary’s own childhood. He uncovers a series of clues that ultimately lead him to a secret, ancient library far below the surface of the earth. There, he discovers those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, and also those determined to destroy it. With his two new companions, Zachary travels through this twisty magical world to find the answers he seeks.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
After Bree Matthew’s mother dies in a car accident, a residential program for gifted high schoolers at UNC- Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape. But when Bree witnesses a magical attack on her first night, everything changes. She is thrown into a secret society of ‘Legendborn’ students, descendants of King Arthur’s knights who have magic and hunt demons. With the uncovering of Bree’s own magic, she remembers a buried memory—a Legendborn member was at the hospital the night her mom died. Now, Bree is determined to learn what really happened to her mother, and as a magical war approaches, she has to decide where she stands.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Diana Bishop is a descendant of witches who wants nothing to do with sorcery when she finds a long-lost and enchanted manuscript in Oxford’s library. Its discovery unearths a fantastical underworld of vampires, demons, and witches who have been hunting this treasure for ages. Diana is the only one who can break the manuscript’s spell, and she teams up with vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont to stop the world’s darkest creatures from taking over.
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