The weather promises to turn a little gloomier, the days a little shorter and the nights become ripe for falling deep into a selection of dark academia books. We, at Daastan, have curated a list full of well-loved titles, and some a little obscure- for your reading adventures.
What is Dark Academia?
Before diving into the books themselves, some of you might be wondering: what exactly is Dark Academia? It is a love for the classics, the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome and the romanticization of the pursuit of knowledge. In short, it is the perfect subculture for the literary connoisseurs within all of us.
Moreover, maybe what makes Dark Academia books so attractive to us is because they make an elite, veiled off world of privilege, guilty pleasures, and inaccessible old knowledge- very much accessible to us. There is certainly a class element present with Dark Academia revering the old upper echelons of society. However, some of the titles within this list do try to subvert those.
1.The Secret History by Donna Tartt
No Dark Academia Book recommendation list can be complete without “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt. She very well initiated the modern day cult for Dark Academia through this literary venture of hers. The fact that is has been translated into 24 languages and sold around 5 million copies since publication attests to that.
It is a coming of age story surrounding a group of university students who explore intimacy, friendship and intrigue against the background of classic literature. Amidst the group of wealthy students who live in a world reeking of privilege, our narrator stands out. Richard Papen subverts the trope by being a scholarship student.
There is murder, there is an exploration of why we do what we do and there is the thirst for knowledge that plagues all the characters within the novel.
“It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely?”
2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Here is a book that is the perfect intersection of dark academia, sci-fic and dystopia. Yet, it is perhaps the most grounded in reality than all the other books on this list. There are no grand gestures, no musty libraries and no murders- at least not in the way we expect. The devastation of “Never Let Me Go” is the soft kind, the kind that leaves you reeling long after you put the book down.
Following a trio of children from childhood to adulthood against an idyllic background of the elite education institution, Hailsham- we learn of the cruelties of life. It makes us question the essence of what makes us human. It is a wonderful critique on a society that strives for progress without looking at the costs it incurs on the way.
“I half closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it…”
3. Nada by Carmen Laforet
While we might not think of Spanish literature beyond magical realism, “Nada” proves that more focus should be diverted towards other forms of Spanish Literature. Published 5 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, Nada’s uneasiness and discontent warns us of what has been- and what could be.
It tells the story of Andrea who holds onto the hope of independence through her pursuit of education. However, the dismal living conditions and twisted family members at her grandmother’s house prove her otherwise. The normal portrait of a family is distorted with madness and unease. She studies literature against family politics, poverty and hunger. There is the sense of something being haunted. Is it the family? Andrea, herself? or is it the very city she lives in?
“Who can understand the thousand threads that bind the souls of men and the scope of their words?”
All three of these books are wonderful in their own right. You won’t regret picking up any (or all) of them! However, if you are on the lookout for some more seasonal book recommendations, make sure to check out our fall list.