Dark Academia

by Alyssa Yenzer

Dark Academia

By Alex Urbanek, Collection Services Librarian

Ever since I was young, the start of school has meant that it is time for Fall to begin. However, since we’re still dealing with 90-degree days that refuse to let me wear comfy sweaters and drink hot cider, I have to get my autumnal fix from books. Over the last year or so I’ve found an interesting niche of books that have been labeled under the sub-genre “dark academia.” Dark academia originally began as an aesthetic, with photo collages, music, and fashion choices donning the label. Think, college library with stone and gargoyles on a rainy day, and sometimes murder or psychological horror mixed in. It is worth noting that while I adore this genre, it is not for everyone. I highly suggest checking trigger warnings before reading any dark academia or horror books to be sure you’ll enjoy the title.

One of my favorite authors, Erin Morgenstern, came out with the book “The Starless Sea,” a fairly whimsical adaptation of the genre. Zachary Ezra Rawlins was working on his graduate degree at a school in Vermont when he found an unlabeled book in the library. Within the book, he finds a story about an experience he had with a disappearing door as a child, as well as a key. He also finds a drawing of a bee, key, and sword, which lead him to a masquerade party in New York. All of this leads him to find an ancient, secret, underground library within its own realm.  As he explores this underground world, he learns about the societies of people who have risen and fallen trying to protect it, or hide it. Morgenstern does an incredible job of world-building and fully immersing you within this secret library’s world.

Truly Devious” by Maureen Johnson begins a 5-book young adult series, with the latest book slated to come out in December. Stevie Bell loves true crime: she listens to all of the true crime podcasts and is obsessed with coming to her own conclusions. When she gets accepted to Ellingham academy, Stevie is elated. Ellingham Academy is a one-of-a-kind school that was founded in the 1930s by truly-eccentric billionaire Albert Ellingham to create a space where children could learn through play. Unfortunately, within the school’s first few years, Albert’s wife and young daughter were kidnapped, a puzzle of a ransom note was found, one of the new students was found murdered, and, while his wife was returned home, they never found his daughter. Thus, began an investigation that, at the time of Stevie entering Ellingham, has still not been solved. Stevie is determined to solve the Ellingham murder and find out what truly happened during that first year.  Johnson makes sure that readers are on the ride with Stevie, discovering clues when she does and making their own assumptions before the final verdict is declared.

When an author gives up on a story, where does the unfinished tale go? A.J. Hackwith has created a world in which all unfinished stories end up in the Unwritten Wing, based in Hell. In “The Library of the Unwritten,” Claire, the head librarian of the Unwritten Wing, has been enjoying her death spent cataloging and keeping track of unwritten stories. She also must make sure that any characters who materialize out of their stories either make it back to their book or take up residence in her wing. They definitely cannot make it up to the human world to upset or confuse their would-be authors. Unfortunately, one of the characters does indeed gets out, and when Claire and her former-muse-turned-assistant Brevity follow him up to the land of the living, they end up learning about a much more disastrous lost book, the Devil’s Bible. Now they must race against time and the angel Ramiel to find and retrieve the Bible before either Heaven or a lesser demon get ahold of it.

If you’re wanting more books with spooky vibes, or something completely different, you can always get a personalized reading list from the Manhattan Public Library. Our librarians are excited to help you find the perfect book to get you ready for autumn and the impending holiday season.