Books To Read After “The Secret History”

Welcome, fellow bibliophiles! If you’re here, it’s likely that you, like many of us, were captivated by the mesmerizing tale spun by Donna Tartt in her enthralling novel, “The Secret History”. This blog post is for those who have been left craving for more after turning the last page of this intriguing story.

The sense of eeriness, the group dynamics, the intellectual discussions, and the backdrop of academia, not to mention the beguiling mystery that keeps us guessing right till the end, have all left an indelible mark. So, where to from here?

Fear not, for we have a specially curated list of books that capture some, if not all, of these elements. These selections are bound to take you on a journey as compelling as the one Tartt embarked us upon.

So, without further ado, let’s delve into the fascinating world of books you might enjoy after “The Secret History”.

Similar Themes

Common Themes in “The Secret History”

Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” is lauded for its exploration of themes such as elitism, beauty, morality, and the destructive potential of intellect. It also deals with Greek philosophy, presenting it not just as an academic subject, but as a way of life that can lead to both enlightenment and downfall.

Books with Similar Themes

If you relished these themes, there are several other books that delve into similar territory:

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt: Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning novel also investigates beauty, loss, and morality, this time in the context of the art world. The protagonist’s emotional journey is full of ups and downs, paralleling Richard’s transformation in “The Secret History”.

“If We Were Villains” by M.L. Rio: Another novel set within the confines of an academic institution, this story also centers around a group of friends bound by a shared secret. The tragedy that unfolds is reminiscent of the one in Tartt’s novel, with Shakespearean drama taking the place of Greek philosophy.

“The Likeness” by Tana French: This book, the second in the Dublin Murder Squad series, presents an intricate plot involving a group of friends living together in an old house. The dynamics among the characters echo those seen in “The Secret History”, with the addition of a murder mystery to be solved.

Campus Novels

Explanation of the Campus Novel Genre

Campus novels, also known as academic novels, are a unique genre of literature that places the story within the setting of a university or college. The story often revolves around the lives of students or faculty members, exploring their interpersonal relationships, academic interests, and personal growth. The closed environment of a campus, with its unique culture and societal norms, lends itself well to narratives that are introspective, coming-of-age, or rife with social commentary.

Recommendations of Other Campus Novels

If “The Secret History” sparked your interest in campus novels, here are a few more that you might want to consider:

“Stoner” by John Williams: Despite its title, “Stoner” is not about drug culture. Rather, it’s an engrossing, poignant story about William Stoner, a farm boy turned English professor, and his quiet, somewhat melancholic life at the University of Missouri. The book is known for its beautiful prose and its keen observation of human nature.

“The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides: Set in Brown University, this novel revolves around a love triangle among three students. It’s a clever, insightful exploration of love, desire, and the idea of the ‘marriage plot’ often found in classic literature. Eugenides’ talent for character development shines through, making this a compelling read.

“On Beauty” by Zadie Smith: Inspired by E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End”, this novel explores racial and cultural divides within the context of academia. The story follows two feuding families linked by their academic pursuits, presenting an insightful study of personal and cultural identities, familial relationships, and academic politics.

Literary Fiction Recommendations

Definition of Literary Fiction

Literary fiction refers to a category of writing that emphasizes depth, substance, and quality of prose over the narrative’s plot or pace. These books often deal with introspection, moral dilemmas, and complex character development. They stimulate thought, provide insights into human nature, and invite readers to perceive the world in new ways.

Suggested Other Works of Literary Fiction

For those captivated by the profound storytelling and beautiful prose of “The Secret History”, here are some recommended literary fiction novels:

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This timeless classic captures the excesses and superficiality of the Jazz Age. Its exploration of wealth, love, and the American Dream, coupled with Fitzgerald’s elegant prose, make it a must-read.

“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara: This novel is an intensely emotional journey through the lives of four friends in New York City. It delves into themes such as friendship, trauma, and the human capacity for endurance, making it a deeply affecting literary experience.

“Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides: A Pulitzer Prize winner, this book presents a multi-generational epic that explores themes of identity, heritage, and gender. Told with great insight and sensitivity, it’s a rewarding read for lovers of thoughtful, well-crafted fiction.

Mysteries and Thrillers

Mystery and Thriller Elements in “The Secret History”

One of the captivating aspects of “The Secret History” is the skillful weaving of elements of mystery and thriller into its plot. The narrative doesn’t follow a conventional mystery structure — we know “whodunit” from the start. However, the suspense lies in uncovering why the crime was committed and the consequent unraveling of the characters’ psyches. The tension and suspense built around these elements give the novel its thrilling edge.

Other Mystery and Thriller Novels

If you enjoyed the suspenseful aspects of “The Secret History”, you might find the following mystery and thriller novels gripping:

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn: This novel’s intricate plot twists, unreliable narrators, and exploration of psychological manipulation offer a thrilling reading experience. It’s a dark, cleverly plotted tale about a missing wife and the cloud of suspicion that falls on her husband.

“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty: Set in an idyllic seaside town in Australia, this novel expertly combines elements of mystery, thriller, and drama. It revolves around three women, their interconnected lives, and a shocking incident at a school event.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson: The first book in the Millennium series, this novel offers an intriguing blend of mystery and thriller elements. A journalist and a hacker team up to solve a forty-year-old mystery, uncovering dark secrets and dangerous individuals along the way.

Novels Exploring Friendship Dynamics

Complex Friendships in “The Secret History”

A significant part of the allure of “The Secret History” lies in its depiction of the complicated dynamics within a tight-knit group of friends. The novel masterfully explores the evolution of these relationships as they are tested by secrets, guilt, and the looming threat of discovery. These interactions, laden with tension and emotional complexity, contribute significantly to the novel’s intriguing character-driven narrative.

Novels Exploring Similar Dynamics

If the exploration of friendships and their intricate dynamics resonated with you in “The Secret History”, the following novels delve into similar themes:

“My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante: The first book in the Neapolitan quartet, this novel explores the lifelong friendship between two women from their childhood in post-war Naples. It’s a profound exploration of friendship, rivalry, and the way people shape each other’s lives.

“A Separate Peace” by John Knowles: Set in a boarding school during World War II, this novel revolves around the intense friendship and rivalry between two boys. It’s a thoughtful exploration of adolescence, innocence, and the loss thereof.

“The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer: This novel follows a group of friends from their teenage years at a summer camp for the arts into adulthood. It explores the evolution of their relationships, the realization of (and failure to achieve) their youthful ambitions, and the impact of money and success on their lives.

Additional Recommendations

More Novels to Discover

“Less” by Andrew Sean Greer: A touching and humorous story about a failed novelist who embarks on a global adventure to avoid his ex’s wedding. Selected for its introspective character journey and lyrical prose, much like Tartt’s work.

“The Magus” by John Fowles: A young Englishman, teaching in Greece, is drawn into a complex psychological game by a wealthy and enigmatic individual. Chosen for its intriguing psychological exploration and atmospheric setting, similar to “The Secret History”.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde: The tale of a man who remains eternally youthful while a hidden portrait of him ages and decays. This classic novel’s exploration of beauty, morality, and self-destruction resonates with Tartt’s themes.

“The Lake of Dead Languages” by Carol Goodman: A suspenseful tale of a Latin teacher at an all-girls school unraveling a twenty-year-old mystery that mirrors her past. Chosen for its academic setting, mystery elements, and exploration of the past’s impact.

“The Lying Game” by Ruth Ware: Four women, bound by a shared secret from their boarding school days, confront their past when a bone is found near their old school. Selected for its exploration of friendship, deception, and the weight of shared secrets.

“The Basic Eight” by Daniel Handler: A high school student’s journal narrates a tale of a murder, complex friendships, and teenage angst. Chosen for its dark humor, the narrative style, and its blend of coming-of-age with mystery elements.

“Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh: This novel explores the narrator’s relationship with the aristocratic Flyte family, as he reflects on themes of love, faith, and nostalgia. Chosen for its exploration of complex relationships, similar to “The Secret History”.

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A haunting tale of a former slave haunted by her past decisions and a malevolent spirit. Selected for its profound exploration of trauma, guilt, and the human capacity for resilience, echoing some themes in Tartt’s novel.

“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern: Two young magicians compete in a magical circus that appears without warning, their lives entwined by an old rivalry. Chosen for its atmospheric and enchanting narrative, offering a different but equally captivating ambiance.

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro: A group of students at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school gradually uncover the disturbing truth about their existence. Selected for its evocative narrative, the haunting sense of dread, and its exploration of friendship and memory.


We’ve journeyed through an eclectic array of books, each unique in its narrative, yet sharing a kinship with “The Secret History” through various elements. Whether it’s the thematic resemblance with “The Goldfinch” and “If We Were Villains”, the campus setting reminiscent in “Stoner” and “The Marriage Plot”, or the literary depth akin to “The Great Gatsby” and “A Little Life”, each of these novels promises an engaging reading experience.

Encouragement for Readers

We hope this curated list helps fill the void left by “The Secret History” and propels you onto new literary adventures. Remember, the magic of reading lies in exploring different worlds, lives, and perspectives. We encourage you to embark on these journeys with an open mind. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences as you delve into these books. Happy reading!

rj adams books

R.J. Adams

My first job was at Barnes & Noble, so books and reading have been a big part of my life for as long as I could remember. My Kindle is jam-packed with books I likely will never get around to reading and my To Be Read pile is even longer!

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