Bookish Guide to Aesthetics

I think the idea of “the aesthetic” has really taken over in the last few years. There’s so many quizzes on the web asking “are you more dark academia or cottagecore?” What does that mean, and how do I apply that in terms of books?

In my observations, the main aesthetics are: Cottagecore, Light Academia, Dark Academia, Royalcore, Grunge, Ethereal, and Soft.


Cottagecore is an aesthetic that calls back to simpler, agricultural times. This involves activities like baking bread, having picnics in the garden, and just enjoying the outdoors. Lots of cottagecore outfits involve cream or muted tones, floral dresses, and ruffles. Popular cottagecore things are strawberries, mushrooms, and flowers.

So what are some Cottagecore books?

  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Light Academia

Light Academia is an aesthetic with a deep focus on the academics, such as art, literature, history, and more. It tends to focus on the positive side of learning and what the arts and academics has to teach us. Activities within this aesthetic can include visiting museums, painting, sitting at cafes, and maybe even sports like archery. Clothes from this aesthetic are typically beige or brown with plaid patterns or knit sweaters. Popular motifs are old books and statues from the classical era.

So what are some Light Academia books?

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Room on the Roof by Rusking Bond
  • Emma by Jane Austen

Dark Academia

Like Light Academia, Dark Academia revolves around learning and the pursuit of knowledge. However, this aesthetic celebrates the darker side of academics and the mysterious. There’s a focus on subjects like Latin and rhetoric, and an especial allure to secret societies, cults, and losing oneself to self-destruction. While some activities are similar–like visiting museums–other activities include learning new languages and traveling to old cities. Clothes are typically dark muted browns and plaid skirts with sweaters and collared shirts. Some motifs are books, old buildings, and journals.

So what books are some Dark Academia books?

  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
  • The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik


Like its name suggests, Royalcore is an aesthetic obsessed with all things royalty. Particularly West European royalty from around Arthurian times to the late 1800s. Activites would include visitng castles (of course), calligraphy, and late night parties. Clothing would be fancy–crowns, gowns with puffy sleeves, colors like gold and deep red. Some motifs may be crowns, wax seals, and gemstones.

So what are some Royalcore books?

  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • Macbeth by Shakespeare
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
  • Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe by Deborah Cadbury
  • Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian


Grunge is a darker, edgy aesthetic. It’s basically aesthetic for rockers and rebels. Activites include partying, listening to music, and thrifting. Clothes are usually black with band tees, baggy jeans, and flannels and combat boots. Motifs include messed-up clothes, pastel hair, and skateboards.

So what are some Grunge books?

  • Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
  • Falling by Cat Clarke
  • The Graces by Laure Eve
  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkis
  • #MurderTredning by Gretchen McNeil


Ethereal is an aesthetic obseesed with being delicate, light, and out of this world. Activites include ballet, tea parties, and picking flowers. Clothes are kind of a mix of Cottagecore and Royalcore, with babydoll dresses and puff sleeves, tulle, metallic and cream colors. Motifs are swans, lockets, and baby’s breath.

So what are sone Ethereal books?

  • Norwegian Wood by Harukui Murakami
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
  • You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao
  • Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield


The Soft aesthetic is based on being cute and sensitive, similar to Kawaii. Activies include vlogging “get ready with me” videos, planning vacations, and practicing self-care. Clothes are mainly in pastels with day dresses, white sneakers, cute handbags, and hair pins. Motifs include fluffy animals, clouds, and makeup.

So what are some Soft books?

  • P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Beach Read by Emily Henry

By myadventure2017

Writer, Reader, Bookstagrammer, Booktoker, Blogger

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