dark academia aesthetic art

41+ Dark Academia aesthetic books with a rich boarding school vibe (fantasy magic schools)

What is dark academia and why is it trending? It’s basically a classical gothic aesthetic, with a classic university vibe – often but not necessarily blended with magic and suspense. Inspired by Oxford and Ivy League schools, YA dark academic books are kind of a reboot of the “magic academy” trope from a few years ago, just darker – they may include school uniforms, rich handsome bullies, classes and lectures, eccentric professors and mystery.

Netflix’s new “Wednesday” fits, along with some other uber popular media like Harry Potter (hogwarts vibes) or a Discovery of Witches or Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. A Golden Compass kind of fits too.

As defined by Reddit,
“It’s an aesthetic, think classical piano and violin music, dark shades of brown, plaid, old books, brown leather satchels, libraries, antique chess boards, etc. there’s a focus on learning in it too.”

“In terms of books precisely, they are moody and mysterious narratives that take place within an academic environment such as universities and/or boarding schools that are held to a certain upper standard. The elements of arts (which can be anything: painting, theatre, music, classic literature etc) are throughly present combined with a touch of Gothic-feel to the atmosphere overall. The books tend to fall on the darker side since sometimes there will be a plot about deaths/murders/mysteries/pursuit of something that could be considered twisted and odd in an everyday sitting.”

Here’s a nice youtube aesthetic with rain and classical music so you can feel the vibes.

Dark academia wallpapers

I do have a book list down below, but just for fun I made these dark academia artwork you can use as desktop wallpapers (they’re a little messy actually, I’ll make some cleaner high-res versions soon).

Best Dark Academia Books with a brooding vibe (YA/NA)

Kind of funny story, I was putting this list together and trying to remember a book I read decades ago that had a really strong impact on me. I thought it was some lesser known author that only appealed to me because of the focus on Greek studies and mythology (I studied greek in malta and italy, at classic ancient universities…) but the book also connected with me as an introvert and loner, desperate for belonging.

Turns out it’s the #1 book recommendation, a defining piece in dark academia literature:

The Secret History, Donna Tartt

Here are 40+ more dark academia book recc’s – I’ll go through and add reviews and links soon!

  1. The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino
  2. Killing November by Adriana Mather.
  3. Truly Devious Series
  4. The Grishaverse
  5. Circe
  6. Ninth House
  7. Atlas Six
  8. A Deadly Education
  9. Harry Potter
  10. Vicious duology
  11. Shades of Magic by V.E Schwab
  12. Vita Nostra
  13. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
  14. A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)
  15. Conversion by Katherine Howe
  16. Alone with You in the Ether, Olivie Blake
  17. A Lesson In Vengeance
  18. The last magician by lisa maxwell
  19. The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino
  20. If We Were Villains by Rio
  21. Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella
  22. The Mary Shelley Club
  23. The Magisterium Series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  24. Zodiac Academy by Caroline Peckham and Suzanne Valenti
  25. The Scholomance series by Naomi Novik
  26. Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide
  27. Pennyroyal Academy by M. A. Larson
  28. Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
  29. The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl,
  30. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  31. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  32. These Violent Delights, by Micah Nemerever
  33. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke 
  34. The Goldfinch
  35. Song of Achilles
  36. The Truants by Kate Weinberg
  37. The Maidens by Alex Michaelide
  38. In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
  39. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  40. My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham
  • You Slay Me by Katie MacAlister

    Aisling Grey is a courier enjoying a free, work-related trip to Paris when she learns she's a Guardian. That's a keeper of the Gates of Hell, for those who don't know. She finds this out from Drake Vireo, who's scrumptiously sexy-at least in his human form. Now Drake has stolen the package Aisling was sent to deliver, and she must track him down, get the package, and try to resist the passion boiling inside her.
  • Written in Red by Anne Bishop

    As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others. Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.
  • Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

    When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer—one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack—and the man—she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.
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