Welcome to my post! Today I thought it would be fun to do a tier ranking post for all the dark academia books I’ve read based on which ones that I enjoyed the most, as well as sharing who I think will appreciate each book.
‘Cubitum eamus’ is a quote in Latin from The Secret History, meaning ‘will you sleep with me?’. This tier is reserved for the best of the best (quite literally smash): all books I rated 4.5 stars. Interestingly, I’ve never rated a dark academia book 5 stars even though I love the genre, but these are my favourite ones.
Starting with my most recent dark academia read, I read Babel in September. The discussions about academia and colonialism, empire and translation were the strongest part of the book, so if you’re looking for a dark academia with in depth themes and criticisms of academia, I would definitely recommend this. I also like the plot of the story, although some of the characters lacked depth.
The other book in this tier is Plain Bad Heroines, which I also read in September! Okay, so this has been marketed as dark academia and that’s what I expected going into it, but it wasn’t exactly the genre. Generally, dark academia is some kind of mystery set in school, and for me (and my favourite part), this includes academic discussions. We don’t really get discussions in Plain Bad Heroines, but it is a mystery/horror book partly set in a school with a haunted past. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the present timeline set in Hollywood or the lackluster ending, but overall I loved it. If you’re looking for a book with a spooky atmosphere, this could be for you.
Academic weapon is the tier for good, solid books. Not quite in the hall of fame but almost there.
First is the OG of dark academia, The Secret History, so read if you’re interested in the start of the genre. If I was basing the ranking based on which fits the genre the best, this would be at the top. Luckily for me, I love classics, so those discussions were really interesting. It’s a very meandering book which could put people off but I did enjoy the structure of the book. Just make sure you go into it knowing that the characters are absolutely not meant to be liked and maybe search up the trigger warnings.
Also in this tier is a similar one to The Secret History: If We Were Villains. The vibes were immaculate and it’s a very visual book with the plays, so if you like dark academia for the aesthetic I think you’d enjoy this. Lots of references to Shakespeare which I think added to the atmosphere. I loved the ending too, but this isn’t quite in ‘cubitum eamus’ tier because a lot of the characters were underdeveloped, the crime aspect wasn’t very reasonable, and there’s some topics that left a bad taste in my mouth.
to be or not to be
Like the quote, this tier is for the books that I’m not quite sure about.
Bunny was a fun read that I had to create a new tier for, because it’s not a favourite but it’s also not the worst. Again, it’s a bit debatable whether this is dark academia, but I think it’s part of the genre in its own weird way, or at least adjacent to it. I like it’s dark humour and horror-y aspect, and although it’s been a bit forgettable to me it got me out of a reading slump so I’m grateful for that. I’d recommend if you’re looking for a weird read, in a writing slump, or like Heathers.
This tier is for the worst dark academia books I’ve read, whether they were misleading or boring or confusing, there were big parts of the book that I didn’t like and couldn’t overlook.
Unfortunately, The Maidens makes it to this disappointing tier. It promised a thrilling read with Greek mythology, yet it didn’t quite deliver on either aspect. I did like the Cambridge setting and atmosphere, but the mystery part wasn’t explained very well, the mythological links and references were a bit clunky and the characters were one dimensional. I did like the exploration of grief, although the ending took away from that. It’s still not a bad read though, so I’d recommend if you’re interested in mystery/thrillers.
The last book and worst book on my tier list is the 2022 release The Things We Do To Our Friends. The atmosphere and setting of Edinburgh was great again here, but everything else failed for me. The plot was uninteresting and it was a bit of a slog to get through the first half of the book. The last half was better but the ending was anticlimactic. I left it not caring about the characters or story, which is possibly the worst thing that can happen after reading. Still, I know other people have enjoyed it so don’t let me deter you too much!
Finally, this is the undecided tier, for dark academia books I haven’t read yet and would like to! Hopefully some of these can make it onto the top tiers.
Thanks for reading! What’s your favourite dark academia book and do you agree with my rankings?
♦ Goodreads ♦
This is such a great idea, Ella! I actually read this the day you posted and had been meaning to come back when I had a bit more time, but I suppose my own life has a sufficiently dark academia-esque workload that a brief Monday night comment will have to do 😂 But I love dark academia, so I obviously enjoyed hearing your thoughts on these books! If We Were Villains and The Secret History are among my own favorites (I’d actually even rank them above Babel 😊), and I enjoyed Ninth House, Legendborn, and Ace of Spades a lot, too! I detested The Atlas Six, though – but since I seem to be in the minority, I really hope you enjoy it if you end up reading it! I’ll also have to give some of the other books you mentioned a try.
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Thank you! Sorry for the very late reply, I’ve also been embracing the dark academia life with doing late night uni deadlines 😅 I’m so glad you love If We Were Villains, The Secret History and a lot of the others on my TBR ☺️ The Atlas Six will probably be the next one I read but I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it!
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Love this post! I have a love-hate relationship dilema. I really want to like this genre but the books don’t always hit. I loved Ninth House, my thoughts on Atlas Six are complicated, and I really didn’t like The Secret History because it made me feel stupid haha. I’m really wanting to read Babel next year though and I’ve been meaning to read Ace of Spades forever! Hope you enjoy the four you haven’t read whenever you get around to them.
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Thank you! I feel exactly the same way, I always love the idea but not always the execution. I’m glad you liked The Ninth House though and I hope you enjoy Babel ☺️ Thank you hopefully I like them!
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