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Book Aesthetics: Dark Academia

This week’s post will be the beginning of a series where I look at popular book-related aesthetics. We will be talking a bit about the aesthetic and books to go along with it! First, we will be starting with one of my personal favourites, dark academia. 

What is Dark Academia?

Dark academia is an aesthetic which often takes place in an academic setting like a school or library while following characters who share a passion for a subject of study, and often includes dark elements like murder. If you are interested in learning more about what makes something dark academia, Darling Desi does a really great explanation of what the aesthetic means to her in this video (along with book & film recs!).


The Dark Academia clothing aesthetic includes mostly dark muted and neutral-toned colours like black, greys, browns, and burgundy. There are usually lots of layers, with turtlenecks, wool sweaters and tweed coats. Leather oxford-type shoes and wire round-framed glasses are also staples. Check out this video in which I try dressing up dark academia-inspired:

*Here are some Dark Academia inspired photos all from Pinterest*


I realized I have only read a few books/series I would categorize as Dark Academia so this list includes both books I have read and books that I want to read! 

The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Probably the most well-known when it comes to dark academia, the novel follows Richard, a new student at Hampden college where he becomes involved in a dark plot after becoming close with students in his Greek class. I recently read The Secret History and I was hooked by the first page all the way to the 559th one… It’s a really interesting look at character and I would pick it up if over-analyzing characters’ personalities is your cup of tea.

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

If you’ve been around my blog or just aware of ya books in general you’ll know of The Raven Cycle series. This series goes in a few different directions and has a lot of fantasy/ magical realism elements to it but I’d say the first book, The Raven Boys definitely has dark academia vibes to it. The main character is obsessed with learning about a dead Welsh king Glendower and there is something up with one of their roommates… While the plot kinda goes all over the place in this series, it definitely has a strong friend group of characters and beautiful visuals which give it a special place in my heart. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This is actually my current read so I can’t say too much about it, except that I just got to the part where the painting begins to change and I am very much intrigued to see where it goes. 

Now onto dark academia books I want to read: 

The Archived (The Archived, #1)

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

I haven’t actually seen people categorize this as dark academia, but from reading the synopsis it sounds that way to me? “Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.” Okay, dark academia vibes… It follows the main character Mac who is a keeper, tasked with stopping violent Histories (the souls of the dead) from escaping a library aka the Archive. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while and totally had forgotten about it, but I hope to read it soon. I loved Victoria Schwab’s Shades of Magic series so I think from that and the promising reviews I have seen, I will enjoy this one a lot too. 

The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I have seen this book around for a while, but no one told me it was dark academia?? Apparently the Starless Seas is actually a collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories and people must seek the hidden entryways to enter them. From the synopsis, it sounds super imaginative and magical which is right up my alley. 

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

I’ve been seeing this book over BookTok and when I heard it was dark academia it jumped atop my (already severely long) TBR pile. It follows 16-year-old Bree who attends a boarding school after losing her mother, only to be witness to a magical attack her first night on campus. There’s a society within the school that fights the demons she witnessed in the attack which she must infiltrate to find more information, including how they might be related to her mother’s death. The magical, fantasy and dark academia elements all sound exactly what I like, so I hope I can pick up Legendborn soon! 


Lastly, if you’re a student stuck at home doing online school like I am, it can sometimes help to romanticize your studying by lighting a candle, listening to a dark academia playlist, and pretending you are in a grand library instead of your messy bedroom. Here is a really amazing dark academia playlist I have been listening to on YouTube.

I hope you found this post informative if you’re new to dark academia or if like me, you’re wanting to delve into the aesthetic a little more! If you have any dark academia recommendations, comment them down below!

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