The pages of Dark Academia

Published July 16, 2021, 2:34 PM

by Joe Priela

Plunging into the world of mystery, murder, and elite colleges

Vintage books in an aged bookshelf (photo by Thomas Kelley via Unsplash)

An intellectually-engaging lifestyle is one of the main aspects of Dark Academia, and a book is definitely a tool for it. You can often see people who are into this subculture carrying heavy books ranging from Russian literature to deep and thought-provoking poetry. Here some books to start with.

Depiction of Dorian Gray (fan art by Elizabeth Marie Fish)

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde

A Victorian philosophical novel that is often capped as “immoral,” especially in the 1890s. Written in a profound manner, the novel revolves around a fashionable young man who sells his soul for beauty and youth that would extend a lifetime. Upon Wilde’s imprisonment due to his homosexual liaisons, he wrote a letter that references this book: “Basil Hallward is what I think I am, Lord Henry what the world thinks of me, and Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.” This was the only novel by Oscar Wilde.

If We Were Villains cover (fan art by SHBB on pinterest)

‘If We Were Villains’ by M. L. Rio

Released in 2017, this is the debut novel by the American author, M.L. Rio. Set within the walls of an elite college, the story encompasses love, friendship, obsession, and eventually, death. The main character, Oliver Marks, is a young actor studying Shakespeare together with seven of his friends. Dellecher Classical Conservatory is a school overflowing with ambition and competition. Sifting through the suspense-filled pages, one can find that characters face their greatest acting challenge yet: Convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent. After being imprisoned for a murder that he may or may not have committed, the man that put him there is waiting outside the door. And, now, Oliver is ready to tell what really happened. “If We Were Villains” can be loosely compared to Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History.”

Character reference of The Secret History (fan art by Caledonia)

‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt

This might just be the epitome of Dark Academia in the form of a book. Written by Donna Tartt, the inverted detective story is narrated by one of the six students of Hampden College, a small, elite liberal arts college in Vermont. The college is based upon Bennington College, where Tartt was a student. Under the influence of a charismatic professor is a group of eccentric intellectual misfits who discover a world far from the norm. Crossing the line of morality, they encounter a slope that forces them to explore the meaning of their very existence and falling into obsession, corruption, betrayal, and eventually, inexorable evil.

A vintage Corona typewriter (photo by Darya Kraplak via Unsplash)