Three Thrillingly Stimulating Dark Academia Books for Back-to-School

This week’s Three to Read is focusing on the back to school season with Dark Academia. Read on to see what recs we think you’ll love!

Recommendations Three To Read
Three to read series three dark academia titles, Ninth House, The Maidens and A Lesson in Love and Death

The school season has officially started, but that doesn’t mean we have to be stuck only reading textbooks. To get into the campus mood, we’re bringing you three Dark Academia books sure to bring a bit of excitement and thrill to school life.

Hot Pick

The Ninth House

by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo's The Ninth House book cover featuring a black background and a snake wrapped around the grey title and authors name.


From the author of Shadow and Bone, The Ninth House is a masterful urban fantasy set within the hallowed halls of Yale University. A life spent on the outskirts of the law-abiding world, protagonist Alex Stern is given a second chance when she’s on her deathbed at age 20. The catch? She’s tasked with observing the activities of the prestigious university’s secret societies all because her mysterious saviors know she has a unique talent.


Bardugo weaves together fantasy, mystery, and thriller in this brilliantly magical story. There might have been conspiracy theories surrounding the elite that attend Ivy League schools for decades, but Bardugo’s version is magnificent in her seamless integration of magic and realism. Not only are you getting the school and campus vibe of this rec, but also a chilling emotional rollercoaster of a ride that might make you check your own campus for magic and ghosts around the corner.

Beach Read

The Maidens

by Alex Michaelides

Alex Michaelide's the Maiden's Books cover featuring a Greek head statue with blood at the neck on a black background.


From the author of The Silent Patient, The Maidens is a thrilling Dark Academia. Within the reputable campus of Cambridge University, young female students are turning up murdered. Group therapist Mariana believes she knows who the murderer is and will do anything to prove it’s the charming Professor Edward Fosca. Follow along as Mariana becomes further entrenched in The Maiden’s secret society, a female-only group of students who are obsessed with the deadly Fosca. Can she prove he’s the murderer before she, too, ends up dead?


Not only does this read with a bit of old-school crime mystery, but it also involves Greek mythology, secret societies, and ritualized murders. Add in the ancient hallowed halls of the fourth oldest university in the world, and this just became a suspenseful page-turner you’ll be hard-pressed to put down.

Dark Horse

A Lesson in Love and Death

by W.H. Lockwood

W. H. Lockwood's A Lesson in Love and Death book cover featuring a gothic table filled with lit candle, skull, flowers, and school utinsils.


A Lesson in Love and Death is a cute and cozy dark academia with a touch of romance. Our protagonist, Anna, finds herself the recipient of a literary scholarship to Endymion College. It’s everything she could have wanted as a starry-eyed bookworm. But things aren’t quite as they seem when she gets settled in and is immersed in the supernatural. Can she keep her scholarship amid the trials and tribulations of conspiracy, séances, and devilishly handsome literature professors?


This indie-published novel might have a bit of supernatural air, but it’s the nuanced characters with real flaws, comedic moments, and emotional growth that make this the perfect pick for a dark horse read. Bonus school points for this read: Lockwood includes quite a bit of literary critiques and opinions rather than just using the academic setting as a background.

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