Fall is in the air, and you know what that means—cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice everything, and the perfect time to dive into some spine-tingling reads. If you’re a fan of dark academia books, you’re in for a real treat! Most of the gems on this list come with a fantasy or sci-fi flair. Trust me, these are the top dark academia books you NEED to read now. Let’s get started!
What are Dark Academia Books?
So, what exactly is dark academia? It’s a genre that captivates readers with its moody, intellectual allure. Imagine yourself in hallowed halls of ivy-covered universities, where everyone is draped in tweed and reciting Latin. It’s a world steeped in classic literature, philosophy, and a haunting sense of mystery.
Often set against a backdrop of scholarly life, dark academia dives into complex relationships, moral dilemmas, and sometimes, unspeakable crimes. It’s where the pursuit of knowledge might lead you down a sinister path. Dark academia is that delicious blend of erudite discussion and foreboding atmosphere—where your brain and goosebumps get an equal workout.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Dark Academia Books
In the realm of dark academia, where scholars roam dimly-lit corridors and mysteries lurk behind ancient texts, adding elements of sci-fi and fantasy is like throwing a lightning bolt into a shadowy room.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
This book transports you to Yale University, but not the Yale you might know. This Yale is teeming with secret societies that are deeply entrenched in dark magic and occult rituals.
Enter Alex Stern, a highly untypical Yale student. She’s there on a full scholarship, not for her academic prowess but for her unique ability to monitor these esoteric societies. Her task? To keep an eye on their dark activities.
As you can imagine, this leads her down a rabbit hole of unsettling rituals and high-stakes intrigue. We’re talking murders, mystical rites, and a level of danger escalating.
This book masterfully blends elements of dark academia with a splash of fantasy. It’s not just a thrilling read; it’s an experience that explores the boundaries of morality and the mystique of hidden knowledge. Perfect for those who want to indulge in a more intellectual, atmospheric thriller.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik is a book that completely flips the script on magical schools. Forget charming corridors and friendly mentors; this book takes you to the Scholomance, a deadly academy that’s a labyrinth of horrors. The school itself wants to kill the students, and survival is the name of the game.
Enter El, our snarky protagonist. She’s got a ton of destructive power but wants to use it wisely. So she’s fighting monsters, dodging curses, and let’s not forget, trying to make friends. That last part is crucial because, in Scholomance, allies can mean the difference between life and death.
This book combines dark academia vibes with a twist of magic and fantasy. It’s like a sinister Hogwarts on steroids. With its rich atmosphere and high stakes, it makes for an ideal read to curl up with as the leaves fall and the air turns crisp. If you’re in the mood for a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat while making you think, this is the book for you this autumn.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is dark academia with a twist. It’s set in an elite school where secrets can make or break you. Devon and Chiamaka, the leads, find themselves targeted by an anonymous texter who spills their darkest secrets. The stakes are high and the atmosphere is tense, just like the best dark academia tales.
What sets this book apart is its social commentary, adding depth to the high-school drama. It’s perfect for fall reading, offering both chills and thought-provoking themes. With its compelling narrative, it’s a fall must-read that keeps you gripped to the end.
Babel by R.F. Kuang
Set in the esteemed halls of Oxford University’s Royal Institute of Translation, also known as Babel, R. F. Kuang’s “Babel” delves deep into the intersection of language, power, and magic. Our protagonist, Robin Swift, is torn between his loyalty to his Chinese roots and the British empire’s pursuit of magical domination. He’s trained in an array of ancient languages and specializes in “Silver working,” a form of magic that draws its power from the art of translation.
Perfect for fall reading, this book encapsulates the essence of dark academia while injecting a dose of magical realism. As leaves turn and the air chills, you’ll find yourself entangled in Robin’s moral dilemmas, feeling the weight of history and colonialism. It’s a novel that doesn’t just tell a story but also prompts you to ponder heavy, relevant questions.
The narrative asks whether one can really effect change from within a powerful institution, or if the only path to revolution is through violence. This book is a must-read for those looking to explore the darker facets of academia and empire, all set against a magical backdrop.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Dive into the labyrinthine world of Erin Morgenstern’s “The Starless Sea,” where a hidden underground library becomes the backdrop for a tale as enchanting as it is mysterious. The protagonist, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, stumbles upon a mysterious book in his university library—only to find his own life story written on its pages. What follows is a quest that takes him to the heart of a timeless, magical realm, a place where stories come to life.
Just in time for those cozy fall nights, this book weaves together elements of dark academia, fantasy, and romance. It’s rich in atmosphere, steeped in literary references, and bursting with intricate storylines. The dark academia vibe is subtle yet palpable, inviting you to ponder the power and complexities of storytelling.
So grab a warm drink, light a scented candle, and lose yourself in the ethereal and intricate world of “The Starless Sea.” It’s the perfect companion for autumn evenings when you’re in the mood for a story that’s both complex and beautifully told.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
In V.E. Schwab’s “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,” meet Addie, a woman who makes a Faustian bargain to live forever but be forgotten by everyone she meets. Spanning centuries and continents, her story is a haunting journey through art, history, and fleeting human connections.
While not a traditional dark academia novel, this book resonates with themes of timelessness and the pursuit of meaning—elements that dark academia lovers often crave. Addie’s saga unfolds as she tries to leave a mark on the world in other ways, through art and stories, much like the beloved characters in many dark academia narratives.
Perfect for fall, this tale offers a poignant, introspective look at what it means to be truly known. As the leaves change and the air turns crisp, curl up with this story that effortlessly bridges the gap between the ephemeral and the eternal. It’s an introspective read that pairs well with a blanket and a cup of something warm.
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
In “Catherine House” by Elisabeth Thomas, you’re whisked away to a prestigious, isolated school. Here, students give up three years of their life for an unorthodox education. However, it’s not all academic glory. The school hides dark secrets, blending themes of dark academia with elements of psychological thriller.
As you dive in, you’ll feel the walls of Catherine House close around you. Yet, this isn’t just a place; it’s a character on its own. Still, it’s more than just a setting—it plays mind games with its inhabitants. Moreover, the eerie atmosphere makes it a compelling fall read.
Questions of identity and ambition are front and center. Thus, if you’re a fan of dark academia with a twist, this is a must-read. The story will grip you until the last page, making it a perfect companion for those chilly autumn nights.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Dive into “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab, and you’ll find yourself in a world where superpowers are born from near-death experiences. However, this isn’t your typical superhero story. It’s dark academia meets speculative fiction, wrapped in ethical quandaries.
Here, you meet Victor and Eli, former friends now locked in a twisted rivalry. Both are brilliant, but ambition leads them down a dangerous path. With lives on the line, you’ll question who the real villain is. Moreover, the story adds a layer of urgency that keeps you hooked.
The narrative explores morality and ambition, making it a rich, complex read. It’s perfect for anyone looking to spice up their fall reading with something intellectually stimulating yet thoroughly engaging. So, if you’re craving dark academia with a unique twist, “Vicious” should be at the top of your list.
A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
Step into “A Lesson in Vengeance” by Victoria Lee, a chilling dark academia thriller with an uncanny twist. The setting? The Dalloway School, cloaked in centuries-old ivy and steeped in witchy lore. However, returning student Felicity Morrow isn’t just here for the education. She’s haunted by a tragic past, one that involves the mysterious deaths of the Dalloway Five—rumored witches from the school’s history.
At first, Felicity aims to leave the dark behind. Yet, the school’s occult roots are inescapable. Then, enter Ellis Haley, a prodigy novelist and the new girl who immediately captures Felicity’s attention. When Ellis seeks Felicity’s help to delve into the history of the Dalloway Five, she can’t refuse.
The result? A dangerous mix of attraction, history, and haunting, as the past begins to mirror the present. It’s a perfect autumn read for those who love the enthralling blend of dark academia, romance, and supernatural thrills. Dive in, but beware: this book will have you questioning the fine line between curiosity and obsession.
Vita Nostra by Marina Dyachenko & Sergey Dyachenko
Take a mind-bending journey with “Vita Nostra” by Marina Dyachenko and Sergey Dyachenko, a dark academia novel laced with fantasy elements that’ll make your head spin. Welcome to the Institute of Special Technologies, a mysterious school far from civilization. The catch? Students aren’t exactly sure what they’re studying or why. However, failure comes with terrifying, inexplicable penalties.
The story follows Sasha, a regular girl coerced into attending this arcane institution. Once there, she’s thrust into a world of inexplicable lessons, abstract tasks, and unsettling transformations. Every success and failure shapes not only her future but also the very fabric of reality.
In short, this book blends the lines between education, magic, and existential dread, serving up a perplexing yet enthralling experience. Ideal for those who revel in dark academia’s sense of intellectual crisis, “Vita Nostra” offers an extra layer of metaphysical dread that makes it an irresistible fall read. But be warned: once you start questioning reality, it’s hard to go back.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
This dark academia meets sci-fi tale is a rollercoaster of emotions, set in an all-girls boarding school under quarantine. The mysterious “Tox” has taken over, transforming the students into something otherworldly. However, the chilling part? The transformations aren’t just physical.
The story follows Hetty, Byatt, and Reese as they navigate the boundaries of friendship, survival, and the blurred lines between human and monster. But what sets this apart from the standard fare is its claustrophobic setting. The school is cut off from the rest of the world, and as you might guess, tensions run high.
As autumn leaves fall, the twisted mysteries of this story are perfect to curl up with. It combines the stringent, high-stakes environment of academia with the nightmarish reality of biological horror. In essence, “Wilder Girls” offers the disquieting atmosphere of dark academia with a sci-fi twist that will haunt your dreams. Trust me, you won’t look at boarding schools—or humanity—the same way again.
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
Who needs old libraries and musty classrooms when the characters literally consume knowledge? Set against the eerie backdrop of the Yorkshire Moors, this story captivates with its unique blend of dark academia vibes and fantastical elements.
Meet Devon, part of The Family, an enigmatic lineage of people who find sustenance in the very pages of books. For them, genres are like cuisines, each with its own distinct flavor. And, oh, the flavors! Spy thrillers are peppery bites, while romance novels are sweet indulgences. However, as you’ll find out, their hunger for literature has its own kind of consequences.
Devon, like the women in her family, is raised on a staple diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories. Yet, reality doesn’t always offer happy endings, especially when her son is born with a different and unsettling kind of hunger—one that’s geared toward human minds rather than books.
If you’re searching for an October read that pairs the brooding atmosphere of dark academia with a magical twist, “The Book Eaters” is your pick. It offers an exploration into the essence of stories themselves, questioning what we gain—and what we might lose—through the tales we consume. So, ready to devour a story that, quite literally, you can sink your teeth into?
The Society for Soulless Girls by Laura Steven
Get ready for a spine-chilling journey with “The Society for Soulless Girls” by Laura Steven. This dark academia thriller transports you to the prestigious Carvell Academy of the Arts, notorious for the unsolved North Tower murders that happened a decade ago. The academy is back in action, and so is the quest for the unsettling truth.
Enter Lottie Fitzwilliam, a freshman with nerves of steel, eager to crack this infamous case wide open. Yet, when her enigmatic roommate Alice Wolfe discovers a dark ritual hidden within the depths of the academy’s library, another life is claimed. So, is there a murderer in their midst? Or is the threat even closer, lurking within their very souls?
Here’s the twist: it’s a sapphic enemies-to-lovers take on Jekyll & Hyde, bringing together elements of possession, unchecked ambition, and intense desires. Add in a splash of supernatural rites gone horribly wrong, and you have a story that’s begging to be read under the flickering candlelight of October nights.
Unearth layers of femininity, violence, and dark academia as you page through “The Society for Soulless Girls.” If you’re a fan of “The Secret History” or “A Lesson in Vengeance,” this one’s a must-add to your fall reading list. Ready to solve a chilling cold case while navigating the intricate dynamics of roommates who can’t decide whether to kiss or kill? Grab your copy now!
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Step into the magical world of “Sorcery of Thorns” by Margaret Rogerson, where enchanted grimoires come alive and the line between hero and villain is razor-thin. This dark academia fantasy romp is an ideal companion for your fall reading adventures.
Meet Elisabeth, a young woman raised in one of the Great Libraries, home to living books that can turn into malevolent monsters. So, when a disastrous event befalls her sanctuary, she’s falsely accused and sent to face justice. Enter Nathaniel Thorn, a sorcerer with his own set of enigmas, and Silas, his demon servant. Together, they uncover a chilling conspiracy that could mean doom for both the human and magical realms.
What sets this apart? It’s not just the arcane libraries or the sentient books—although let’s be honest, those are incredible. It’s the ethical dilemmas and soul-searching questions that Elisabeth faces, making it a perfect fit for dark academia enthusiasts.
The story doesn’t just enchant; it provokes. It makes you question what is morally right in a world where easy answers are as elusive as a vanishing spell. So, whether you’re cozying up with a cup of spiced apple cider or listening to the wind howl outside, “Sorcery of Thorns” promises to bewitch your imagination. Are you ready to be spellbound?
The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith
Dive headfirst into “The Library of the Unwritten” by A.J. Hackwith, one of those dark academia books that blends the intellectual and the supernatural into an irresistible tale. Perfect for fall, this story whisks you away to a library in Hell that’s unlike any you’ve ever imagined.
Hell’s library is where unwritten books reside, along with their restless characters itching to break free. Our protagonist, Claire, serves as the librarian, a role that suddenly propels her into an adventure spanning Heaven, Hell, and Earth. She’s on a mission to retrieve a rogue character who’s escaped, and, as you can guess, things don’t go as planned. Claire and her motley crew—including a demon and an ex-muse—unravel a plot that could unmake reality itself.
But why does this fit so snugly into the realm of dark academia books? Beyond the obvious library setting, this novel digs deep into themes of creation, morality, and the limits of storytelling. It asks us to question what we accept, what we write, and what truths might exist between the lines.
So, if you’re looking to lose yourself in an autumnal read that’s equal parts dark academia and fantastical escapade, “The Library of the Unwritten” is a compelling ticket to an unforgettable journey. Trust us; it’s a chapter you won’t want to skip.
Must Read Dark Academia Books with a Splash of Fantasy
And there you have it, folks! A curated list of dark academia books that are perfect for your fall reading. Whether you’re into sorcery, secret societies, or soul-searching quests, there’s a title here to bewitch your intellect and ignite your imagination.
Don’t forget to explore other content on my blog and YouTube channel for even more bookish goodness. Whether it’s YA fall fantasy reads or adult fall fantasy novels, I’ve got something for every reader. And hey, if you’re totally vibing with this dark academia books list, you’ll want to subscribe to my email list. Trust me, you won’t want to miss what’s coming next!
Thanks for joining me in this labyrinth of dark academia books. May your fall be filled with the scent of old books, the taste of hot apple cider, and the thrill of untangling enigmatic plots. Until next time, happy reading!